TelstarTelstar was not the first communications satellite, but it is the most famous.
Telstar I was launched on July 10, 1962, and transmitted live television
pictures from the United States to France on the same day.
A Delta rocket carried the 171 pound satellite into orbit. The sphere-shaped satellite was
just 34 inches in diameter. In orbit, the satellite was kept spinning like a top in order to keep
it stable. Transitors were not powerful enough at the time, so Telstar used Traveling Wave Tube
technolgy to amplify the received signal and re-transmit it to earth.
Telstar relayed the live television transmissions, picture facsimile, telephone conversations, and
other data across the Atlantic, but only for 102 minutes each day when it was in the right
location. Telstar I operated for about four months before a control system failed.
Primarily because of the live TV transmissions, Telstar became famous. A British band, The Tornados,
hit number one on the Billboard charts with teh instrumental pop song "Telstar." A cover version
of the song, by The Ventures, was also a hit.