''Telstar was the first active communications satellite, the first satellite designed to transmit telephone and high-speed data communications, as well as the first privately owned satellite. Its name is used to this day for a number of television broadcasting satellites.''
''Belonging to AT&T, the original Telstar was part of a multi-national agreement between AT&T, Bell Telephone Laboratories, NASA, the British General Post Office, and the French National PTT (Post & Telecom Office) to develop satellite communication. Bell also built the Earth Station in Andover, and held a contract with NASA, reimbursing the agency 3 million dollars for each launch, independent of success. Launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral on July 10, 1962, Telstar was the first privately sponsored space launch. A medium-altitude satellite, Telstar was placed in an elliptical orbit (completed once every 2 hours and 37 minutes), rotating at a 45 degree angle above the equator. Because of this, its transmission availability for transatlantic signals was only 20 minutes in each orbit.''
''Telstar relayed its first television pictures (of a flag outside its ground station in Andover, Maine) on the date of its launch. Almost two weeks later, on July 23, it relayed the first live transatlantic television signal. During that evening it also dealt with the first telephone call transmitted through space and successfully transmitted faxes, data, and both live and taped television, including the first live transmission of television across an ocean (to Pleumeur-Bodou, in France). John F. Kennedy, then President of the United States, gave a live transatlantic press conference via Telstar.''
''The satellite was built by a team at Bell Telephone Laboratories. It was roughly spherical, was 34.5 inches (880 mm) long, and weighed 170 lb (77 kg). Its dimensions were limited by what would fit in one of NASA's Delta rockets. The team calculated the orbital path and located the US ground station accordingly in the US State of Maine. Telstar was equipped with a helical antenna which received microwave signals from a ground station, then amplified and rebroadcast the signal. When received back on the ground again, the signal was only a nanowatt or so in strength and a maser amplifier was therefore used to increase signal detection ability.''
''The original Telstar was just an experiment, however; it went out of service on February 21, 1963. Experiments continued, and by 1964, two Telstars, two Relay units (from RCA), and two Syncom units (from the Hughes Aircraft Company) had operated successfully in space. Syncom 2 was the first geosynchronous satellite and its successor, Syncom 3, broadcasted pictures from the 1964 Summer Olympics. The first commercial geosynchronous satellite was Intelsat 1 ("Early Bird") launched in 1965.''
''Telstars 57 and 1013 are presently (2004) operated by Loral Skynet. Telstar-8 is being manufactured by Space Systems/Loral and is due to launch in 2004.''