After the first artificial satellite launched in 1957, AT&T developed plans for a communications satellite network that involved 20-40 satellites orbiting at low altitudes. However, Harold Rosen favored the idea of a satellite in geostationary orbit, 22,000 miles directly above the equator. The orbit would allow the satellite to remain stationary and provide continuous coverage over a third of the world, requiring only three satellites for a worldwide network.
Rosen was able to convince initially reluctant executives at Hughes Aircraft Company to fund the production of a prototype. On July 26, 1963, Rosen’s team launched a lightweight satellite called Syncom that could receive signals from Earth and then transmit them back across the globe.
Rosen went on to build the world’s largest communications satellite business at Hughes, ushering in a new technological era. Today, over 1,000 satellites orbit the Earth with a variety of functions, including monitoring weather and broadcasting radio, television and internet.
By Jen Santisi