How a satellite called Syncom changed the world—by Ralph Vartabedian from the Los Angeles Times July 26, 2013 Reprinted with permission

Rosen still works a couple of days a week on satellite systems at a Boeing office in El Segundo and sometimes gives lectures to young engineers at Caltech. On occasion, he exercises on Santa Monica beach with his wife, Deborah Castleman, a former satellite engineer and deputy assistant secretary of Defense during the Clinton administration. Rosen’s first wife, Rosetta, died in 1969.

Rosen has a shelf full of medals, including the Charles Stark Draper Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of engineering, which he shared with his rival John Pierce, a Bell Labs expert who in the 1950s had advocated low- Earth-orbit satellites.

The satellite technology that Rosen, Williams and Hudspeth created is now a $190-billion-a-year industry. Boeing acquired Hughes’ satellite business 13 years ago and still operates a sprawling manufacturing plant with 5,200 employees in El Segundo. It has an order backlog of 32 satellites, 17 of them commercial and the balance for defense, intelligence or space agencies.

Over the years, seven Hughes employees who worked on satellites or data transmission were admitted into the National Academy of Engineering. They included Rosen, Wheelon, Roney and Eddy Hartenstein, now publisher of the Los Angeles Times, who pioneered the technology for delivering satellite television directly into homes and then created DirecTV.

Several weeks after the Syncom launch, President Kennedy inaugurated international satellite telephone service to Nigeria, where the Navy had stationed its receivers. The symbolic phone call to Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa lasted two minutes.

Kennedy and Balewa traded pleasantries, briefly mentioned the nuclear weapons test ban treaty signed that year, and talked about a boxing match in which Nigerian middleweight boxer Dick Tiger had retained his title against an American.

The next year, 1964, the third Syncom satellite transmitted live coverage of the Summer Olympics from Japan, and Hughes Aircraft was on the way to dominating the commercial satellite industry.

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About Jack Fisher

Jack was a systems engineer at Hughes from 1961 to 1992. He contributed to various programs including Surveyor, Pioneer Venus, Galileo, Intelsat VI and innumerable proposals. He was the manager of of the Spacecraft Systems Engineering Lab until his retirement. Upon retirement Jack taught systems engineering at a number of national and international venues.