SP-4217 Beyond the Ionosphere


[293-299] Appendix B

Timeline of Selected Events in the Development of Satellite Communications






Tsiolkovsky describes a geosynchronous orbit.


Noordung describes radio communications with a space station in a geosynchronous orbit using large antennas and solar power.


The 1940s


October 1945

Arthur C. Clarke's article, "Extra-Terrestrial Relays" in Wireless World, suggests global coverage with three satellites in a geosynchronous orbit.

10 January 1946

U.S. Army Signal Corps under John H. DeWitt, Jr., succeeds in bouncing radar waves off the Moon.

6 February 1946

Zoltan Bay reflects radar waves off the Moon.

12 May 1946

A RAND study proposes a synchronous communications relay system.

October 1946

Stanford University begins meteor radar studies; this is the start of meteor burst communications.


The 1950s


21 October 1951

The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) carries out the first use of the Moon as a relay in a radio communications circuit.

8 November 1951

Researchers at the National Bureau of Standards Central Radio Propagation Laboratory (Sterling, Virginia) and Collins Radio (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) relay a telegraph message via the Moon.

24 July 1954

NRL achieves the first voice transmission via the Moon.

April 1955

John R. Pierce's article, "Orbital Radio Relays," is published in Jet Propulsion.

29 November 1955

NRL demonstrates transcontinental teleprinter communications from Washington, D.C., to San Diego via the Moon.


The first transatlantic telephone cable (TAT-1) starts service between Britain and Canada.

23 January 1956

NRL achieves first transoceanic communications, from Washington, D.C., to Wahiawa, Oahu, Hawaii, via the Moon.

4 October 1957

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite, into orbit.


The first teletype relay is accomplished by satellite (Courier 1B).

29 July 1958

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is created.

October 1958

A synchronous communications satellite project is proposed for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

November 1958

NASA and DoD split the satellite communications program; NASA gets passive systems, while DoD has active systems.

18 December 1958

DoD launches Project SCORE, which brings the first broadcast from space of a voice message, with a delayed and real-time repeater.


The second transatlantic telephone cable (TAT-2) begins.


DoD's Communication Moon Relay system becomes operational between Washington, D.C., and Hawaii.

May 1959

Jodrell Bank begins lunar communications relay tests with Pye Telecommunications equipment.

6 June 1959

A lunar communications demonstration occurs at the opening of Canada's Prince Albert Radar Laboratory.

16 December 1959

A letter of agreement between NASA and Canada's Defence Research Board is signed for the Alouette satellite.

29 February 1960

Department of Defense combines synchronous satellite communications projects under Project Advent.

August 1960

NASA decides to pursue active satellite communications research; works out agreement with Department of Defense.

The 1960s


12 August 1960

Echo 1 is launched.

October 1960

AT&T requests a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for an experimental satellite.

October 1960

NASA and DoD reach agreement that NASA will leave synchronous work to DoD.

4 October 1960

DoD's Project Courier is launched, with a delayed repeater.

November 1960

NASA awards a contract for the Relay project's requirements to Space Technology Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ramo-Wooldridge (later TRW).

December 1960

AT&T proposes a joint satellite communications effort to NASA.

30 December 1960

President Eisenhower gives NASA the lead role in satellite communications.

4 January 1961

NASA requests proposals for an experimental communications satellite.

March 1961

NASA's communications budget is increased by $10 million.

May 1961

RCA is selected over AT&T and Hughes for the Relay project.

23 June 1961

DoD approves NASA's Syncom project and the use of Advent ground stations.

24 July 1961

President Kennedy signs a policy statement on space communications.

28 July 1961

NASA signs a cooperative agreement with AT&T for Telstar.

11 August 1961

Hughes is selected for Syncom (a sole-source procurement).

21 October 1961

The launch of Project West Ford is unsuccessful.

May 1962

DoD's Project Advent is canceled.

10 July 1962

Telstar 1 is launched, resulting in the first transatlantic television via satellite.

31 August 1962

The Communications Satellite Act is signed, and the Communica-tions Satellite Corporation (Comsat) is created.

29 September 1962

Alouette 1, Canada's top-side sounder and the first satellite by other than the Soviet Union or the United States, is launched.

4 October 1962

President Kennedy names the Comsat board of directors.

December 1962

The Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administrations forms a committee to study joining a U.S.-led global satellite communications system.

13 December 1962

Relay 1 is launched, the first communications satellite to transmit television worldwide.

1 February 1963

Comsat is incorporated.

7 May 1963

Telstar 2 is launched.

10 May 1963

Project West Ford (also known as "Project Needles") launches millions of hair-like copper wire dipole antennas into orbit, creating an artificial ionospheric communications relay.

26 July 1963

Syncom 2, the first geosynchronous communications satellite, is placed in orbit; Syncom 1 had failed during launch.

August 1963

An agreement is signed with NASA for Canadian participation in testing experimental communications satellites, including a commitment to build a ground station.

November 1963

The Advanced Technology Satellite (ATS) program initiated.


The European Launcher Development Organization is established.

21 January 1964

Relay 2 is launched.

25 January 1964

Echo 2 is launched.

May 1964

The ATS project is approved at NASA headquarters.

August 1964

Intelsat is created (Interim Agreements).

19 July 1964

Syncom 3 is launched.


The Initial Defense Satellite Communications System, which at first is called the Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP), begins; this will lead to the first operational military communications satellite.

11 February 1965

The first Lincoln Experimental Satellite (LES-1) is launched.

6 April 1965

Comsat's Early Bird (Intelsat I) is launched.

April 1965

Molniya 1 is launched; this is the first Soviet communications satellite.

6 May 1965

LES-2 is launched.

28 June 1965

Intelsat I begins routine operation between the United States and Europe; this is the beginning of commercial satellite communications.

21 December 1965

LES-3 and LES-4 are launched.

26 October 1966

Intelsat IIA is launched.

7 December 1966

NASA's ATS-1 is launched.


The Intelsat II series begins; this is the first communications satellite capable of multiple-access transmissions.

February 1967

It is recommended that the prime Canadian space technology objective be its applications to domestic telecommunications and resource surveys.

1 July 1967

LES-5 is launched.

8 November 1967

NASA's ATS-3 is launched.


TACSAT, the first satellite to provide UHF mobile communications, is launched.

26 September 1968

LES-6 is launched.

January 1969

The first Intelsat III satellite begins service over the Atlantic Ocean.

30 January 1969

The first, International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies program satellite, ISIS 1, is launched.

20 July 1969

The landing of U.S. astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon is relayed to Earth via Intelsat III satellites.

12 August 1969

NASA's ATS-5 is launched.

1 September 1969

Telesat Canada is established.


The 1970s


20 March 1970

NATO I is launched.

16 May 1970

The first aircraft-to-aircraft voice transmission occurs using LES-6.

31 March 1971

ISIS 2 is launched.

20 April 1971

The Communications Technology Satellite (CTS) agreement signed between Canada and the United States.

May 1971

The Intelsat Definitive Agreements are signed.

3 November 1971

The first two Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) military satellites are launched.

20 December 1971

The first Intelsat IV satellite is put into service.

10 November 1972

Anik A1, the first Canadian domestic geostationary communications satellite (C-band), is launched.

January 1973

NASA quits commercial satellite communications research and development until 1978; some projects remain until completion; and the ATS-G canceled.

20 April 1973

The Canadian Anik A2 satellite is launched.

July 1973

The Europeans decide to build their own launcher.

13 December 1973

DSCS III and DSCS IV are launched.

30 May 1974

NASA's ATS-6 is launched.

19 December 1974

The Franco-German geostationary communications satellite, Symphonie 1, is launched.

26 September 1975

Intelsat IVA (a modified Intelsat IV) is launched.

7 May 1975

Anik A3 is launched.

26 August 1975

Symphonie 2 is launched.

17 January 1976

The CTS (also known as Hermes)--the first high-powered, Ku-band satellite and the world's most powerful to date--is launched.

19 February 1976

Marisat I, the first communications satellite to provide commercial mobile satellite services, begins operation.

8 July 1976

The first Indonesia satellite, Palapa-A1, is brought into service.

14 March 1978

LES-8 and LES-9 are launched.

15 December 1978

Anik B, the first commercial hybrid satellite, is launched.

February 1979

France decides to create TÈlÈcom 1, a communications satellite system for domestic and overseas markets.

July 1979

ATS-6 is turned off.

16 July 1979

The Inmarsat Convention is entered into force.

November 1979

The CTS is turned off.

The 1980s


6 December 1980

The first Intelsat V satellite is launched.


Inmarsat begins operation.

3 December 1982

The Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS) Mission Need Statement is signed by the NASA administrator.

4 August 1984

France's Télécom 1A is launched.

8 May 1985

France's Télécom 1B is launched.

20 November 1987

TV-SAT 1, another Franco-German satellite, is launched.

11 March 1988

France's Télécom 1C is launched.

28 October 1988

TDF-1, a Franco-German geostationary direct-broadcast television satellite, is launched.

6 August 1989

TV-SAT 2 is launched.


The 1990s


24 July 1990

TDF-2 is launched.

12 September 1993

NASA's ACTS is launched.