National Geographic : 1960 Jul
NASA Transparent display sphere encases a satel lite made of thin aluminum-coated plastic. Fired into orbit, the satellite pops from a con tainer and expands to a diameter of 100 feet. Fully inflated, the shimmering satellite towers above workmen in a hangar. NASA hopes to orbit 10 to 20 of the huge balloons; by reflect ing radio signals beamed at them, they can relay messages around the globe. Umbrellalike reflectors of paper-thin plastic may be used as space antennas or solar heating units. Scientist Walter J. O'Sullivan of Langley, who conceived the idea of plastic satellites, examines a model. The reflector would gather sunlight and con vert its heat to electricity for broadcasts. Larger model in background is an antenna.