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Beyond Sputnik and the Space Race

The Origins of Global Satellite Communications

Hugh R. Slotten

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A fascinating account of how the United States established the first global satellite communications system to project geopolitical leadership during the Cold War.

On July 20, 1969, the world watched, spellbound, as NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lunar module to walk on the moon. NASA estimated that 20 percent of the planet's population—nearly 650 million people—watched the moon landing footage, which was made possible by the first global satellite communications system, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, or Intelsat.

In Beyond Sputnik and the…

A fascinating account of how the United States established the first global satellite communications system to project geopolitical leadership during the Cold War.

On July 20, 1969, the world watched, spellbound, as NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped off the Apollo 11 lunar module to walk on the moon. NASA estimated that 20 percent of the planet's population—nearly 650 million people—watched the moon landing footage, which was made possible by the first global satellite communications system, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization, or Intelsat.

In Beyond Sputnik and the Space Race, Hugh R. Slotten analyzes the efforts of US officials, especially during the Kennedy administration, to establish this satellite communication system and open it to all countries of the world. Locked in competition with the Soviet Union for both military superiority and international prestige, President John F. Kennedy overturned the Eisenhower administration's policy of treating satellite communications as simply an extension of traditionally regulated telecommunications. Instead of allowing private communications companies to set up separate systems that would likely primarily serve major "developed" regions, the new administration decided to take the lead in establishing a single world system. Explaining how the East-West Cold War conflict became increasingly influenced by North-South tensions during this period, Slotten highlights the growing importance of non-aligned countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. He also underscores the importance of a political economy of "total Cold War" in which many crucial aspects of US society became tied to imperatives of national security and geopolitical prestige.

Drawing on detailed archival records to examine the full range of decisionmakers involved in the Intelsat system, Beyond Sputnik and the Space Race spotlights mid- and lower-level agency staff usually ignored by historians. One of the few works to analyze the establishment of a major global infrastructure project, this book provides an outstanding analytical overview of the history of global electronic communications from the mid-nineteenth century to the present.

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Beyond Sputnik and the Space Race

Hugh R. Slotten

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Reviews

Reviews

This book, which traces how the US created a satellite communications system that the Kennedy administration aimed to make global, will be of interest to historians of communications and American foreign policy. It makes a fine addition to JHU's stable on technology and standards.

Both Slotten's narrative and research are distinct and outstanding. This is a superb work.

In Beyond Sputnik and the Space Race, Hugh Slotten traces the origin of satellite communications in the 1960s. Applying the social construction of technology method, he analyzes the founding of Intelsat by the Kennedy administration as a means of boosting US influence around the world during the Cold War.

Engaging with a trove of archival records, Slotten's crucial history of early satellite communications spotlights the international dimensions of infrastructure projects. As the book tackles key issues of technical standards, corporate strategy, state power, and geopolitics, it enriches understandings of the massive technological system operating on and beyond Earth.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
256
ISBN
9781421441221
Illustration Description
10 halftones
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. US Industry, the Cold War, and the Development of Satellite Communications
Chapter 2. The Kennedy Administration and the Communications Satellite Act of

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. US Industry, the Cold War, and the Development of Satellite Communications
Chapter 2. The Kennedy Administration and the Communications Satellite Act of 1962
Chapter 3. Global Satellite Communications and the 1963 International Telecommunication Union Space Radio Conference
Chapter 4. Organizing the First Global Satellite Communications System
Conclusion
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Hugh R. Slotten, Ph.D.

Hugh R. Slotten (DUNEDIN, NZ) is an associate professor in the Media, Film and Communication Program at the University of Otago. He is the author of Patronage, Practice, and the Culture of American Science: Alexander Dallas Bache and the US Coast Survey and Radio's Hidden Voice: The Origins of Public Broadcasting in the United States.