Part of re-creating the Project Echo satelloons as art objects is tracking down the documentation and history of it all, identifying archives and primary source materials, and finding out how, exactly NASA built these early, early satellites.
Because it's more than technically possible to replicate their efforts. America's first forays into space were literally ad hoc: the prototype Echo satelloon was twelve feet in diameter because that's how big the ceiling was in the workshop. They figured out how to fold the balloon after one engineer saw his wife's rain bonnet. They pressure-tested the Mylar skin on an armature made of 1-by lumber, pulleys and weights. [image above: nasaimages.org]
I thought I'd have to track down a NASA archive facility in some Maryland backwoods, and make an appointment, and I may still. But it turns out NASA has converted a lot of the technical and fabrication documents for Project ECHO--ECHO I and ECHO II--to PDF format. The compilation of links at Astronautix.com is pretty high in the Google results.
Here's what I especially like:
- NASA Report, Development of the Fabrication and Packaging Techniques for the Echo II Satellite, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19670014586_1967014586.pdf.
- NASA Report, Postlaunch Structural Analysis of Echo II Satellite, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19660007648_1966007648.pdf
- NASA Report, Mechanical Properties of Echo II Laminate, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19640016629_1964016629.pdf
- NASA Report, Mechanical and Physical Properties of the Echo II Metal-Polymer Laminate, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19660025569_1966025569.pdf
- NASA Report, Buckling of the Echo-A-12 Passive Communications Satellite, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19640015999_1964015999.pdf.
- NASA Report, Strain measurements conducted on a full scale Echo II passive communications satellite balloon, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19660010463_1966010463.pdf.
- NASA Report, The Echo I Inflation System, Web Address when accessed: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19640012106_1964012106.pdf.