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Syncom (for "synchronous communication satellite") started as a 1961 NASA program for active geosynchronous communication satellites, all of which were developed and manufactured by Hughes Space and Communications. Syncom 2, launched in 1963, was the world's first geosynchronous communications satellite.

In the 1980s, the series was continued as Syncom IV with some much larger satellites, also manufactured by Hughes. They were leased to the United States military under the Leasat program.


Syncom 1, 2 and 3

Common features

The three early Syncom satellites were experimental spacecraft built by Hughes Aircraft Company's facility in Culver City, California. All three satellites were cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of about 71 cm and a height of about 39 cm. Pre-launch fuelled masses were 68 kg, whilst orbital masses were 39 kg with a 25 kg payload. They were capable of emitted signals on two transponders at just 2 W. Thus, Syncom satellites were only capable of carrying a single two-way telephone conversation, or 16 Teletype connections. As of June 25, 2009, all three satellites are still in orbit.[1]

Syncom 1

Syncom 1 was to be the first geosynchronous communications satellite. It was launched on February 14, 1963 with the Delta B #16 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral, but was lost on the way to geosynchronous orbit due to an electronics failure.[2] Seconds after the apogee kick motor for circularizing the orbit was fired, the spacecraft fell silent. Later telescopic observations verified the satellite was in an orbit with a period of almost 24 hours at a 33° inclination.

Syncom 2

Syncom 2 was the first geosynchronous communication satellite. Its orbit was inclined rather than geostationary. The satellite was launched by NASA on July 26, 1963 with the Delta B #20 launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral. The satellite successfully kept station at the altitude calculated by Herman Potočnik Noordung in the 1920s.

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