This Day in Tech History

On This Day . . .

♪ All You Need . . . ♫

intelsat-intelsat1-earlybird

June 28, 1965:  First Commercial Communications Satellite Activates

Intelsat I, the first commercial communications satellite, is activated for service.  It was nicknamed “Early Bird” after the famous proverb (“The early bird catches the worm”) and became famous for carrying the first commercial telephone call between America and Europe, as well as helping provide TV coverage of the Gemini 6 splashdown.

Intelsat I was placed in geosynchronous orbit, on April 6, 1965.  It was built by the Space and Communications Group of Hughes Aircraft Company (later Hughes Space and Communications Company, and now Boeing Satellite Systems) for COMSAT, which activated it on June 28.

775px-INTELSAT_I_(Early_Bird)

It was based on the satellite that Hughes had built for NASA to demonstrate that communications via synchronous-orbit satellite were feasible. Its booster was a Thrust Augmented Delta (Delta D).

Delta D

It helped provide the first live TV coverage of a spacecraft splashdown, that of Gemini 6 in December 1965. Originally slated to operate for 18 months, Early Bird was in active service for four years, being deactivated in January 1969, although it was briefly activated in June of that year to serve the Apollo 11 flight when the Atlantic Intelsat satellite failed.  It was deactivated again in August 1969 and has been inactive since that time (except for a brief reactivation in 1990 to commemorate its 25th launch anniversary), although it remains in orbit.

The Early Bird satellite was the first to provide direct and nearly instantaneous contact between Europe and North America, handling television, telephone, and telefacsimile transmissions. It was fairly small, measuring nearly 76 × 61 cm (2.5 × 2.0 feet) and weighing 34.5 kg (76 pounds).

hughesIntelsat-1_and_2_and_3_and_4_and_4A_sketch

Early Bird was one of the satellites used in the then record-breaking broadcast of Our World.

Our World was the first live, international, satellite television production, which was broadcast on 25 June 1967. Creative artists, including The Beatles, opera singer Maria Callas, and painter Pablo Picasso — representing nineteen nations — were invited to perform or appear in separate segments featuring their respective countries.

Amazing . . . Our World, 1967.  The first 3 minutes explains the idea:

The two-and-half-hour event had the largest television audience ever up to that date: an estimated 400 million people around the globe watched the broadcast. Today, it is most famous for the segment from the United Kingdom starring The Beatles. They sang their specially composed song, “All You Need Is Love”, to close the broadcast.

The broadcast took place at the height of the Vietnam War, and The Beatles wanted to use the opportunity to convey a positive message expressing a philosophy of love.  They gave a live performance, transmitted at 8:54 pm GMT, performing a new song, written primarily by John Lennon, entitled “All You Need Is Love”, which was composed especially for the occasion. The Beatles invited many of their friends to the event to create a festive atmosphere and to join in on the song’s chorus.  Among the friends were members of The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Moon and Graham Nash.

From Our World, The Beatles, All you Need is Love

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