Intelsat I: The Early Bird

Intelsat I Early Bird satelliteBuilt for COMSAT (Communications Satellite Corporation) by Hughes Aircraft, borrowing heavily from the design of the successful Syncom experimental satellites earlier in the decade, Intelsat I is launched into a geosynchronous orbit over the Atlantic Ocean, providing telephone, TV, and fax communication via satellite between the United States and Europe. Intelsat I, nicknamed “Early Bird”, doesn’t go operational until COMSAT has completed diagnostics and engineering tests; its first operational use is in June 1965. It will provide satellite transmission of the first live TV coverage of a returning space mission (the splashdown of Gemini 6 in December 1965), and it will be an integral part of the international satellite links necessary for the Our World broadcast in 1967. Despite being retired from regular use in January 1969, it will be reactivated in June 1969 to handle some of the television coverage of the first lunar landing.