Catching Telstar

More about this object

Antenna PB1 (Pleumeur-Bodou 1)

Telstar was launched on July 10, 1962.

Not much more than a meter across, it was a remarkable contrast to the massive receiving apparatus to which it would speak. "Catching" the Telstar signals was not entirely straightforward. Unlike present-day satellites, which tend to be in geo-stationary orbit, hovering above a more or less fixed point above the Earth, Telstar circled the earth rapidly relative to the land. In a so-called elliptical orbit, Telstar flew high above the Pacific ocean and low over the Atlantic, circling about every 2.5 hours. This meant that there was a window of transatlantic transmission of about twenty minutes, during which time the ground stations on either side of the Atlantic would serve as links between the broader networks.

This required intense cooperation between the major commercial networks on the USA side, and links to the Eurovision network in Western Europe.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, 'Catching Telstar', Inventing Europe,


  1. Schwoch, James. Global TV: New Media and the Cold War, 1946-69. University of Illinois Press, 2008.

About this tour


Opening Europe to 'Mondovision': the start of satellite broadcasting

After Sputnik, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before sounds and images would be coming from space. Many dreamed that this would unify the the peoples of the world if they could all receive the same signals. When Telstar, the first communications satellite, was launched, however, it also revealed divisions on the ground.

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What's like this?

Communication satellites

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