Little Bits of History

Telstar

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 23, 2012

Telstar

July 23, 1962: The first publicly transmitted, live trans-Atlantic television program is broadcast. Telstar was a series of communications satellites. Telstar I was launched July 10, 1962 and operated until February 21, 1963. The second Telstar was sent up on May 7, 1963 and operated until May 16, 1965. The two Telstars were nearly identical and roughly spherical in shape. Telstar 1 relayed the first television pictures as well as telephone calls and fax images through space.

The satellites belonged to AT&T although they were built under an international agreement. AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National PTT worked together to create the experimental communication satellite over the Atlantic Ocean. Bell Labs was a major contributor to the program and agreed to reimburse NASA $3 million for each of the two launches, regardless of the success. There were three main ground stations: Andover, Maine; Goonhilly Downs, England; and Pleumeur-Bodou, France.

John Robinson Pierce created the project while Rudy Komphner invented the traveling wave tube transponder, the basis for the new method of transmission. James M. Early designed the transistors and solar panels. The solar panels covered the exterior of the 170 pound satellite and produced about 14 watts of electrical power. Telstar was 34.5 inches in length, the size was determined by the payload of NASA’s Delta rocket which boosted it into space. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida it was the first privately sponsored space launch.

The rocket boosted the satellite into its elliptical orbit. Telstar circled the globe every 2 hours and 37 minutes and was inclined at a 45° angle to the equator. At its closest, it was about 625 miles from Earth, while at its furthest point it was about 3745 miles away. It was a non-geosynchronous orbit which meant it was only positioned over the Atlantic for about 20 minutes of each orbit. Huge ground antennas were needed to track for signals sent back to Earth. The system was first tested with a non-public transmission on July 11, 1962. At 3 PM EDT, the first publicly available broadcast was made and featured Walter Cronkite and Chet Huntley in New York and the BBC’s Richard Dimbleby in Brussels.

A monopoly on the means of communication may define a ruling elite more precisely than the celebrated Marxian formula of monopoly in the means of production. – Robert Anton Wilson

A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered; about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals. – Robert M. Hutchins

Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow. – Rowan D. Williams

But I’m acutely aware that the possibility of fraud is even more prevalent in today’s world because of the Internet and cell phones and the opportunity for instant communication with strangers. – Armistead Maupin

Also on this day:

“Wanna see something really scary?” – In 1983, Vic Morrow and two children are killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie.
World War I – In 1914, Serbia ignored an ultimatum from Austria- Hungary.
Like Riding on Air – In 1888, John Dunlap patents a new tire.

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One Response

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  1. bobbydias@bobbydias.com said, on July 23, 2013 at 11:38 am

    The US State Department breathed a sigh of relief because the telephone bill I was causing for them each month went down from $25,000-$30,000 to under $5,000 because of Telstar. For example, when JFK asked me to call Nikita Khrushchev to ask him to turn the Cuba missile ship around the cost of the phone call was $247 for 6 minutes. Very spent because of no nuclear war as JFK said he would start if the missiles went to Cuba but still not cheap telephone service-today’s teenage girls are spoiled on their cell phone use by comparison.


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