Electronic Design

Commercial Use of Space Bringing New Problems

Potential uses of space have catapulted to public attention in recent weeks, sparked by Projects Echo and Courier and a controversy over the re-allocation of spectrum for possible space requirements. The push toward public use of space opens new problem areas and casts a different light on the direction of satellite and ground system designs.

The most press-ing problem now faced by the FCC lies in frequency allocations. Up to now, the use of frequencies in space has been restricted to the government—through the military, NASA, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). These frequencies have mostly come from the large portions of the spectrum assigned to government use and are assigned not by the FCC, but by the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization.

The testimony before the FCC by commercial interests at recent allocations hearings indicated that telephone, television, and teletype users are all considering the use of satellite links to serve international markets. Intercontinental exchange of digital computer data was suggested as another potential use of space systems. (Electronic Design, Sept. 14, 1960, p. 26)

This was the beginning of satellite communications. Echo I, launched Aug. 12, 1960, was just about the simplest possible: a 100-ft. diameter alumi-num-coated balloon which acted as a passive reflector in space. The photo shows a maser used in the Echo receiver for low-noise reception. A second version, Echo II, was launched in early 1964, but NASA then dropped the project to concentrate on active satellites. The Air Force/Army active communications satellite Courier 1A was launched in August of 1960, but it failed to orbit. Courier 1B was put into orbit in October of 1960, but after 18 days, it stopped transmitting.

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