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This Day in History - 10.26.2011

Launch of First Commercial Satellite Boosts Wireless Industry

By John Burcl

On October 26, 1966, Hughes—now known as the Satellite Development Center—launched the first satellite in its third generation of communications satellites, The Intelsat II series. Though the Oct. 26 launch failed, the Intelsat II series reflected the first use of large commercial satellites. Hughes developed the satellites for the International Telecommunications Satellite Corporation (INTELSAT) in connection with the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT). The satellites had both wireless phone and TV signal transmission capabilities. Thus, the Intelsat program was arguably a key step in the development of wireless telephone networks and the satellite TV service. INTELSAT is an organization that has played a central role in the development of the mass communication industry. Founded in 1964 as an intergovernmental agency, it was heavily involved in the western effort to develop a shared and broad satellite telecommunications network to be used in a global and nondiscriminatory way.