T-minus 5: countdown to the greatest song about satellites

17th August 2018

T-minus 10 seconds and counting…Activate main engine hydrogen burn-off system…T-minus six seconds and counting…Ground launch sequencer commands main engine start…T-minus zero seconds…Solid Rocket Boosters ignite…Syncom 3 has lift-off.

With those words, the first geostationary satellite launched on August 19, 1964. Syncom 3 was used for communication across the Pacific and its first job was providing broadcast coverage of the 1964 Olympics to the United States, from there the telecast was transmitted to Europe via the Relay 1 satellite.

Turned off in 1969, Syncom 3 remains in geosynchronous orbit and, wonderfully, you can still live track Syncom 3.

Legendary Sci-Fi writer Arthur C. Clarke was the first person to propose the concept of the geostationary communications satellite

Over half a century later, that pioneering geostationary satellite technology remains a key bigblu solution to providing alternative broadband across the United Kingdom. Alongside our 4G and Fixed Wireless technologies, we use satellite technology to supply those who live in rural areas where traditional fixed-line based broadband services aren’t available.

Bigblu uses geostationary satellites, rather than telephone lines or cables, to deliver an internet signal directly to your home. The satellite provides two-way data communications between a satellite dish mounted on the exterior of our customer’s premises and our bigblu hub here on Earth.

Just in case you didn’t know (I know I didn’t before I started working here), a geostationary satellite is so called because it always stays in the same position above Earth by matching Earth’s rotation velocity as it orbits the planet. Interestingly, the legendary Sci-Fi writer Arthur C. Clarke was the first person to propose the concept of the geostationary communications satellite in a 1945 article titled “Extraterrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?” in the magazine Wireless World.

We thought what better way to mark the 54th anniversary of Syncom 3’s launch than by putting together a playlist of the finest songs dedicated to satellites. And so, here’s to a countdown of our own…

At T-minus 5…Satellite Radio by Steve Earle
“Is there anybody out there? One-two-three on the satellite radio?/ Big daddy on the air, are you listenin’ to me? On the satellite radio/ At the galaxy’s end where the stars burn bright are you tunin’ in and turnin’ on?/ Is there anybody listenin’ to earth tonight on the satellite radio?” So sang legendary Nashville guitarist and songwriter Steve Earle on his 2007 album Washington Square Serenade.

At T-minus 4…Looking for Satellites by David Bowie
“Looking for satellites/ Looking for satellites/ Where do we go to now?/ There’s nothing in our eyes/ As lonely as a moon/ Misty and far away.” Bowie launched his fascination with space with Space Oddity in 1969 but it wasn’t until 1997 that he finally paid tribute to out-of-this-world satellite technology.

At T-minus 3…Satellite by Elvis Costello
“All over the world at the very same time people sharing the same sorrow/ As the satellite looks down her darkest hour is somebody’s bright tomorrow.” The British singer-songwriter turned his attention to the tech in the skies above with this hopeful lyric from the ninth track of his 1989 album Spike.

At T-minus 2…Satellite Three by The Hollies
“I’m a satellite three/ Two others before me/ I spend my life revolving round your sun/ I’m a satellite three/ For me there’s no recovery/ I’m not in your gravity/ I’m in limbo.” The Hollies song is the near perfect tribute to Syncom 3. Syncom 1 was intended to be the first geostationary communications satellite but was lost on the way to orbit due to an electronics failure. Syncom 2 was launched by NASA on July 26 1963 and used to conduct voice, teletype, and facsimile tests. However, it was never intended to be geostationary, that was finally achieved with Syncom “Satellite Three” 3.

At T-minus 1…Satellite Blues by AC/DC
“New satellite blues (new satellite blues)/ New satellite blues (new satellite blues)/ Yeah, yeah/ New satellite blues (new satellite blues).” The Aussie rock gods didn’t mess around when it came to lyrics and sonically they were super but the main reason I’ve included them is their satellite-saturated intergalactic music video.

Blast off…Satellite of Love by Lou Reed
“Satellite’s gone up to the skies/ Things like that drive me out of my mind/ I watched it for a little while/ I like to watch things on TV.” At No1 it could only be this Loud Reed classic from his second solo album, 1972’s Transformer. The Velvet Underground front man immortalised the pinnacle of man’s galactic vision with this classic song about a man who observes a satellite launch on television and contemplates the feelings of “the worst kind of jealousy” about his unfaithful girlfriend.