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COMSAT Corporation collection

Identifier: MS-0459

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Scope and Contents

Because this is an artificial collection, formed largely by materials gathered by members of the COMSAT Legacy Foundation, it does not document all aspects of the corporation's history. It does, however, provide enough source material to be of particular interest to researchers in the areas of history of science and technology, telecommunications history, and business history. The early days of COMSAT are well represented through press clippings, copies of the required reports to the President and Congress, and a bound set of the documents related to the establishment of the corporation, and the first shareholders' meeting. Also, the historical series contains a number of early technical reports. The bulk of the collection consists of publications, for both internal and external audiences; public relations material; files collected to document the history of COMSAT; and papers related to COMSAT executive, John McLucas. McLucas joined the company as president of Comsat General, later became president of COMSAT World Systems, and ended his career as an executive vice president of COMSAT. There is also a significant collection of visual materials?16 millimeter films, videotapes, and U-Matic tapes?that record important events in COMSAT's history, including early satellite launches. Although most of the material relates to COMSAT, there are also records that document the activities of Comsat Labs, Comsat General, and the Marisat program, and with their international partners, Intelsat, Inmarsat, COMSAT Labs, Comsat General, and other subsidiaries. This material is found largely within the publications and public relations series.


  • Creation: 1960s-1980s

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical Note

COMSAT (Communications Satellite Corporation) was formally established on February 1, 1963 as a result of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, which charged COMSAT with responsibility for developing a commercial communications satellite system. As the language in the act stated:
it is the policy of the United States to establish in conjunction and in cooperation with other countries, as expeditiously as practicable, a commercial communications satellite system, as part of an improved global communications network, which will be responsive to public needs and national objectives, which will serve the communications needs of the United States and other countries, and which will contribute to world peace and understanding.
The previous year, AT&T and NASA had successfully launched the Telstar satellite, which provided the link for the first transatlantic television broadcast. Although COMSAT was established to limit the likelihood of AT&T monopolizing the satellite communications industry as it had the telecommunications industry, AT&T nevertheless owned 29 percent of the company's stock and named three members to its board.

COMSAT launched its first satellite, Early Bird, in 1965. Unlike Telstar, which flew in relatively low orbit, Early Bird flew in a geosynchronous orbit, allowing it to provide around the clock coverage to a much larger area. It covered the North Atlantic region using earth stations in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy.

COMSAT had, a year earlier, become a partner in Intelsat (International Telecommunications Satellite Organization), a consortium of eleven countries whose goal was global satellite coverage. By 1969, Intelsat had established full global satellite coverage through its system of geosynchronous satellites.

In 1969, COMSAT Laboratories, the company's research and development arm, opened in Clarksburg, Maryland. The building, designed by noted architect Cesar Pelli, housed a state-of-the-art lab for research into microwave technology, solar cells, solid state systems, and semiconductors. Some of the projects pursued by the lab included the development of a more efficient solar cell, digital echo cancellers, lighter and more efficient storage batteries, and equipment that would allow a doubling of the capacity of a satellite transponder for television transmission.

In 1976 COMSAT deployed two satellite systems separate from its monopoly business, Intelsat. They were Marisat, to provide mobile services to the United States Navy and other maritime customers, and Comstar, a domestic system

To separate these activities from its Intelsat business as required by the Federal Communications Commission, COMSAT formed a subsidiary company, Comsat General. In 1982, the Marisat satellites, along with three Marisat earth stations (two in the US and one in Japan) formed the initial operating system for the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT).

In 2000, COMSAT was acquired by Lockheed Martin Corporation and operated as a wholly owned subsidiary. Between 2000 until 2004, Lockheed sold off various parts of COMSAT. At the end of 2004, what was left of Comsat General was sold to Intelsat, Ltd.


62.5 Cubic Feet (50 record center cartons)

Language of Materials



The collection was donated to the university by the COMSAT Legacy Foundation between 2004 and 2005. The Foundation had received legal title to this material from Lockheed Martin, which had acquired COMSAT in 2000.

Processing Information

Processed in Spring 2005 by Margaret Burri

COMSAT Corporation collection
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA