How Satellite TV Works – Telstar – First live TV broadcast via satellite – Satellite Technology
This short video remembers the first live television pictures delivered by satellite from the US to the UK, and the impact this momentous event had on the world.
This month it was 50 years ago that NASA launched ATandT’s Telstar, the world’s first active communications satellite. Launched on July 10, 1962, this was a very successful experiment. Telstar transmitted the first satellite television broadcasts, which were the first live television signals sent across the Atlantic.
Viewers in France and England saw President Kennedy conduct a press conference, and audiences in the United States watched French singer Yves Montand and the changing of the guard at England’s Buckingham Palace.
By the end of June 1962, viewers in 16 countries could watch US TV programmes. Telstar was not in geostationary orbit, so connection between the two continents was only possible during a certain period per day. The idea at the time was to create a belt of Telstars circling the globe, allowing for continuous contact over the Atlantic Ocean.
Within six months of launch, the satellite worked no more and a restart only kept it functional until February 1963.
On this page are two historic videos. The first is a short clip from Universal Newsreel called ‘Telstar brings the world closer’. The second is a long video, produced by Audio Productions Inc and tells the story of how the Bell System, in cooperation with NASA, developed the satellite, and participated in the launch and the subsequent successful transmission of signals to and from the earth and space. The film is from 1962 with footage courtesy of ATandT Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ. Notice the Twilight Zone-styled commentary with the film.
As far as we know, Telstar is also the only TV satellite about which a song was made – written and produced by Joe Meek and performed by The Tornados. It was the first single by a British band to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and was also a number one hit in the UK. The record was released on the Decca label and sold over five million copies worldwide.