First Communication Satellite
How the world’s first active communications satellite worked?
Telstar 1 was a collaboration between NASA and American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T), launched atop a Delta rocket on 10 July 1962. For the first time ever, it provided audio communication and simultaneous video between the USA, Europe and Japan, becoming the first active communications satellite capable of transmitting a signal.
The first passive communications satellite was NASA’s 1960 Echo 1 balloon, which bounced signals off its Mylar structure that could be received around the world. Telstar 1 completed one orbit of the Earth in two and a half hours, which meant that it could only relay signals between two places for up to 40 minutes during each orbit when it was in line with more than one ground station.
The cause of its demise was a series of nuclear bomb tests by the USA and USSR at the height of the Cold War, with the radiation from several explosions energizing the Earth’s Van Allen Belt and overwhelming Telstar 1’s fragile transistors. However, today Telstar 1 remains in orbit around the Earth, the longest orbiting manmade satellite.