Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Telstar Satellite

As the Soviet Union would always get to say they sent Sputnik to space before the United States did, we reacted by listing a whole bunch of other things we did before them. One accomplishment that is typically listed is that we launched the first communication satellite, called Telstar, in 1962. The two Telstar satellites were owned by AT&T and they were the first attempt at providing satellite communication across the Atlantic Ocean.

The National Air and Space Museum here in Washington has the engineering model that is identical to the two Telstars that were launched. The satellite has a purple reflection to it from the circuit boards all over the surface of the satellite.

The first Telstar only lasted from 1962 to 1963 as solar radiation and high altitude nuclear bomb testing [yes, that's right, nukes exploded in the atmosphere] caused it to short out. However, the Telstar program continues even today as Telstar 18 was launched in 2004 and expected to be in service for 13 years.

I can't finish a Telstar post without sharing the song "Telstar" by The Tornados, the odd little sci-fi instrumental song titled in the satellite's honor. The song became a #1 hit in both American and the U.K. and gave the Tornados a career for 60's.

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