There are thousands of artificial satellites orbiting Earth. Ubiquitous but mysterious, they are a technological infrastructure in space on which society depends, yet we think of them only rarely – when our sat nav goes wrong, for example, or our tv stops receiving. The story of the satellite is, however, remarkable: an astonishing history of imagination, experiment and ingenuity. At first they symbolized Cold War political prestige, as satellites such as Sputnik, Telstar and Early Bird became household names, but they evolved into cultural signifiers, catalysts for design, even the subjects of pop records. These narratives are brought together for the first time in Satellite, an illustrated history that deconstructs the satellite as a cultural, political and technological artefact.
The book unveils the satellite, once trumpeted as the future present, anew, mapping its formative years to the tumultuous events of the twentieth century, but tracing its roots back to the imaginations and intellects of years before. Doug Millard asks the fundamental questions about those spacecraft orbiting above: what forms do they take? How did they evolve and why? Who required them? What do satellites do, exactly, and how? And how, ultimately, might the satellite have augured a space age that has barely begun, given the high costs of launching that still limit routine access to space? Written in a lively and engaging style, and illustrated with striking colour photographs, Satellite will appeal to the many fans of space exploration.
Published in association with the Science Museum, London.
‘Today, satellites are the ultimate example of form following function. A bewildering array exists, but Millard proves a good guide to the various designs and orbits they inhabit. The author has worked at the Science Museum for half the Space Age, his work creating exhibits giving him personal insight into key figures. This well-illustrated book is at its best when he shares such memories, helping personalise an era that, Millard argues, has barely begun.’ – Sky at Night Magazine
‘This is a fascinating story, not only of satellites themselves but the historical and political context of their birth and development. Through political and other technical developments and drawing on the author’s knowledge through personal contacts, we can appreciate how space has come to transform life as we know it today. While great to keep to reference the facts and well-explained technology, this is a good read for anyone interested in our use of space.’ – Helen Sharman OBE, first British Astronaut
‘Satellite provides a highly readable account of how we have come to depend on machines in space for many everyday purposes such as weather forecasting, positioning and TV broadcasts as well as for exploring the universe. Doug Millard traces the story from the time of Newton up to the present day laced with anecdotes and wonderful images that make it a treat to read.’ – Pat Norris, author of Spies in the Sky and Watching Earth from Space
Doug Millard is Deputy Keeper, Technologies and Engineering, at the Science Museum in London and has produced many space exhibitions, including Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age (2015). He is the editor of Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age (2015) and author of Black Arrow: A History of a Satellite Launch Vehicle and its Engines (2001).