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NASA's doomed plan to wrap the planet in a ring of floating copper

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nasa west ford
nasa west ford

In the 1950s, there were no communications satellites. Global broadcasting, for the most part, used undersea cables. This reliance on fragile cables concerned the US military. Worried that a Soviet attack could have forced the US to use unreliable long-range radio for communications, American researchers looked for a solution. The result of their research was Project Needles, later renamed Project West Ford, a plan that would see rockets deposit tons of copper needles into space, eventually forming a solid ring around the globe that could be used for long-distance communication. After one failed and one semi-successful trial, the project was scrapped, with Telstar, the first modern satellite, already orbiting the globe. For a detailed look at how Project West Ford was conceived, prototyped, launched, and canceled, head to Wired.