In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, the "Space Flower" was the first of the 9-meter (30-foot) diameter antennas for the Application Technology Satellites (ATS) in October 1972. The ATS program was initiated in 1966 to demonstrate the feasibility and capability of placing a satellite in geostationary (geosynchronous) orbit over a fixed location on the Earth's surface.
The saucer-shaped antenna, built at Lockheed Missiles and Space Co., Sunnyvale, California, are constructed of aluminum ribs and Dacron mesh that are copper plated and coated with silicone. Also shown is the mold on which the mesh is sewn to the flexible ribs and later sewn in place. For the ride into space, the antenna ribs and mesh are wrapped around the hub of the antenna. When the antenna and spacecraft arrived in the proper orbit, a signal caused a restraining cable to be cut, and the antenna blossomed like an opening flower.
Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).