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Recovery of Telstar Satellite



Page owner: John Mayo

Project Overview
Project Name: Recovery of Telstar Satellite
Date Completed: 1962
Location: Worldwide
Project Status: Complete
Official Website: Telstar at 50

Project Tags: electrical telecommunications

Project Team

Disciplines That Worked on Project

Electrical Engineer
People That Made the Project Happen (e.g., engineers, scientists, etc.)
Organizations That Made the Project Happen (e.g., engineering companies, government agencies, etc.)

Project Details
About this project
The Telstar 1 satellite made history in 1962 when it transmitted the first live television pictures between the United States and Europe. However, after a successful period of operation, ground control could no longer turn on the orbiting satellite, probably due to radiation damage to the transistors. The engineers had to build a code to program a work-around of the components that had failed. The fix worked and satellite returned to service and continued to work until radiation damage silenced it altogether. The fix gained a lot of publicity and people some times called it use of a 400-mile long screwdriver. FYI, the launch of the satellite was the date of July 10,1962, and the end of the mission was on February 21,1963.
Who benefits from this project, and how?
Telstar 1 was the first commercial telecommunications satellite and ushered in the new age of technology that allowed television programs, internet, and other digital signals to transmitted to locations across the globe via satellites. The engineers who figured a way around the damaged transistors meant the satellite was able to function again.
Environmental considerations
Per Scientific American, the day before Telstar was launched, the US had set off a nuclear explosion at an altitude 150 miles of as part of a test. The people who set-off the nuclear explosion were surprised by the amount of high energy electrons that were released. This damaged the Telstar satellite. This experience made the world more conscious about how sensitive the earth and its upper atmosphere are to nuclear radiation.
What's unique about this project?
On this date in 1962, Telstar was launched, ushering in a new era of communications technology.

Funding & Costs
Funding notes: Bell Telephone Laboratories (which was part of AT&T) constructed six Telstar satellites out of its own money, but only two of those were launched: Telstar 1 and Telstar 2. The company also paid NASA $6 million to launch the satellites.

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