Space Programs

Communications Satellites


Seeing the need for a comprehensive, jointly owned and operated system of satellite communications, eleven nations formed the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization—INTELSAT—on August 20, 1964. On April 6, 1965, Early Bird, the organization’s first satellite and the first commercial communications satellite, was launched. It was a metal cylinder a foot and a half tall and two feet wide, and was encircled by a band of solar cells. It could handle 240 telephone lines or one television channel at a time. Over the years, more nations joined the organization, and many more satellites were launched. In 2001 INTELSAT became a private company, Intelsat Limited. Today, it continues to provide satellite communications services with its fleet of more than fifty satellites.


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