Joseph N. Pelton

Joseph N. Pelton is an internationally-recognized educator and lecturer, American author, and award-winning space scientist. His writings span the fields of space science and applications, urban planning, futurism, ecology, and cyber security. Additionally, he has written a large series of essays, editorials, and books on the impact of science and technology on society. Pelton has authored or edited more than 300 articles, essays, and encyclopedia entries and now published over 50 books over the past half century, He has sought to advance space-related sciences, applications, and education around the world. As a result of his efforts related to planetary defense from potentially hazardous asteroids and coronal mass ejections, he received the Guardian Award by the Lifeboat Foundation - an honor also awarded to Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffet among others. His efforts through Intelsat's Project SHARE and satellite-based-tele-health and education have led to increased accessibility to education for millions of students in Africa and Asia and led to the creation of the Chinese National TV University. In the 1980s, Pelton led efforts to create the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI) (now known as Space and Satellite Professionals International), and played a key role in founding the International Space University (ISU). Since the ISU's founding, Pelton has served as the ISU Chairman of the Board of Directors, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, V.P. of Academic Affairs, and Dean.

Educational Background:
  • PhD. in Political Science and International Affairs, Georgetown University, 1972
  • MA in International Relations, New York University, 1967
  • B.S. in Physics, University of Tulsa, 1965

For more important about Joseph Pelton, his life and his awards, see:

Organizations Founded

Dr. Pelton played a key role in the founding of three organizations in the 1980s. These were the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, the SSPI, and International Space University. He also played a key role in the organization of the "Satellites: Transforming our Lives" Exhibit at the National Electronics Museum.

Arthur C. Clarke Foundation

Reagan Signing World Communications Year 1983 Document - Pelton can be seen in the front

Pelton founded the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation. First formally chartered at the White House in 1983 as part of the World Communications Year 1983 celebration, the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation was "created to recognize and promote the extraordinary contributions of Arthur C. Clarke to the world, and to promote the use of space and telecommunications technology for the benefit of humankind". The foundation seeks to foster creativity, recognize present-day innovators, and develop greater general focus on the future. One of its accomplishments includes helping to the establish the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego. Pelton played a key role in establishing the Arthur C. Clarke Institute of Space Safety Education, an arm of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE). Pelton sees one of the highlights of his life was in playing table tennis against Arthur C. Clarke. He claims he never won because Arthur had the advantage of practicing against a robot that could serve at 70 miles an hour.

Society of Satellite Professionals International (now Space and Satellite Professionals International)

In the 1980s, Pelton spearheaded the effort to create the Society of Satellite Professionals International and served as the founding President of this organization - now known as the Space and Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). The purpose of the SSPI is to raise the level of professional training and education in the field of space and space applications. Also, the SSPI works to raise public awareness of the importance that space applications provide to society. Through his work with SSPI, Pelton led the efforts to create a new exhibit at the National Electronics Museum near the Baltimore-Washington Airport entitled " Satellites: Transforming our Lives."

The SSPI has grown from 12 members in the mid 1980s to over 3000 members worldwide. Pelton was elected to the SSPI Hall of Fame in 2001.

International Space University (ISU)

Pelton worked closely with Peter Diamandis, Todd Hawley, and Robert D. Richards to found the International Space University (ISU). He assisted in recruiting noted science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke as the Chancellor of ISU in 1987. Pelton also served as the ISU Chairman of the Board of Directors and then Chaired the Board of Trustees when the headquarters moved to Strasbourg, France (1992-1995). He then transitioned to V.P. of Academic Affairs, and Dean (1995-1996), striving to expand the international scope of the ISU student body and research programs.

The ISU now has over 4600 graduates from its programs from over 105 countries.

Professional Life

Dr. Pelton has divided his career working in the satellite industry at Comsat and Intelsat, and teaching and carrying out research primarily at the University of Colorado-Boulder, the International Space University and George Washington University where he headed the Space & Advanced Communications Research Institute.

Satellite Communications Executive (COMSAT, Intelsat)

ACTS - one of the many satellites Dr. Pelton worked with in his career

In 1969, Pelton joined the Communications Satellite Corporation as a satellite communications analyst. After serving as Manager of Interim Communications Satellite Committee (ICSC) Affairs for COMSAT, Pelton moved to Intelsat in 1974 to work as Executive Assistant of the Director General. Ultimately, he was promoted to Director of Strategic Policy and Director of Project SHARE (Satellites for Health and Rural Education). This program, carried out in cooperation with the International Institute of Communications (IIC), provided free satellite access for over 40 educational and health related projects to benefit over 100 countries around the world. One of these projects pioneered the Chinese National TV University in rural China. In 1986, Pelton left Intelsat to pursue a full-time academic career.

Academic Career

Throughout the 1980s, while working for Intelsat, Dr. Pelton taught as an adjunct professor in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C. In 1986, he left Intelsat to become Professor and Director of the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program (ITP) and Director of the Center for Advanced Research in Telecommunications and Technology (CARTT) at the University of Colorado-Boulder. This graduate student program, through its on campus programs, tele-education programs, and special programs with AT&T, U.S. West, Lucent Technologies, the International Communications Association, supported graduate degree programs and training for over 300 students from around the world and 22 states in the United States.

From 1998 to 2010, Pelton joined George Washington University (GWU) as a research professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. At GWU, he served as Director of the Accelerated Masters Program in Telecommunications and Computers at the GWU Virginia Science & Technology Campus and as Director of the Space and Advanced Communications Research Institute (SACRI). Additionally, he was associated with the Institute of Advanced Space Research, headed by Dr. Burton Edelson.

During his sabbatical and leave of absence period from the University of Colorado, Pelton served as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the International Space University (ISU) in Strasbourg, France and in Vienna, Austria during the years 1996-1997. Dr. Pelton has continued to teach for the International Space University for various programs such as their Southern Hemisphere Program in Adelaide, Australia and their Space Studies Program which was most recently held in Delft, the Netherlands in 2018.

In honor of the Pelton family of inventors, such as Lester Allan Pelton (Pelton Water Wheel and hydro-electric turbine), Willis Pelton (corn-picking machines) and I.W. Pelton (parking meter), the Pelton Award was established at GWU. The award goes to the top senior projects in the School of Engineering and Applied Science each year with a first, second and third place with cash awards. This endowed award has been in place since 2010. Scores of students have now benefited from the the Pelton award. Those projects that are "green" and "patent-able" are given extra incentive awards.

At Georgetown University, The Pelton Family endowed award is selected through the Entrepreneurship Program. It is for the top entrepreneurial project each year that is involves the best new "green" initiative.

Other Organizational Activities

U.S. Managing Director of World Communications (1983)

In 1983, Reagan appointed former AT&T President Bill Ellinghaus to lead the U.S. Committee for World Communications Year. Ellinghaus selected Pelton as the Managing Director of this committee, where he led the launching of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation and supported other related activities for that celebration of the World Communications Year.

International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS)

Pelton served as the Executive Board and Chair of International Academic Committee for the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS). Additionally, he was a keynote speaker at the Founding Conference of the IAASS that met in Nice, France in 2004. Dr. Pelton has, since the establishment of the Board, served on its Executive Board and chaired its International Academic Committee. He received the IAASS's Leonardo da Vinci Life Time Achievement Award in 2017 in Toulouse, France.

Global Legal Information Network (GLIN)

Pelton was the founding president of the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) Foundation. The GLIN was a cooperative project between NASA and the U.S. Library of Congress. It was established to support global electronic network hosting all of the laws of the countries in the world. In 2012, the GLIN was shut down as a result of the cost of the project, as it was considered too large to sustain its long-term existence.

World Future Society

Joseph N. Pelton and John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends, in Madrid, Spain

Pelton has been a long-term member of the World Future Society and contributed frequently to their publication "The Futurist." Edward Cornish, the founding President of the World Future Society has said: "Joseph Pelton ranks as perhaps the world's leading thinker on the future of telecommunications, satellites, and other aspects of the human future." Pelton has lectured, along with James Naisbitt, on the future of telecommunications and satellite systems for Telefonica Spain in Madrid Spain and on the future of technology in Gandia, Spain.

Arlington County Work

Pelton has been active in the Arlington County community for many years. He served as the President of the Alcova Heights Civic Association and President of the PTA of the Barcroft Elementary School in the early 1970s. He served as the President of the Arlington County Civic Federation in 1975-76, when the nation celebrated its 200th anniversary of independence. Pelton received the Evening Star Cup Award in 1977 for his service as President of the Federation.

He was a member of the Arlington Long Range County Improvement Planning Program in 1976-77. This high-level effort was key to deciding the alignment of the Metro system in Arlington, the general characteristics of the Rosslyn-Ballston development corridor, and other aspects of County planning for the next half century. He also led the initial efforts to restore the bridge on South Walter Reed Drive on Four Mile Run after Hurricane Agnes, and led the redevelopment of Shirlington area and the creation of Shirlington Village. He co-chaired the Yes for Arlington Parks bond issue that led to the funding of the Northern Virginia Parks Authority in 1977. In 1978, he ran to be a member of the Arlington County Board endorsed by the Arlingtonians for a Better Party and the Democratic Party.

Most recently, he served as Chair of the Civic Federation's 100th anniversary in 2016. Pelton, after returning to Arlington County from working in Colorado and Europe, served as a member and then Chair of the Arlington Cable Television Commission. In 2010, he drafted new articles to create the Arlington County Information Technology Advisory Commission where he served as chair 2010-2016.


Notable Works


Dr. Pelton has worked to produce the two videos shown, as well as a number of television and radio appearances as noted below.

Cosmic Hazards -- How Dangerous is Your Cosmic Neighborhood?

If there were a day without satellites...

Television and Radio Appearances

Dr. Pelton has appeared on the ABC Evening News, the Jim Lehrer News Hour, the CBS Sunday News and local television broadcasts in Washington, DC. He has, on numerous occasions, been on National Public Radio International, local and regional radio shows. Overseas he has appeared on the BBC, FR-3 and other national radio programs in Sri Lanka, France, and Tanzania.

Books + Articles

Dr. Pelton has written over 300 articles, encyclopedia articles and essays as well as over 50 books on space technology, space policy and regulation, urban planning, cyber security and the impact of technology on society.

Recent Books by Joseph N. Pelton

Ram Jakhu and Joseph Pelton, editors, Springer Press, 2017

Joseph Pelton, (2019) Springer Press

Joseph Pelton, (2016) Springer Press

Joseph N. Pelton and Angelia Bukley, Apogee Press, for ISU, 1st Edition 2010 and 2nd Edition 2018

Joseph N. Pelton, PM Press, 2015 (For Arthur C. Clarke Foundation)

Joseph N. Pelton, Ram Jakhu and Yaw O. Mankata, Springer Press, 2016

Joseph Pelton and Indu Singh, Springer Press, 2015

Joseph N. Pelton and Peter Marshall, (2013) AIAA (Updated in 2017 in electronic format)

Joseph Pelton with Peter Marshall, (2012) PM Systems

Joseph N. Pelton and Indu Singh, (2018) Springer Press

Ram Jakhu and Joseph N. Pelton, (2013) Springer Press

Works in Progress

Key Articles, Op Ed Pieces and Encyclopedia Entries


'Pelton-Coined' Unique Phrases Concepts and Terms

In addition to his books and articles Dr. Pelton has over the years come up with a number of unique concepts, phrases and terms. Here are some of his 'inventions'.

Tele-Education and Tele-Health

Dr. Pelton, in his book Global Talk, was one of the first people to use the term tele-education and tele-health as used in his Pulitzer prize-nominated book Global Talk (1981). The cartoon shown below is from his book Future Talk, a sequel to Global Talk.

INTELSAT's Project Share that Pelton headed led to China's satellite TV University that brought rural services to millions

Tele-Computer-Energetics and T-I-E Industries

In his writings Pelton has used two different terms that suggest that high-valence chip materials such as silicon, gallium arsenide , etc. that are the key to modern digital communications, computer processing, and solar photo-voltaic cells are vitally interlinked industries in terms of research breakthroughs that are vital to progress in which he had characterized as tele-computer-energetics, and the T-I-E Industries (for the Telecommunications-Information-Energy sectors ) The cartoon below is from Future Talk.

Cartoon of the integrated Power of Tele-Computer-Energetics (From Future Talk)

Information Overload and TIUPILS, VIEWPILS, and GHUIDs

Anyone that ends up writing over 50 books and over 300 articles would like to pretend that they are an adept linguist and wordsmith. Pelton freely admits that he is neither. He relies heavily on editors from publishers like Elsevier, Springer and on his good friend and co-author Peter Marshall, for editorial precision, accurate spelling and ultimately cohesive writing. But what he enjoys a great deal is creating new concepts and words to go along with them. Some of his favorites are TIUPILs, VIEWPILs and GHUIDs. These are terms he invented to illustrate "Information Overload"-a growing problem in modern society which he has addressed in several books. A "TUIPIL", which is pronounced "two - pill", represents "typical information use per individual lifetime"; and a Viewpil, which is pronounced "view- pill" represents "viewing per individual lifetime". A Tiupil is roughly based on the idea that a typical human being lives to be 70 years old and reads, writes and speaks some 20,000 words a day, with a word being considered roughly equivalent to 1 to 2 bytes or 8 to 16 bits of information.

Thus a TIUPIL equates rather arbitrarily into 20,000 x 365 x 70 x 2 bytes = 1.022 billion bytes of information that we can round off to a simple billion words. For someone that only uses small words, like Donald Trump, the number of bytes would be much less.

This rough calculation more or less assumes that this usage of words by humans somehow all averages out between loquacious speakers and writers with the taciturn and speechless. It certainly prudently ignores such things as the likelihood that some women probably go over their quota while men are much less verbal and less likely to express their feelings. (Definitely one of many assumptions best left ignored). This first calculation allows us to calculate a GHIUD-pronounced "good" - which is, of course, a Global Human Information Usage in a Decade. There are about 7.5 billion people on Earth and 10 Years in a decade. If we multiply a TIUPIL by 7.5 billion and divide by 7 (70 years/7 = a decade) we would get a result that says that humans in a decade would read, write and speak the equivalent of about 1.1 quintillion bytes of information. This would be expressed as an exponential as 1.1 x1018 bytes, which would seem to be a very large number indeed, which actually has a name: it is 1.1 exabytes. One estimate has been put together that suggests that all words ever spoken by human beings since the start of languages in all parts of the world would come to 5 exabytes. Frankly I believe this is on the high side. But let's consider what amount of information we can now send, receive, process and store in terms of today's fiber optic cables, communications satellites or large computer data storage facilities? What is interesting to consider is how much information could be transmitted over something like the ViaSat 1 communications satellite, which can transmit 140 gigabits of information per second. It turns out that just this one high-throughput satellite could pump through one half of a GHIUD in only a year's time. And this is just one of hundreds of communication satellites. And while the ViaSat 1 is a very fast communications satellite, there are fiber optic cable systems with over 800 strands of cable that have a total throughput rate that could exceed 10 terabits/second of throughput or over 1.25 terabytes/second of transmit capacity. Such a fiber system could pump through the equivalent of 36 GHIUDs a year. And let's not stop there. There are data storage facilities, such as the one that the U.S. National Security Agency has built in Utah, that is capable of storing Yottabytes of data. A Yottabyte is expressed as 1024 bytes of information. This means this one facility could store the equivalent of 200,000 times the amount of words ever uttered in the history of human civilization. Huh?

This bring us up to VIEWPILs or Viewing Per Individual Lifetime. With today's digital processing and compression, a high-quality television channel can be sent over cable or via satellite at about 4 megabits per second. High Definition television requires on the order of 15 to 20 megabits per second. Remember a byte is 8 bits and it is important to keep these numbers straight. Any reference to a bit needs to be multiplied by 8 to get the corresponding number of bytes. What we also need to remember is that the human brain does not literally "see" everything it sees. It processes information to see patterns and information. According to Arthur C. Clarke, humans process information at the rate of only 64 bits/second. Indeed, he described a human as a "carbon-based bi-ped who processes information at 64 bit/second". Although there are thousands of times more information in a HDTV broadcast than a radio broadcast, the brain does not process much more than ten to a hundred times more information than it does with the spoken word. Otherwise our brains would, as expressed by one critic of television, be "turned into cornflakes." The point of all these linguistic and mathematical exercises related to TIUPILs, VIEWPILs, and GHIUDs is to note that the broadband systems we now have for communications, computer processing and storage are no longer being sized to accommodate human speech and conversation. These systems are being built to accommodate high-def television transmission and machine-to-machine communications. As we move more and more into the Age of the Internet of Things, that will next become the "Internet of Everything", digital communications will soar into levels of speed and volume unlike anything we have ever previously imagined. A company called Wind River, a subsidiary of Intel, has suggested that traffic generated by the Internet of Things may lead to a thirty-fold increase in data traffic in the four years between 2016 and 2020.

The "Protozone" or "Protospace"

One of the significant developments new developments in the field of space is not in 'outer space' at all but in the stratosphere. There is an area that Pelton has defined as above commercial air space and below the altitude where a satellite can be sustained in orbit for a viable period of time that he has dubbed the 'Protozone'. This is the area above 20 kilometer and below 160 km. Pelton has written and number of articles about the new applications for this new sector of possible military and commercial uses. These applications include high altitude platform systems, dark sky stations, robotic air freighters, space adventures/space tourism, and hypersonic transportation systems.

Stratobus HAPS Platforms by Thales-Alenia that would be deployed in the Protozone

Solar Shields (Pelton's work in this area led to his winning the Lifeboat Foundation's Guardian Award for the year 2017)

The latest research into the reversal of the Earth's magnetic poles that indicates the magnetic North and magnetic South poles are switching. This is significant in that the Earth's natural protection against solar storms and particularly coronal mass ejections of a huge cluster of ions which can travel at millions of miles an hour would be greatly diminished. Some models indicate that the shielding against this solar storms would be reduced to 15% of what this natural shielding provides today. Studies that Pelton has carried out in cooperation with Dr. James Green of NASA suggest that a electro-magnetic shield might be deployed at Earth's Lagrangian Point 1 might be able to migrate these solar storms and protect Earth and its power grids, telecom and information networks and other key infrastructure that could be placed at great risk. A solar storm like the Carrington Event of 1859, according to a study by Lloyds of London has estimated the economic damage of such a study might be on the order of $2.6 trillion dollars. Dr. Green has also suggested that a solar shield of Mars could stop the solar wind stripping away its build-up of a natural atmosphere.

Concept of a Solar Shield for MARS that coud allow an atmosphere to form on the Red Planet (courtesy of Dr. James Green and NASA)