Traveling-wave tubes: The unsung heroes of space exploration (Vol. 50, No. 3)

Traveling-wave tubes: The unsung heroes of space exploration

An invention from the 1950s is still being used today

What do televisions and space exploration have in common? No, we’re not talking about a cheesy physics joke; rather, this is the story of an often-overlooked piece of equipment that deserves a place in the annals of telecommunication history. Some would argue that the traveling-wave tube (TWT) has not received the recognition it deserves when it comes to the history of space travel and communications – until now. A group of researchers has published recently a work looking into the history of TWTs. This is the first time a paper aimed at the general public has described the vital role of this technology in various areas of development. The team collected and read hundreds of papers on the history and evolution of the traveling-wave tube. First introduced in the 1950s, a TWT is a relatively simple piece of equipment used for transmitting data across long distances, including the vast expanses of space.

D.F.G. Minenna, F. Andre, Y. Elskens, J.-F. Auboin, F. Doveil, J. Puech and E. Duverdier (2019), The traveling-wave tube in the history of telecommunication, Eur. Phys. J. H 44, 1 (2019)