Monday, July 9, 2012

June 10, 1962: Telstar Launches Satellite Communications Era

 Bell Labs marked the 50th anniversary of the launch of Telstar I -- the first active communications satellite, which ushered in the era of modern communications including real-time global telephone service, data communications and TV broadcasting.

Telstar I incorporated dozens of innovations from Bell Labs, including the transistor and solar panels, and was powered by 3,600 solar cells also invented by Bell Labs in 1954. The satellite could carry 600 voice calls and one black-and-white TV channel from an elliptical orbit some 30,000 miles above the Earth's equator. The orbit allowed a maximum transmission time between Europe and the United States of 20 minutes per pass. The satellite remained in service until February 21, 1963. Many generations of communication satellites have followed.

"With Telstar and its successors, the world was made a smaller place, as billions of people around the world had instant access to news, sports and entertainment. The phrase 'live via satellite' became part of the common vernacular. At the time, few people would have believed that 50 years later you could actually talk to your house or car, or predicted that children would play video games with other children 10,000 miles away," said Jeong Kim, President of Bell Labs.\