The popular and versatile Boeing 376 spin-stabilized spacecraft was the first satellite to be launched by a space shuttle. First built by Hughes Space and Communications Company, all Boeing 376 models have two telescoping solar panels and antennas that fold for compactness during launch. They were available in several configurations and were boosted by any of the world’s major launch vehicles.
The first Boeing 376 satellite model was launched in 1980, and in 2002, the Boeing 376 was the world’s second most purchased satellite after the Boeing 601. Boeing could produce a Boeing 376 satellite in less than 14 months. Because of its shorter manufacturing time compared with larger models, the Boeing 376 filled a unique niche for customers who were entering the business and needed a smaller spacecraft, or for established operators who had a specific business opportunity for a specific region and needed a satellite on a short schedule.
e-BIRD, launched in September 2003, was the last Boeing 376 launched and remains in service today, along with several other Boeing 376 satellites. Following e-BIRD, Boeing shifted its focus to the body-stabilized satellites, such as the Boeing 601 and the Boeing 702.
Throughout the 23 years that Boeing delivered the Boeing 376 satellite, the design continuously evolved to incorporate new technologies, such as more efficient solar cells produced by Boeing subsidiary Spectrolab. The Boeing 376W model is an extension of the Boeing 376 family. The Boeing 376W is larger, wider and more powerful than the Boeing 376.