European, Asian, and Commercial Space Programs


The first international satellite to be launched was the UK/USA joint Ariel 1 orbited in 1962 by an American Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral. The first non-USA / USSR satellite to be launched by an in-house built booster was the French Asterix sent into space in 1965 by a Diamant rocket. In the 1960s, Europe always wanted it own internal satellite and rocket design and manufacturing capability independent of the two superpowers. To accomplish this, two organizations were founded, the European Space Research Organization (ESRO) in 1962, and the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) in 1964. During the 60s, many European satellites continued to be launched but primarily by American boosters. However, for over ten years, ESRO and ELDO could not accomplish the task of determining a common European policy for space. In 1975, a new organization emerged that combined the previous two, the European Space Agency (ESA). It was under ESA leadership that Europe would emerge within five years as a dominant space launch power.


Two other space powers also flexed their muscles in the 70s, Japan and the People's Republic of China (PRC). Japan would become only the fourth nation in February 1970 to independently build and launch its own satellite. Two months later, in April 1970, the PRC would orbit its first satellite, the heaviest first spacecraft ever orbited by any space power. Between these two countries, China and Japan, 23 satellites would be launched. Asia had entered the space stage.


Communications satellites became a commercial success in the 1970s. During the 60s, the dominant commercial comm satellite models were the Intelsats II and III. In the 1970s, the Intelsat IV model would take over. But other competitors from the United States and Europe would emerge.



Primary Author: Nicholas M. Short, Sr. email:

Collaborators: Code 935 NASA GSFC, GST, USAF Academy
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Last Updated: September '99

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