Communication Satellite

“This satellite must be high enough to carry messages from both sides of the world, which is, of course, an essential requirement for peace…”

President Kennedy, July 23, 1962

Communication satellites bring the world closer together, with instant communication. They are especially important for communication, beaming information from one central place to many more. For example, they can broadcast TV signal to many stations at once. Communication satellites also have important military uses.

The first communication satellite, SCORE, was launched in 1958. It was more a public relations ploy than a useful instrument, transmitting a Christmas message before burning up in reentry after a few days.

“Telstar 1” is the first real communication satellite, created by Bell Labs. It used solar panels for power and relayed television, telephone, and telegraph signals.

Like early intercontinental telephone lines, Telstar 1 was expensive and flaky. It worked poorly when it functioned, which was seldom. However, the satellite did manage limited live television broadcasts between the US and Europe. Eventually, on February 21, 1962, about seven months after launch, the satellite permanently failed.

The satellite’s lead engineer was John Robinson Pierce. He went on to work as a professor and researcher at Caltech, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Stanford.


Satellites brought the world closer together, enabling instant communication, relaying information, and fulfilling countless military and civilian uses.

Sergei Korolev designed the first satellite, the Sputnik 1. It struck fear and hope around the globe as it orbited earth sending radio pings that anybody could hear.

Korolev spent years during the Great Purge in Stalin gulags, nearly dying, but went on to win release and lead the Soviet space program. He is also the lead engineer for the rocket that launched Yuri Gagarin, the first person to reach space, April 12, 1961.

The Soviet Union worried the US would attempt to assassinate him to win the space race so Korolev lived quietly; even Soviet cosmonauts did not know his last name.

The Soviet Union did not release his name until after his death, in 1960. To this day, many streets, monuments, and even the primary Russian space city bear his name.