1962: Telstar (NASA)





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Uploaded on Apr 18, 2008

Launched by NASA aboard a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral on July 10, 1962, Telstar was the first privately sponsored space launch.

Telstar was the first active communications satellite, and the first satellite designed to transmit telephone and high-speed data communications. Its name is used to this day for a number of television broadcasting satellites.

Belonging to AT&T, the original Telstar was part of a multi-national agreement between AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National PTT (Post, Telegraph & Telecom Office) to develop satellite communication. Bell also built the Andover Earth Station in Andover, Maine, and held a contract with NASA, reimbursing the agency three million dollars for each launch, independent of success.

Telstar was equipped with a helical antenna which received microwave signals from a ground station, then amplified and rebroadcast the signal. The broadcasts were made from a series of somewhat directional feed horns distributed around the satellite's "equator". The electronics switched which antenna was active as the satellite rotated.

The main earth receiving station was Goonhilly Down in the south of England and was used by the BBC. It was the international coordinator and the standards 525/405 conversion equipment (filling a very large room at that time) was researched and developed by the BBC and located in the BBC Television Centre London. Also with Early Bird in 1964 as well as the Summer Olympics mostly coming into Europe via the BBC, the main US networks, NBC, CBS and ABC all made their contributions from Europe mainly through the BBC.

A medium-altitude satellite, Telstar was placed in an elliptical orbit (completed once every 2 hours and 37 minutes), revolving at a 45 degree angle above the equator. Because of this, its transmission availability for transatlantic signals was only 20 minutes in each orbit.


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