Echo 1 launched in August of 1960, finally allowing
America to participate in the Space Race, which until then was
roundly being won by the USSR. Electronics magazines of the
day were filled with prognostications of the future of space
communications. Electronics World dedicated most of their November
issue to satellite Earth stations and advancements being made
in ultra sensitive receivers and powerful transmitters. Since
the earliest satellites were literally metallic balls for reflecting
radio signals, it was necessary to optimize both ends of the
communications path since there were no circuits onboard the
satellite to perform signal processing and re-transmission.
Bell Labs, of course, was at the forefront of the technology.
In fact a famously serendipitous discovery was made by a couple
scientists in 1964 using the very antenna featured in this advertisement
The Maser & Sugar Scoop Antenna: Receiver for Signals from
Bell Telephone Laboratories Project Echo
"Project Echo" satellite went into a near-perfect circular
orbit 1000 miles high, circling the earth once every two hours.
Its orbital path covered all parts of the U. S.
First Phone Call Via Man-Made Satellite!
Bell Telephone Laboratories Bounces Voice Off Sphere Placed
in Orbit a Thousand Miles Above the Earth
Think of watching a royal wedding in Europe by live TV, or
telephoning to Singapore or Calcutta - by way of outer-space
satellites! A mere dream a few years ago, this idea is now a
giant step closer to reality.
Bell Telephone Laboratories recently took the step by successfully
bouncing a phone call between its Holmdel, N. J., test site
and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA) in Goldstone, California. The
reflector was a 100-foot sphere of aluminized plastic orbiting
the earth 1000 miles up.
Dramatic application of telephone science Sponsored by NASA,
this dramatic experiment - known as "Project Echo" - relied
heavily on telephone science for its fulfillment...
The Delta rocket which carried the satellite into space was
steered into a precise orbit by the Bell Laboratories Command
Guidance System. This is the same system which recently guided
the remarkable Tiros I weather satellite into its near-perfect
To pick up the signals, a special horn-reflector antenna
was used. Previously perfected by Bell Laboratories for microwave
radio relay, it is virtually immune to common radio "noise"
interference. The amplifier - also a Laboratories development
- was a traveling wave "maser" with very low noise susceptibility.
The signals were still further protected from noise by a special
FM receiving technique invented at Bell Laboratories.
"Project Echo" foreshadows the day when numerous man-made
satellites might be in orbit all around the earth, acting as
24-hour-a-day relay stations for TV programs and phone calls
between all nations.
This experiment shows how Bell Laboratories, as part of the
Bell System, is working to advance space communication. Just
as we pioneered in worldwide telephone service by radio and
cable, so we are pioneering now in using outer space to improve
communications on earth. It's part of our job, and we are a
long way toward the goal.
Giant ultra-sensitive horn-reflector antenna which received
signals bounced off the satellite. It is located at Bell Telephone
Laboratories, Holmdel, New Jersey.
Bell Telephone Laboratories World Center of Communications
Research and Development
November 1960 Electronics World
of Contents] People old and young enjoy waxing nostalgic about
and learning some of the history of early electronics. Electronics World
was published from May 1959 through December 1971. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
Electronics World articles.
Posted January 16, 2014