H/HPS 129

History of Satellites: From Sputnik to Starlink

9 units (3-0-6)    |  third term

The artificial satellites encircling the planet make up a global information infrastructure. Most of us living in industrialized regions use satellites daily without even realizing it. How did satellites become so integral to terrestrial technological systems? How did Earth orbit transform from a wilderness into a landscape during the second half of the 20th century, and how is that landscape changing in the 21st? We will trace the history of satellites beginning with the first artificial "moons" and moving into the current moment of private industry ascendance, taking into account the development, use, and decay of these technologies. We will consider how designers and users shape satellites, and map out the ways that objects in orbit reflect and reinforce power and geopolitics on the ground below. Not offered 2022-23.

Instructor: Rand

Please Note

The online version of the Caltech Catalog is provided as a convenience; however, the printed version is the only authoritative source of information about course offerings, option requirements, graduation requirements, and other important topics.