Telstar, the first television satellite, was launched on 10 July 1962. It was capable of accepting radio transmissions covering 600 telephone and telegraph channels or a television channel and relaying them between Goonhilly in Cornwall and a similar satellite communication station at Andover, Maine in the USA.
The first transmission included an interview with Mr Fred Kappell, chairman of the company which launched Telstar. British reception was terrible and the BBC had to import film of the transmission picked up by a French satellite station.
At the third attempt on 12 July, on Telstar’s 15th orbit, pictures came across sharply showing unidentified men talking to each other, although the sound was not clear enough to distinguish what they were saying.
The most successful part of the operation was twenty-two minutes of television transmitted through the satellite from studios in Paris.
Just 7 months after launch, the first Telstar satellite stopped working. It is believed to be orbiting Earth as space junk to this day.
Experiments continued, and by 1964, two Telstars had operated successfully in space. Subsequent Telstar satellites were advanced commercial geosynchronous spacecraft that share only their name with Telstar 1 and 2.
The second wave of Telstar satellites launched with Telstar 301 in 1983, followed by Telstar 302 in 1984 and by Telstar 303 in 1985.
The next wave, starting with Telstar 401 (which was lost in 1997 due to a magnetic storm) came in 1993 and Telstar 402 was destroyed shortly after launch in 1994. It was replaced in 1995 by Telstar 402R, eventually renamed Telstar 4.
Telstar 10 was launched in China in 1997 by APT Satellite Company Ltd.
In 2003, Telstars 4–8 and 13 were sold to Intelsat. Telstar 4 suffered complete failure prior to the handover. The others were renamed the Intelsat Americas. At the time of the sale, Telstar 8 was still under construction and was finally launched on 23 June 2005.
Telstar 18 was launched in June 2004 and Telesat launched Telstar 12 Vantage in November 2015. Telstar 18V was launched on 10 September 2018, on a SpaceX Falcon 9.