Syncom, the First Geosynchronous Satellite
By 1960, Hughes, RCA and AT&T were urging NASA to develop a different type of communications satellite. Hughes believed that geosynchronous satellites, which orbit Earth 22,300 miles (35,900 km) above the ground, offered the best location because the high orbit allowed the satellites' orbital speed to match the rotation speed of Earth and therefore remain essentially stable over the same spot. With the Defense Department's active support, NASA offered Hughes a sole-source contract to develop an experimental geosynchronous satellite, which it called Syncom. Only 17 months after Goddard Space Flight Center awarded the contract, NASA launched Syncom I, but it stopped sending signals a few seconds before it reached its final orbit. Five months later, NASA then launched Syncom II, which demonstrated the viability of the system. The third Syncom transmitted live coverage of the Olympic games in Tokyo to stations in North America and Europe.
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