On July 10, 2002, Loral Skynet marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of Telstar 1, the world’s first active communications satellite built by Skynet’s predecessors at AT&T and Bell Laboratories.

Telstar 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Boeing Thor Delta rocket and soon thereafter broadcast the first live television signal from Andover, ME, to Goonlilly Downs, England and Pleumeur-Bodou, France. The transmission showed the American flag streaming over the Andover earth station to the sound of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The same day, Telstar carried the first long distance telephone call via satellite between AT&T’s then chairman, Fred Kappel, and US vice president Lyndon B. Johnson.

During its seven months in orbit, Telstar 1 dazzled the world with live images of baseball games, plays, musical performances, news broadcasts, scenes of the World’s Fair in Seattle, WA, and a US Presidential news conference. More than 200 million people watched as the United States and 16 European countries exchanged numerous live video signals of national monuments and famous images, including the United Nation Building, Niagara Falls, the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty.

Telstar 1’s technology differed from previous “passive” satellites — large reflective balloons that reflected radio signals — in that it received a signal from the ground, amplified it and sent it back to earth. The technology on Telstar 1 set the standard for all communications satellites that are in use today.

Telstar 1 had the ability to transmit either one television channel or roughly 500 simultaneous telephone calls. One of today’s most advanced communications satellites, by comparison, can carry more than 500 television channels and thousands of data circuits. An experimental satellite, Telstar 1 remained in orbit for seven months, ceasing transmission in February 1963.

Since 1962, Skynet has operated 14 satellites carrying the Telstar name. Skynet is currently constructing three new satellites — Telstar 8, Telstar 13 and Estrela do Sul 1 — that will carry on the Telstar heritage.

Comparison Between Telstar 1 and One of Today’s Most Powerful Satellites

Telstar 1

Telstar 7 (launched 9/99)


Spherical — 34" dia.

18' x 1' x 102' (deployed)

Weight at launch

171 lbs

8300 lbs


15 W

10 kW (beginning of life)


7 months

15+ years (expected)



$200M (approx.)