Title

UND Aerospace professor pens new work on history of satellite communications

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date

10-2-2014

Campus Unit

John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences

Abstract

The new iPhone 6 is the latest buzz, jam packed with novel digital wizardry. You could say the genesis of this technology—imaginable but not doable 20 years ago—evolved from the beep-beep-beep of Sputnik.

That was the world's first artificial satellite, launched Oct. 4, 1957, by the Soviet Union. That launch triggered the "Space Race" and the telecommunications revolution that included COMSAT, a government-sponsored but privately owned communications system that opened the universe beyond landline telephones.

University of North Dakota Space Studies faculty member, who spent many years in the satellite and communications industries, has just published the second of three volumes on the history of satellite communications.

Whalen's new book is titled The Rise and Fall of COMSAT: Technology, Business, and Government in Satellite Communications , and is published by Palgrave Macmillan, London.

"COMSAT was created by Congress when it passed the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, and it was incorporated as a publicly traded company in 1963," said Whalen, who in his book acknowledges the intellectual debt owed by the satellite industry to Arthur C. Clarke, a British author and science fiction writer, whose book, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was translated into the movie. In the mid-1940s Clarke predicted a network of communications satellites and envisioned the system to support that network.

"COMSAT was a technological Camelot," said Whalen.

Whalen's history of COMSAT has all the makings of a prime-time television soap opera, complete with foreign intrigue, financial shenanigans, and plenty of heroes, villains and working folks.

Whalen has more than 30 years of experience as an engineering manager in the satellite communications business, working for RCA, Lockheed and Ford Aerospace, among others. His original expertise was in flight dynamics, but his experience evolved into mission management and executive management—and he lived through some of the corporate soap opera he writes about in his most recent book.

Whalen contributes articles and presentations on satellite communications and other current topics of interest, including: export control, militarization of space, launch vehicles, and applications satellites.

Today, the global satellite communications industry produces $100 billion annually. COMSAT—now out of business—was an integral mover in the origins of this industry. Whalen explores the factors which contributed to this rise and fall of COMSAT.

Whalen contributes articles and presentations on satellite communications and other current topics of interest, including: export control, militarization of space, launch vehicles, and applications satellites.

About UND Space Studies:

The University of North Dakota Department of Space Studies—part of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Studies—has approximately 25 master's degree students on campus and more than 100 students in the distance program. Nearly 700 Master of Science Degrees in Space Studies have been awarded since the program's inception in 1987. Space Studies graduates have careers in a variety of different space-related disciplines including government, business, science, law, medicine, education, military, and public relations.

Space Studies is also headquarters to two state-wide NASA funded programs - the ND NASA EPSCoR, which is aimed at enhancing NASA relevant research capabilities in the state and, North Dakota Space Grant Consortium, which promotes STEM education at college level in North Dakota through "hands on" student projects, and provides scholarships and fellowships for students, summer internships at NASA centers, and seed research.

In fall 2012, the 25th anniversary year of the department, the Ph.D. program in Aerospace Sciences was established in collaboration with the Department of Aviation. Future plans include the establishment of an undergraduate degree program in Aerospace Engineering, in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

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