Collection Item Summary:
Launched in 1960, Echo 1 was designed to explore the new field of communications via space. Its design was remarkably simple: Essentially a large balloon, measuring 30 meters (100 feet) across, the satellite provided a reflective surface in space. Radio signals directed at Echo from one location on Earth "bounced" to another. By the time Echo 2 was launched in 1964, other types of communications satellites had proven superior, and researchers used the Echos primarily for scientific experiments.
Echo satellites, manufactured by the G.T. Schjeldahl Co., posed a unique technical challenge. They were sent into orbit folded flat and then inflated in space. Inflation had to proceed carefully to ensure the integrity of the satellite's "balloon" surface. This one is a flight spare folded in its launch canister.
The National Museum of American History transferred this artifact to the Museum in 2003.