Chapter 1

OVERVIEW

Burton I. Edelson
Joseph N. Pelton
Neil R. Helm

BACKGROUND

The first quarter-century of growth and development of geosynchronous satellites has provided the world with international and long distance fixed satellite services (FSS) that have helped, in large measure, to create the Marshall McLuhan vision of the global electronic village. It has even been said that satellites have become the greatest force for the "super-tribalization" of the human species -- even more important than television. Starting with the global viewing of the moon landing in July 1969, communications satellites have changed the world.

During this epoch, the U.S. satellite industry has been at the forefront of change and innovation. Year in and year out, with satellites growing in size and sophistication, this remarkable new industry grew quickly and vibrantly. The record of achievements by U.S. industrial firms such as AT&T, Comsat, Hughes Aircraft Company, TRW, RCA and General Electric (now both part of Martin Marietta), SS/Loral (formerly Ford Aerospace), Scientific Atlanta, and others was remarkable. Table 1.1 records only a few of the more remarkable developments in the field in terms of research, technology, prototyping, and industrial implementation.

Table 1.1
U.S. Technology "Firsts" in Satellite Communications

Although many other instances can be cited, the above table documents that at least for the first two decades of satellite communications development the U.S. industrial leadership was extremely strong. By the middle of the 1980s this position began to erode and today the transition to a globally distributed technology in the field of satellite communications is clear.


Published: July 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian