message over the Earth-moon-Earth path. The Navy then established an operational link between Pacific fleet headquarters in Hawaii and the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in Washington, D.C., carrying 16 channels of 60 words-per-minute ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) teletype for periods of 4 to 7 hours each day (depending on the moon's declination). As satellite communications systems go, moon relay rated fairly low on capacity and data rate, but extremely high on reliability—with negligible launch cost.

In 1962, the U.S. Navy took a significant step forward, building the first satellite communications ship, the USNS Kingsport, mounting a 30-foot stabilized antenna to provide a mobile terminal capability for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA's) Syncom satellite. Kingsport, in the harbor of Lagos, Nigeria, relayed the first telephone call ever over a geostationary satellite, from President Kennedy via the Syncom II satellite. Kingsport later provided communications services in the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas for several years in support of tracking and recovery operations for NASA's Gemini program.

Early Experimental Programs

Within a year after the first Sputnik, the Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA initiated a number of experimental satellite projects that set the stage for operational military and civilian systems.

Score and Courier, developed and launched by DOD in 1958 and 1960, respectively, were the first communications satellite experiments. They demonstrated that delicate and complex electronic equipment could survive the trauma of launch and could operate in orbit.

NASA's entry was Echo, a 30-meter-diameter metal and plastic balloon, launched in 1960 to demonstrate passive satellite communications. Echo carried the first transoceanic satellite signal from Bell Laboratories in New Jersey to the French Communications Center in Paris.

Telstar, a medium-altitude satellite developed by AT&T Bell Laboratories and launched in 1962, was the most famous experimental satellite—its technical contributions so significant and its impact on the public so great that its name for a while became generic for "communications satellite." It was the first satellite to use a traveling wave tube (TWT). Significantly, Telstar received at 6 GHz and transmitted at 4 GHz, bands that later were assigned to commercial service and used by INTELSAT and all other fixed-service systems during the 1960s and 1970s. Telstar carried the first live television from the United States to England and France.

NASA's Relay satellite, a medium-altitude system like Telstar, launched a few months later, introduced additional technologies and provided extensive communications links, including the first between the United States and Japan.

NASA's Syncom satellite, built by Hughes and launched in 1963, was prob-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement