The Telstar. A Tale of two Rockets.

July 22nd 1962

If I had wanted to see pictures from across the Atlantic I would have to wait.  Couriered by aircraft in a few hours and then eventually broadcast perhaps a day after the event, picture news travelled slowly.  Newspapers were still King, there was no way you could know or see the news much faster.

BOAC Stratocruiser News

Newsflash….Pictures to follow….

Then it happened.

The world shrank.

It’s an over used cliché really.  But in July 1962 the Atlantic at least got metaphorically smaller.  Just 20 years before it had been a deadly battlefield.  The fight to take people, material and information across thousands of miles of ocean had seen tens of thousands die. 

The Battle for the Atlantic

The most dangerous journey in the world. Atlantic 1940’s.

In the 1940s the Atlantic was a chasm between worlds.

Then on July 23rd 1962 Richard Dimbleby spoke to Walter Cronkite.  There were pictures of Paris and New York, a baseball game.  Kennedy spoke.  It was all instant, no planes, no ships.


Richard Dimbleby and Telstar

The legendary Richard Dimbleby. One of the first voices sent through space.

Launched 13 days earlier on a Thor-Delta and following tests, Telstar was ready for the historic day.  Phone calls, faxes, recorded images, live TV.  Suddenly there was an instant bridge across the sea.

Then it broke and it’s fate was decided the day before the launch.

Another object, ironically also launched on a Thor booster, was put into space on the 9th July 1962.  This object stayed there for a few moments then exploded 250 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

Starfish prime detonation over honolulu

The detonation seen over 1,000 miles away in Honolulu….

Starfish Prime.

1.4 megaton’s of top grade US nuclear weaponry was blown up at high altitude as part of a series of nuclear tests.  One consequence of this was the energizing of the Van Allen Radiation Belts that surround the Earth.  These were discovered just a few years before and are caused by the interaction of the solar wind and the Earth’s magnetic field.  Charged particles are trapped in great torus shaped belts surrounding the planet.

Simulated Van-Allen radiation belts

Man in the moon? Simulation of the Van-Allen radiation belts around the Earth.

In their natural state they pose a radiation hazard to satellites.  Boosted by a large artificial dose of Cold War destruction the Van Allen Belts would prove to be Telstars’ undoing.  Circuits eventually died, overwhelmed by the extra radiation.  A fix was found and after going silent in November, Telstar was restarted briefly in the New Year, but it didn’t last and in February 1963 Telstar died.

Still, the Tornados had their first US number 1 as a result.

Time to put the news on and see what’s happening around the world….

About astronomersden

Daddy, Hubby, Teacher and when ever I get the chance Astronomer.
This entry was posted in Astronomy, Atmosphere, Space Flight, The Astronomer's Den, Van-Allen Belts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Telstar. A Tale of two Rockets.

  1. Pingback: Aufblasbarer Hitzeschild suborbital gut getestet « Skyweek Zwei Punkt Null

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