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The US Army's SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting RElay) satellite was an 71.8-ft (21.90 m) long, 10-ft (3.05 m) diameter Atlas missile upper stage (Atlas-B) used as a platform for the communications relay experiment. The primary objective was to demonstrate that an Atlas missile body could be put into orbit (and this was in fact the largest object ever put into orbit at that time). The secondary objective was to demonstrate the feasibility of, and explore problems associated with, operation of a satellite communication system. Successful completion of this objective made SCORE the first communications satellite ever put into orbit.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

The Atlas-B rocket body held the communications equipment in its nose cone. This comprised two redundant sets of equipment. Each system had a 132 MHz, 8 W vacuum tube transmitter, a 150 MHz, 10 dB noise figure trnasistorized receiver, and a 300 - 1500 Hz band recorder with 4 minute capacity. Power was provided by 56-W silver-zinc batteries. Total mass of the communication equipment was 45 kg. There were four antennas, two for transmission and two for reception, mounted flush with the surface of the Atlas-B. There was also a 108 MHz tracking beacon. The mission had the capability of recording signals and retransmitting them later on command from one of four U.S. ground stations, or of direct retransmission of signals as they were received. It had the capacity of one voice channel or six teletype channels.

Mission Profile

SCORE was launched on 18 December 1958 from Cape Canaveral into a 100 x 800 nautical mile (185 x 1484 km) altitude orbit with an inclination of 32 degrees. The battery ran out on 30 December 1958, but eight hours of communication operations were completed before this time, including the reception, recording, and retransmission of voice and six-channel teletype signals, and real-time retransmissions without recording. The tape recorder was used at one point to carry a Christmas greeting from President Eisenhower. The orbit decayed and the Atlas re-entered the atmosphere on 21 January 1959. Because of the communication and record and playback capabilities demonstrated, SCORE was known as the "Talking Atlas".

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Alternate Names

  • 00010
  • 1958 Zeta 1
  • Sig Comm by Orbit Relay

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1958-12-18
Launch Vehicle: Atlas
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 3980 kg

Funding Agency

  • Department of Defense-Department of the Air Force (United States)


  • Communications
  • Engineering

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



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