Syncom 2 was the first geosynchronous satellite. Although the period was 24 hours and the
spacecraft remained at a nearly constant longitude, the orbit was inclined at 33 degrees
so it was not truly geostationary but moved in an elongated figure eight pattern 33 degrees
north and south of the equator. Syncom 2 was an experimental communications satellite placed
over the Atlantic Ocean and Brazil at 55 degrees longitude. It began regular service on August 16th.
It demonstrated the feasibility of geosynchronous satellite communications. Voice, teletype,
facsimile, and data transmission tests were successfully conducted between the Lakehurst, New Jersey
ground station and the USNS Kingsport while the ship was at sea off the coast of Africa and television transmissions were relayed from Lakehurst to the telstar ground station at Andover, Maine.
The Syncoms were the forerunners of the Intelsat series of satellites.
Syncom 2 was launched into a high altitude orbit from Cape Canaveral on 26 July 1963.
Six hours after launch the apogee motor was fired to place the spacecraft in an orbit
ranging from 34,100 to 36,440 km with a drift rate of 7.5 degrees per day eastward.
The apogee was then raised and the drift rate changed to 4.5 degrees per day westward
toward the desired position over 55 degrees longitude. After two weeks of drifting the
nitrogen jets were pulsed in a series of four firings to slow the spacecraft to
near-zero drift on August 16, followed by an alignment maneuver. The final orbit was geosynchronous with an inclination of 33 degrees. Operations were turned over to the Department of
Defense on 1 January 1965.
Spacecraft and Subsystems
The Syncom satellites were 71 cm diameter, 39 cm high cylinders. The fully fueled mass of the
spacecraft was 68 kg. The nozzle of the solid propellant apogee motor (1000-lb-thrust designed to
impart a velocity increase of 1431 meters/sec) extended from the bottom of the cylinder and a co-axial
slotted array communications antenna from the top. The total height including the nozzle was 64 cm. The
radial exterior was covered with 3840 P-on-n silicon solar cells which provided direct power of 29 watts
the 99 percent of the time the spacecraft was in sunlight. Nickle-cadmium rechargeable batteries provided power when the spacecraft was in the Earth's shadow. No active thermal control was required.
Most of the central interior of the spacecraft consisted of the tanks and combustion chamber for the
apogee motor, around this were arranged two hydrogen peroxide and two nitrogen tanks and the electronics.
Attitude and velocity control was provided by nitrogen jets to align the spin axis and hydrogen
peroxide jets to position the satellite. Each system had two jets, one parallel and one perpendicular
to the spin axis.
Syncom employed a redundant, frequency-translation, active repeater communication system designed to
handle one two-way telephone or 16 one-way teletype channels. The dual transponders utilized 2-watt
traveling wave tubes. Selection of receiver and transmitter was made by ground command. One receiver
had a 13 megacycle bandwidth for TV transmission, the other a 5 megacycle bandwidth. The receiving
gain was 2 dB through the slotted dipole antenna. Signals were received on two frequencies near 7360
megacycles and retransmitted on 1815 megacycles. The slotted dipole transmitting antenna radiated a
pancake-shaped beam 25 degrees wide with its plane perpendicular to the spacecraft spin axis. There
were also four whip antennas oriented normal to the spin axis for telemetry and command.