Dr. David Whalen's New Book is Published
UND Aerospace professor pens new work on history of satellite communications
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 David Whalen, 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.