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On This Day in Space: April 6, 1965: NASA launches 1st commercial communication satellite

On April 6, 1965, NASA launched the world's first commercial communications satellite into orbit. The satellite was named Intelsat 1 and nicknamed the "Early Bird." It was built by Hughes Aircraft Company for the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT).

Early Bird could relay phone, TV, telegraph and fax communications, and it became the first satellite to provide direct and almost instantaneous communications between the U.S. and Europe.

It also provided the first live TV coverage of a crewed spacecraft returning to Earth when Gemini 6 splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. The satellite was deactivated after four years, but COMSAT briefly reactivated it so NASA could use it during the Apollo 11 moon landing. 

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