Communication Satellites Feeding an Information Hungry World

By: | July 4th, 2016

Science fiction author Arthur C. Clark invented the idea of using satellites as “extraterrestrial relays” or mirrors to bounce radio signals around the globe in 1945. The idea was to launch three satellites at 23,000 miles (35,000 km) to bounce signals to the entire world. Today, the world stands on the leading edge of the commercialization of and satellites will play a central role.

While communication satellites or “comsats” are often touted as game changers in science and information technology the original purpose was to help governments better manage their domains, collecting information from far-flung regions in their spheres of influence. A good history of comsats can be found at the US Centennial of Flight Commissions wtih its historical list of commercial communications satellites. For example, the first communications with a satellite was with the Moon. In the 1950s the U.S. Navy created a system for bouncing signals off the surface of the Moon.

The advantage to governments of suddenly being able to instantly reach remote areas of their countries or the world using telephone communications and TV signals cannot be underestimated. Of course, the use of satellites has expanded into amateur radio, Internet access, military communications and more.

Improving Satellite Communications Technology

An MIT paper “Optimal Energy Allocation and Admission Control for Communications Satellites” illustrates the complexity of the issues of running increasingly greater numbers of satellites perform an increasingly wider range of tasks. Of course, powering satellites has always been a challenge. More recently the high cost of propelling satellites into space has been a stumbling block for the technology resulting in the emergence of small communication satellites which are revolutionizing research of the earth from lower Earth orbit.

For a list of communication satellites currently in orbit see Wikipedia’s list.

Following are the major milestones in satellites according to Wikipedia:

Category Year Activity Person/Agency/ Country.
Geostationary concept 1945 Suggestion of Geostationary satellite communication feasibility. A. Clark ( U.K )
Moon Reflection 1946 Detection of Lunar Echo by Radar J. Mofenson (U.S.A.)
1954 Passive relaying of voice by moon reflection. J.H. Trexler( U.S.A. )
1960 Hawaii-Washington, D.C. Communication by Moon Reflection. U.S.A. Navy.
Low altitude orbit. 1957 Observation of signals from Sputnik -1 Satellite. U.S.S.R., Japan and  others.
1958 Tape-recorded voice transmission by Satellite SCORE. U.S.A. Air Force.
1960 Meteorological facsimile Trans mission by Satellite Tiros-1. U.S.A.  NASA
1960 Passive relaying of telephone and television by Satellite Echo-1. U.S.A.  Army.
1960 Delayed relaying of recorded voice by Satellite Courier-1B. U.S.A.  Army.
1962 Active transatlantic relaying of communication by Satellite Telstar-1. U.S.A., U.K., France.
1962 Communication between manned Satellites Vostok-3 and 4; Space television transmission. U.S.S.R.
1963 Scatter communication by tiny needles in Orbit.( West Ford Project  6 ) U.S.A.  MIT.
1963 Active transpacific relaying of communication by Satellite Relay 1. U.S.A. NASA, Japan.
Synchronous Satellite. 1963 USA-Europe-Africa communication by Satellite Syncom 2. U.S.A.  NASA
1964 Olympic Games television relaying by Satellite  Syncom 3  U.S.A., NASA Japan.
1965 Commercial Communication (Semi-experimental) by Satellite Early Bird. INTELSAT.

The following video provides a history of satellites, their invention and uses.

David Russell Schilling

David enjoys writing about high technology and its potential to make life better for all who inhabit planet earth.

More articles from Industry Tap...