TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: What Exactly Did "Telstar" Do?

What Exactly Did "Telstar" Do?
13 Dec 2004 11:12:28 -0800

In the 1960s, the Bell System launche d a pioneer communications
satellite known as Telstar. The event had great fanfare. People
would be told when and where to look for the tiny dot of light passing
in the night sky, and go out to see it. Models of it appeared in

While there are generalities written about it, I was curious about
some day to day technical details.

I am curious as to what exactly did Telstar do, once they got it up
and running. That is, did it handle domestic voice long distance
calls? Overseas calls? Telegraph/ data signals? Television
programs, either domestic or overseas? Did it have an orbit fixed
above one point of the earth or its own moving orbit?

How was Telstar controlled? That is, I presume any call handled via
Telstar could also be handled by more conventional means, and backup
was necessary in case Telstar wasn't working for some reason. Did
engineers manually route transmissions and babysit them?

Was Telstar a production unit, expected to be a workaday medium, or
just an experiment to see how satellite communications would work?

(During overseas calls of the 1930s, engineers did have to monitor
every call in progress and adjust frequencies and even bands
(shortwave or longwave) to compensate for atmospheric conditions
affecting the radio. There were advantages and disadvantages for both
shortwave and longwave and both were used. I don't think these were
ever resolved until undersea cables came into use.)

How long did Telstar stay in service? I recall a Telstar II replacing
it, but then the mystiq of satellites waned. Thanks.

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