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Chapter 1:
Introduction and Some Historical Background
“How I Lost a Billion Dollars in My Spare Time” is the partial title of (now Sir) Arthur C. Clarke’s 1965 essay on how and why he did not (and probably could not) patent the idea of a geostationary communications satellite, which he detailed and publicized in 1945. For one thing, he expected it to be at least 50 years in the future! The marvel is that Sir Arthur (Fig. 1.1) survived to see his concept fulfilled by approximately 250 geostationary commercial communications satellites ringing the globe. Most people consider Clarke to be the father of the communications satellite. He, however, considers himself the godfather, and considers the fathers to be the two scientists who more fully developed the technical concepts, Dr. John R. Pierce (Fig. 1.2) and Dr. Harold Rosen. Nonetheless, the unique orbit around our planet where satellites seem to be stationary as seen from the surface is universally honored as the Clarke orbit.
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