Communications Satellite, West Ford, Dipole Canister

Display Status:

This object is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

James S. McDonnell Space Hangar

Launched by the U.S. Air Force in 1963, the West Ford satellite used a unique concept to test the new undertaking of communications from space. Once in space, the dispenser via a spring mechanism pushed the canister (this artifact), packed with millions of tiny needles (dipoles), into orbit. The needles in the canister slowly separated and formed a ring around the Earth. Antennas on the ground bounced radio signals off the ring of needles to communicate.

The museum's satellite is a prototype.

Transferred from the National Museum of American History to the Museum in 2004.