The world’s first communications satellite was Project SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), launched from Cape Canaveral using an Atlas B missile on Dec 18, 1958. Among other firsts, it was the first successful trial of the US Air Force Atlas ICBM as a space launch vehicle. The primary objective of the mission was to place the body of the missile into low earth orbit. A pre-recorded Christmas message prepared by US President Eisenhower was recorded onto 2 tape recorders(a primary and a backup) and installed into the missile.
Goldcraft Cachets" cover with a SCORE launch date postmark. [Hans Bergner]
At 18:02 hours, 18 December 1958, the Atlas missile was launched into an orbit. On the first orbit, as the satellite passed over California, the primary payload did not respond properly. Finally on 19 December, the backup tape recorder responded to coded commands from the ground and transmitted the US President's message on a short-wave frequency 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 from a satellite traveling 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."
The backup SCORE package continued to work perfectly, responding to 78 realtime and store-and-forward voice and teletype transmissions between ground stations located in Georgia, Texas, Arizona and California. After 12 days, the batteries exhausted and on 21 January 1959, the satellite re-entered the Earth's atmosphere and was destroyed.