July 10, 1962, Telstar 1 is launched aboard a Thor-Delta rocket at Cape Canaveral. The first live television broadcasts, faxes, and phone calls were delivered through this satellite, ushering in an era of instantaneous data transmissions from all over the world.
Telstar 1 and it’s nearly identical twin, Telstar 2, were developed in a multinational partnership between NASA, Bell, AT&T, National PTT and GPO (of France and the UK respectively). Telstar weighed 170 pounds, with a diameter of 35 inches, and was covered in solar panels to provide electricity. The size and design of the satellite was limited by the capabilities of the Thor-Delta. The instrumentation carried were simple transponders, requiring massive earth-based receivers to transmit the signals relayed by the satellites.
Telstar 1 would successfully prove telecommunications through satellites before experiencing failure in February 1963, due to increased radiation exposure caused by Cold War nuclear tests at high-altitudes, causing damage to the delicate transistors aboard the craft. Telstar 2 would launch in May of 1963. Subsequent Telstars would be launched in the 1980s and 90s, with the latest, Telstar 19V, scheduled to launch in 2018 on a SpaceX Falcon 9. These newer Telstar satellites are similar to the twins Telstar 1 and 2 in name only.
While not as sexy as the Mercury 7, or as memorable as Sputnik, Telstar 1 and 2 are seminal to the history of modern telecommunications, proving the concept of the communications satellites, without which, life as we are accustomed would not be possible. While non-functioning, both Telstar 1 and 2 continue to orbit the earth. A backup craft to Telstar 1 and 2 is on display at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum in Washington DC.
Also in 1962, The Tornados release an instrumental song that becomes the first UK single to reach #1 on the charts in the US.