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Space History Photo: Engineers checkout Early Bird-Communication Satellite

space history, nasa, satellites
Engineers check out the world's first communication satellite known as the Early Bird, which was launched in 1955. (Image credit: NASA.)

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, engineers Stanley R. Peterson (left) and Ray Bowerman (right), checkout the Early Bird, the world's first communication satellite.

NASA launched the satellite built by Hughes Aircraft Corporation on April 6, 1955 at 6:48pm E.S.T. from Complex 17a at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Early Bird was built for the Communications Satellite Corporation and weighed about 85 pounds after being placed in a synchronous orbit of 22,300 miles above the earth. It was positioned over the Atlantic to provide 240 two-way telephone channels or 2-way television between Europe and North America.

The outer surface of Early Bird was covered with 6,000 silicon-coated solar cells, which absorbed the sun's rays to provide power to the satellite for its intricate transmitting and receiving equipment.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the U.S. government agency in charge of the civilian space program as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.