History of spaceflight and satellite communications

Space flight history timeline: The following represents a selected history of Spaceflight and of Satellite Communications. Comments and suggestions for additions would be welcomed; please send to our webmaster


Current status of today's satellite industry

1869 First known fictional conception of a satellite and space station


Publication of Arthur C Clarke’s paper outlining use of three geostationary space stations to provide “global” coverage for telecommunications

October 4, 1957

First artificial satellite, launched by Russia.  Sputnik 1

February 1, 1958

First satellite launched by USA.  Explorer 1

December 8, 1958

First communications satellite, broadcasting a taped message.  Score

October 13, 1959

First meteorological satellite.  Explorer 7

August 12, 1960

First telephone call via satellite. Echo 1(A) First passive telecommunications satellite

April 12, 1961

First man in space.  Yuri Gagarin, Vostok 1

April 26, 1962

First UK satellite.  Ariel 1

July 10, 1962

First active telecommunications satellite.  Telstar 1

July 26, 1963

First synchronous telecommunications satellite.  Syncom 2

August 19, 1964

First geosynchronous telecommunications satellite.  Syncom 3

April 6, 1965

First Intelsat satellite.  Intelsat 1, also known as Early Bird

November 5, 1967

First geosynchronous meteorological payload.  ATS 3

July 21, 1969

First manned lunar landing.  Apollo 11

October 28, 1971

First UK-launched satellite.  Prospero

May 30, 1974

First direct broadcasting satellite.  ATS 6

December 19, 1974

First 3-axis stabilised satellite.  Symphonie 1

July 16, 1979

Creation of Inmarsat, initially using leased capacity on Marisat, MARECS and Intelsat-V spacecraft

April 6, 1984

First in-orbit repair of a satellite.  Shuttle / SMM

June 15, 1988

First private-sector communications satellite. PAS-1

December 11, 1988

Launch of Astra 1A

October 30, 1990

Launch of Inmarsat’s first satellite.  Inmarsat II F1

August 3, 1995

PanAmSat became the world's first private-sector company to provide global satellite services with the launch of its third satellite.  PAS-4

September, 1998

Failed first launch, Globalstar low earth orbit satellite constellation

November 1, 1998

Launch of service, Iridium low earth orbit satellite constellation

April 1999

Privatisation of Inmarsat

June 2001

First successful launch, ICO medium earth orbit satellite constellation

July 2001

Privatisation of Eutelsat and Intelsat

 August 2012
 Voyager left the Solar System
 November 2014
 Rosetta's Philae probe lands on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
 September 2018
Hayabusa2's MINERVA-II 1A and 1B probes land on asteroid Ryugu.

History of spaceflight and satellite communications timeline in more detail

2013: Current status of the satellite industry

Satellites around the World