Chapter eighteen: Telstar

Documents drawn on for the launch of Telstar:

Satellite ground tracking station, Andover, Maine, Engineering notes: Tel­star July 9, 10, and 11, 1962. The document gives details of the count­down (page 188), for example, loss of calibration by the ground tracker at 1220 UT, power supply trouble at 2317 in the upper room of the com­munication antenna, etc. … (box 85080302 – AT&T archives).

Memorandum for the Record from John Pierce, Rudy Kompfner, and Chaplin Cutler on Research Toward Satellite Communication, and Research toward Satellite Communication (page 189). Both are dated Jan­uary 6, 1959, and deal with a research program directed in general at acquiring the basic knowledge for satellite communication by any means and specifically at aspects of passive Echo-type satellites. A fuller version of the research memo was written on January 9, 1959 (AT&T archives).

In this chapter references to what NASA officials said or did (pages 191 to 198) comes from documents in the NASA History Office or George Washington University. These were shared with me by David Whalen.

They include:

Memorandum for the Record, October 31, 1960, by Robert G. Nunn, special assistant to the administrator. This summarizes a meeting between NASA officials and James Fisk, president of Bell Telephone laboratories, and George Best, vice president of AT&T The purpose was to discuss Bell’s plans for “Transoceanic Communication via satellite.” It opened with T. Keith Glennan, NASA’s administrator, saying that Bell had not considered the “facts of life” with respect to vehicle availability. The meeting discussed policy issues in some depth, including finance and whether or why public money should be spent on communication satellites.

Memorandum for program directors, February 24, 1961. Subject: Guide­lines for preparation of preliminary Fiscal Year 1963 budget. On the sub­ject of communication satellites, it said to assume no funding of opera­tional systems; adequate provision should be made for back-up vehicles; and no development of passive communication systems.

Minutes of the administrator’s staff meeting: November 30, 1960; Decem­ber 1, 1960; December 8, 1960; January 18, 1961; January 26, 1961; Feb­ruary 2, 1961; March 2, 1961; May 25, 1961; June 1, 1961; June 12, 1961; June 15, 1961;June 22, 1961;June 29, 1961.

Technical details about Telstar and the attitudes and opinions of the Bell engineers were gleaned from the following:

“Project Telstar, Preliminary report Telstar 1 July—September 1962.” (AT&T archives).

Telstar—The Management Story, by A. C. Dickieson (unpublished manu­script, July 1970). Dickieson was the project manager for Telstar (AT&T archives).

Extracts from a manuscript by D. F. Floth. Chapter on Telstar Planning: January-May 1960 (AT&T Archives 84-0902).

Each quotes extensively from memos that the writers had access to.

The discussions of technology in the chapter come from a mixture of sources, including documents in the Hughes Aircraft Company’s archives.

Helpful textbooks include:

Satellite Communication Systems Engineering, by Wilbur L. Pritchard, Henri G. Suyerhoud, and Robert A. Nelson (Prentice Hall, 1993).

The Communication Satellite, by Mark Williamson (Adam Hilger, 1990).