The Mission and Spacecraft Library

Echo 1, 1A, 2

Echo 1, 1A, 2 picture The Echo satellites were NASA's first experimental communications satellite project. Each spacecraft was a large metallized balloon designed to act as a passive communications reflector to bounce communication signals transmitted from one point on Earth to another. Following the failure of the launch vehicle carrying Echo 1, Echo 1A (commonly referred to as Echo 1) was successfully orbited, and was used to redirect transcontinental and intercontinental telephone, radio, and television signals. The success of Echo 1A proved that microwave transmission to and from satellites in space was understood and demonstrated the promise of communications satellites. The vehicle also provided data for the calculation of atmospheric density and solar pressure due to its large area-to-mass ratio. Echo 1A was visible to the unaided eye over most of the Earth (brighter than most stars) and was probably seen by more people than any other man-made object in space. Echo 2 continued the passive communications experiments, and also investigated the dynamics of large spacecraft and was used for global geometric geodesy. Although NASA abandonded passive communications systems in favor of active satellites following Echo 2, the Echo systems demonstrated several ground station and tracking technologies that would be used by active systems. Echo 1A reentered on May 24, 1968 followed by Echo 2 on June 7, 1969.

1, 1A: each was a 30.5 m diameter balloon made of 0.0127 mm thick mylar polyester film. A set of 107.9-MHz beacon transmitters were carried for telemetry. The transmitters were powered by five nickel-cadmium batteries that were charged by 70 solar cells mounted on the balloon. 2: a 41.1 m diameter mylar balloon that used an improved inflation system to improve the balloon's smoothness and sphericity. Instrumentation included temperature sensors to monitor the balloon's skin temperature and pressure sensors to monitor the balloon's internal pressure. A beacon system, consisting of two transmitter assemblies, provided tracking and telemetry signals. The beacon system used solar cell panels for power and had a minimum power output of 45 mW at 136.17 MHz and 136.02 MHz.

No scientific payloads were carried on any of the missions. Echo 1's surface was used to reflect 960 and 2390 Mhz signals. Echo 2 experimenters utilized 162 Mhz signals.

Country of Origin United States
Customer/User NASA, GSFC, Langley
Manufacturer(s) Sheldahl, Grumman
Size 1, 1A: 30.5 m dia. sphere / 2: 41.1 m dia. sphere
Orbit 1A: Initial parameters 1519 x 1687 km, incl. = 48.6 deg. / 2: Initial parameters 1032 x 1315 km, incl. = 85.5 deg. Both spacecraft encountered significant orbital changes due to solar pressure.

Launch Facts
 Name  Int'l Desig.  Date  Site  Vehicle  Orbit  Mass(kg)
 Echo 1  none  5/13/60  ESMC  Delta  FTO  56
    2nd stage attitude control failure
 Echo 1A  1960-[Iota]1  8/12/60  ESMC  Delta  LEO  76
    Balloon; passively relayed TV and voice transmissions
 Echo 2  1964-004A  1/25/64  WSMC  Thor Agena B  LEO  256
    Passive commsat; balloon; 1st joint US/USSR space mission

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