March 14, 2010

Selections From The NASA Library: How-To Build A 100-Foot Satelloon


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:]

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 is pretty high in the Google results.

Here's what I especially like:

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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