The first artificial satellite was the Soviet Sputnik 1, launched on October 4, 1957, and equipped with an on-board radio-transmitter that worked on two frequencies, 20.005 and 40.002 MHz. The first American satellite to relay communications was Project SCORE in 1958, which used a tape recorder to store and forward voice messages. It was used to send a Christmas greeting to the world from U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. NASA launched an Echo satellite in 1960; the 100-foot (30 m) aluminized PET film balloon served as a passive reflector for radio communications. Courier 1B, built by Philco, also launched in 1960, was the world’s first active repeater satellite.
Telstar was the first active, direct relay communications satellite. Belonging to AT&T as part of a multi-national agreement between AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National PTT (Post Office) to develop satellite communications, it was launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral on July 10, 1962, the first privately sponsored space launch. Telstar was placed in an elliptical orbit (completed once every 2 hours and 37 minutes), rotating at a 45° angle above the equator. An immediate antecedent of the geostationary satellites was Hughes Syncom 2, launched on July 26, 1963. Syncom 2 revolved around the earth once per day at constant speed, but because it still had north-south motion, special equipment was needed to track it.