Brief History of Satellite Communications

Telstar 1

In 1962, the world’s first active communications satellite, Telstar 1, was launched. This satellite was built by Telesat’s predecessors at AT&T and Bell Laboratories. During its seven months in operation, Telstar 1 dazzled the world with live images of sports, entertainment and news. It was a simple single-transponder low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite, but its technology of receiving radio signals from the ground, and then amplifying and retransmitting them over a large portion of the earth’s surface, set the standard for all communications satellites that followed.

Anik A

During the 1960s and 1970s, advances in satellite performance came quickly and a global industry began to develop. Satellites were mainly used at first for international and long-haul telephone traffic and distribution of select television programming, both internationally and domestically. In 1973 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation began distributing its video programming to Canadian customers using Telesat’s Anik A satellite. Then in 1975 HBO began distributing its video programming to US customers by satellite. The commercial and technical success of these ventures led to a greater use and acceptance of satellite broadcasting. By the 1990s, satellite communications would be the primary means of distributing TV programs around the world.