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SBCA Remembers Taylor Howard, Satellite Innovator

In August of 1976, Taylor Howard built the first private satellite television system.

Twenty-six years later, nearly 20 million American homes enjoy the value and quality that only satellite technology can provide.

Taylor Howard applied science to a vision and created an industry.

While the satellite and consumer electronics businesses look ahead to 2003 and beyond, the members and staff of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) wanted to take this opportunity to look back at the life and times of the man who made the satellite industry possible.

On Nov. 13, the father of the modern satellite television industry and the founding chairman of the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA) died when the plane he was piloting crashed after takeoff from Calaveras County Airport in Northern California. Howard’s stepson, Brian Files, was also killed in the crash.

Howard founded the SBCA predecessor organization, the Society for Private and Commercial Earth Stations (SPACE), in 1980. In 1986, Taylor Howard, along with Dr. John Clark of RCA-Astro, oversaw the merger of the Direct Broadcast Satellite Association (DBSA) with SPACE to form the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA). Since that merger was completed on Dec. 2, 1986 at a dinner in Anaheim, CA, Taylor served as SBCA board chairman for six of the first 10 years of the SBCA’s existence.

Taylor guided the association through its formative years and most recently served as chairman emeritus of the association and remained active in the SBCA until his death. The satellite industry’s diversity initiative — the T. Howard Foundation — proudly bears his name. In 2001, Taylor received the SBCA’s Arthur C. Clarke award in recognition of his longstanding service and commitment to the satellite industry.

Taylor’s professional career spanned the space age: from tracking Sputnik during its early orbits to an experiment on Galileo. His development of the home satellite television system led to his publication of “The Howard Terminal Manual,” which became the blueprint for other experimenters and entrepreneurs interested in building their own satellite systems. His further work and consulting resulted in the invention of several very high performance feed horns for dish antennas and the founding of Chaparral Communications to produce them.

Under his leadership Chaparral became a $50 million company by 1986 and has produced over 5 million feed horns. He retired from the day-to-day operations of Chaparral several years ago.

Howard was a graduate of Stanford University and was an emeritus professor of electrical engineering at the university. He was NASA’s principal investigator on several Apollo flight experiments, team leader of the Mariner 10 Radio Science investigations of Venus and Mercury and led the Galileo Radio Propagation team for the flight to Jupiter.

He was a member of Sigma Xi, the American Geophysical Union, the International Scientific Radio Union, and the American Astronomical Society.

His honors include the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, recognition as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) for work on the Apollo program and election to membership in the National Academy of Engineering for contributions to the DTH satellite industry. He held eight U.S. and several foreign patents in the field of microwave antennas and devices.

Taylor’s friends and colleagues at SBCA and throughout the satellite, programming, space and telecommunications industries knew him to be a man of great integrity and intellect. He was a loving husband, father and friend, and SBCA, the industry and the world have lost a truly great man.

Taylor Howard is survived by his wife, Annie; a son, Craig Howard; two daughters, Gail Benton and Leslie Howard; a stepdaughter, Christa Files; and two grandchildren. The Howard family held a memorial service on December 12 at the Stanford Memorial Chapel in Palo Alto, Calif.

This column was submitted by the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, an industry trade organization handling all aspects of the direct-to-home satellite TV and radio industries.