Launched on July 10, 1962, Telstar 1, developed by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), was the world's first active communications satellite. AT&T used the satellite to test basic features of communications via space.
Soon after launch, Telstar enabled the first transatlantic television transmission, linking the United States and France. In November 1962, Telstar's electronics became compromised through exposure to Van Allen Belt radiation, resulting in the satellite's deactivation in February 1963.
Telstar was one of the most significant communications satellites of the early space age. It raised an important policy question: Should communications satellites be operated and controlled by private corporations or under government auspices? The United States chose government direction and created two new institutions, COMSAT and INTELSAT, to develop satellite communcations, an arrangement that lasted for more than two decades.
This Telstar is a backup spacecraft to Telstar 1 and 2 (launched respectively in 1962 and 1963), transferred from the National Museum of American History to the Museum in 2006.