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Project SCORE

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

Atlas-B rocket with SCORE on the launch pad – The whole rocket body (without the booster engines) constituted the satellite SCORE
Atlas-B rocket with SCORE on the launch pad – The whole rocket body (without the booster engines) constituted the satellite SCORE

Project SCORE (Signal Communications Orbit Relay Equipment) was the world’s first communications satellite. Launched in an Atlas rocket on December 18, 1958, SCORE provided a first test of a communications relay system in space and captured world attention by broadcasting a Christmas message via short wave frequency from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower through an onboard tape recorder.

The SCORE satellite, an acronym for Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment was designed and built by Kenneth Masterman-Smith, a military communication research engineer, along with other personnel with the U.S. Army Signal Research and Development Laboratory (SRDL) at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.

The six-month effort was the first endeavor of the then new Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which eventually evolved into the prestigious Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and proved that a small, highly focused and versatile research group with appropriate resources was an ideal method to achieve the scientific and technological advances necessary to succeed in the emerging global space race.

SCORE's technical objectives were two-fold. In addition to showing that an Atlas missile could be put into orbit, the project demonstrated the feasibility of transmitting messages through the upper atmosphere from one ground station to one or more ground stations. The result of the project, which used both realtime and store and forward techniques, was unquestionably a major scientific breakthrough which proved that active communications satellites could provide a means of transmitting messages from one point to any other on the planet Earth.

SCORE, as a geo-political strategy, placed the United States at an even technological par with the Soviet Union as a highly functional response to the Sputnik satellites. On the day of the launch, President Eisenhower had a schedule at the White House that coincidentally involved hosting a delegation from Soviet-controlled Poland. At a state dinner that evening, a naval officer whispered in the President’s ear with the message from the situation room that the launch was a success. The President interrupted the dinner and announced the existence of SCORE. The audience erupted in cheers and even the Polish delegation was magnanimous, congratulating the President on his technological achievement. In his announcement, the President made a point to describe the combined 9000 pound weight of the Atlas rocket and payload, stimulating debate that SCORE, while a peaceful mission, indeed served to show the Soviet Union that the United States was now capable of delivering a nuclear payload from space.

The payload weighed 68 kg (150 pounds), and was built into the fairing pods of the 4100 kg (9000 pound) Atlas missile. SCORE was placed into a 183 km by 1,481 km (114 mile by 920 mile) orbit, inclined 32.3 degrees, with a period of 101.5 minutes. Its batteries lasted 12 days and it reentered the atmosphere on 21 January 1959. The communications repeater installed on the missile receives a signal, amplifies it, and then retransmits it. Two redundant sets of equipment were mounted in the nose of the SCORE missile. Four antennas were mounted flush with the missile surface, two for transmission and two for reception. SCORE's other equipment included two tape recorders, each with a four-minute capacity. Any of four ground stations in the southern United States could command the satellite into playback mode to transmit the stored message or into record mode to receive and store a new message. These redundancies proved invaluable as one of the tape recorders malfunctioned and was rendered inoperable during the 12 day orbit.

The very first transmitted message from space to the world below:

"This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you via a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one: Through this unique means I convey to you and all mankind, America's wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere."

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Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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