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Palgrave Macmillan

The Rise and Fall of COMSAT

Technology, Business, and Government in Satellite Communications

ISBN 9781137396914
Publication Date May 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (PDF) Ebook (EPUB) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Satellite communications grosses over $100 billion annually and is heading toward $200 billion. COMSAT started all of this in 1963 when it was organized in compliance with the Communications Satellite Act of 1962. COMSAT was responsible for choosing geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), forming INTELSAT, and generally promoting the technological change that saw satellite power increase from the 40 watts of Early Bird (INTELSAT I) to the almost 10 kilowatts of INTELSAT IX; earth station antennas were reduced from 30 meters to 1 meter. The business of satellite communications was expanded to mobile communications and, less successfully for COMSAT, domestic telecommunications (DOMSATs) and television broadcasting. After pioneering this technology and growing the market, COMSAT fell prey to changes in government policy (the INTELSAT Definitive Arrangements, Reagan's Separate Systems, and ORBIT) and to its own lack of entrepreneurial talent. After its purchase by Lockheed Martin in 2000, COMSAT was closed down in 2001. The author explores the factors which contributed to this rise and fall of COMSAT.

David J. Whalen gained BA and MS degrees in Astronomy at Boston University and University of Massachusetts, USA, respectively, spent five years in the US Navy (A6A Intruder), and began a 30-year career as a communications satellite engineer. Since 2007, he has been teaching in the Department of Space Studies at the University of North Dakota, USA, where he was Chair of the Department of Space Studies from 2007 to 2010.

Introduction: A Technological Camelot
1. The Communications Satellite Act of 1962
2. Creating COMSAT
3. Creating Intelsat
4. Rising to the Peak
5. Mobile Satellite Communications
6. Technology
7. DOMSATs (COMSTAR and SBS)
8. Direct Broadcast Satellites
9. The Old Guard Retires
10. Fadeout
Epilog: Post-Mortem

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