December 13 – Launch of Relay 1

Relay 1, launched on December 13, 1962 from Cape Canaveral, carried proton-electron detectors to perform important experiments on the Earth’s radiation belts, but will be remembered as the communications satellite that allowed the first television broadcast to be sent from the USA to Japan. With incredible timing this just happened to be the news of the assassination of John F Kennedy. Nine months later it was used to relay coverage of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics to the USA.

Artist's impression of Relay 1 (image: NASA)
Artist’s impression of Relay 1 (image: NASA)

Unfortunately a problem with a high-power regulator resulted, in February 1965, in the inability of Relay 1 to transmit any further useful data.  It had been worth it, though, as the American viewing public were able to watch live coverage of their monster team of 346 athletes heading the medal table with 36 golds, well ahead of the Soviet Union (and including, appropriately, the men’s 4 x 100m and 4 x 400m relays).