A (Very) Short History of the Space and Communication Activities of Hughes Aircraft Company—Steve Dorfman

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On April 1st, 1961 Fred Adler was asked to form a Space Systems Division within the Hughes Aircraft Company.  At that time, only 4 years after the launch of Sputnik, several important events were taking place.  As a result of a major loss in Hughes business resulting from the cancellation of the Air Force’s F-108 interceptor, the space race beckoned. Hughes was starting a contract from JPL to build a lunar lander called Surveyor. That program was to build up a cadre of Hughes space engineers and an organizational infrastructure that ultimately served as a basis for many future space programs at Hughes.  The Air Force and CIA were initiating space programs to observe Soviet activities from space. Hughes would ultimately be a major player in those programs. Finally, a small team, led by Harold Rosen, was developing the first geostationary communication satellite called Syncom. Syncom was successfully launched in 1963 and in 1964 Syncom 3 transmitted television from the Tokyo Olympics to the USA. The successful demonstration of Syncom ended the controversy of which orbit was best for commercial communication satellites and launched a new industry which ultimately changed the world and also Hughes in a profound way. A new organization, Intelsat, was formed to provide international communication and Hughes provided their first satellite, Early Bird or Intelsat I in 1965. Many more were to follow.

Richard J. Switz in Memoriam

Richard ‘Dick’ Switz was born on May 18, 1929 in a farmhouse in Switz City, Indiana, son of Henry ‘Bud’ and Lucille Switz with older brother Donald and younger brother Hal.  Switz City was named for his great grandfather. He grew up working on the family farm and attended Switz City High School.

Dick graduated from Purdue University, for which he maintained lifelong affection and pride, earning a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He was drafted after graduation into the U.S. Army, serving two years assigned to the Corps of Engineers in the Pentagon.  After his discharge from the Army Dick accepted a job with Ryan Aircraft, and relocated to sunny San Diego, beginning the California adventure lasting the rest of his life. He enjoyed music, photography, traveling, time with family and friends and adored his grand/great-grandkids.

Dick spent most of his career with Hughes Aircraft, moving to El Segundo in 1966 from Reseda and played a key roles in designing Surveyor—the first spacecraft to successfully soft land on the Moon—many communication satellites and exploring other planets with Pioneer Venus and Galileo.  After retiring in the mid-80s as Chief Scientist, Dick was elected for four years to the El Segundo City Council to proudly serve his hometown and was a parishioner of St. Anthony’s for over 50 years.

Dick passed away peacefully on October 14 at Torrance Memorial Hospital surrounded by family. He is survived by children Jim Switz and Rita Nelson (both of WA State) and Lauren Harger in Manhattan Beach, grandchildren Laura, Jenna, Sean and Megan and great-grandchildren Linken and Olia.

Visitation will be from 5 to 9pm on October 22 at the Rice Mortuary at 5310 Torrance Blvd in Torrance.  A service will be held on October 23 at American Martyrs Catholic Church located at 624 15thStreet in Manhattan Beach at 10am followed by a reception at 11am.

Robert J. Varga In Memoriam

Bob Varga, a longtime friend, passed away on October 2 as a result of complications from food poisoning.  Bob spent many years at Hughes Aircraft and contributed greatly to a variety of proposals and spacecraft programs.  Services and interment will be at the Green Hills Memorial Park at 11:30 am on October 17.  Green Hills is located at 27501 South Western Avenue in Rancho Palos Verdes. Further information can be found at the Green Hills website–https://greenhillsmemorial.com/

Bill Murray’s Launch Photos–Jack Fisher

Some time ago, perhaps several years, Maggy Murray, Bill’s wife, contacted me and volunteered some of Bill’s mementos for our website.  Included were photographs of a number of launches of Hughes satellites.  Unfortunately, these photos did not have a caption that identified the satellites being launched.  I filed these away and forgot them until recently.  Looking at the photos I realized that the launch vehicles were numbered and that would allow identification of the Hughes satellite being launched.

I found a website, KevinForsyth.net, that listed all the numbered Delta launches that allowed identification of the Hughes satellites. I also learned that the Delta is no longer in production and the last launch was on September 15, 2018 for a NASA mission, ICESAT-2.  There were a total of 381 Delta launches with only 16 failures, a reliability of almost 96%.

Information on Centaur launches can be found on Gunter’s Space Page.

 

Delta B Syncom II launch July 26, 1963

 

Delta D Syncom III launch August 19, 1964

 

Delta D Earlybird on Launch Pad April 1965

 

Delta D Earlybird Launch April 6, 1965

Delta E1 Intelsat II F1 launch October 26, 1966

 

Atlas Centaur AC35 Intelsat IV F1 launch May 22, 1975

 

The Magnetic Pioneer Venus Orbiter—Jack Fisher Revised September 18, 2018

The Pioneer Venus Orbiter incorporated a payload of 12 scientific instruments one of which was a fluxgate magnetometer provided by Chris Russell of UCLA, the principal investigator.  Previous flybys of Venus had revealed that the magnetic field of Venus was much weaker than Earth’s.  The resulting system requirements for the Orbiter magnetic fields are shown in Figure 4-2 in Reference 1.  The most challenging requirement is that the remnant field at the magnetometer (after a 50-gauss demagnetization of the spacecraft) be 0.5 gamma or less.  A Gauss is the usual measure used in magnetics—a gamma is 0.00001 Gauss.  The earth’s surface magnetic field varies from 0.3 to 0.6 Gauss.

These requirements presented some issues that Hughes had not dealt with previously.  At the beginning of the PV program no one at Hughes that I knew had experience in this area.  Very fortuitously at this time we received an application from a TRW engineer, Chris Thorpe, who had performed these tasks for the TRW Pioneer spacecraft and had worked with Chris Russell previously.  We hired him very quickly into the Perry Ackerman lab and assigned him to PV program.  Chris was a delightful Englishman with a wry sense of humor and supported me in systems engineering and Tony Lauletta in science integration throughout the program.

Chris quickly demonstrated his knowledge of spacecraft magnetics and instituted a magnetic control program that included:

  • Formulating and maintaining a magnetic model of the Orbiter that predicted the magnetic field at the magnetometer
  • Limiting the type and amount of magnetic materials used in fabrication.
  • Using a nonmagnetic electroless nickel plate
  • Controlling the location and orientation of magnetically troublesome units on the equipment shelf.
  • Separating the magnetometer from the spacecraft by a deployable boom
  • Provide for magnetic compensation of units that utilize permanent magnets in their operation to reduce their field contribution at the magnetometer

Based on Chris’ calculations the boom length was set at 15 ft 6 in. (4.72 meters).  As I recall Chris’s prediction was 14.5 feet and one foot was added to provide some margin.  Chris maintained the magnetic model throughout the Orbiter development.

The boom, consisting of three hinged segments, is folded together and stowed on the orbiter shelf until deployed shortly after launch.  The boom is secured by two redundant pyrotechnic pinpullers either of which when fired would release the boom for deployment. As the three segments extend, each hinged joint locks in the deployed position.  A spin rate of 6.5 rpm provides the centrifugal force that ensures deployment and positive latching.

System level testing of the magnetometer boom proved to be problematic.  The boom root hinge, when pyrotechnically released, was to deploy with the spacecraft spinning at 6.5 rpm.  However, aerodynamic drag prevented the boom from fully extending in sea level density air.  In order to validate the design it was necessary to encapsulate the spacecraft in a large plastic tent filled with 90% helium that provide a gas mixture with one fifth the density of air.  The deployment test in this environment was successful.

Two system level magnetic tests are required—remanent and stray field determination.  The remanent test is to determine the magnetic field of the quiescent spacecraft and requires a magnetic coil to cancel the earth’s magnetic field.  The NASA Ames facility Magnetic Standards Laboratory and Test Facility in Mountain View, CA was used for this test and of course this required shipping the spacecraft to that facility.  Tests were conducted with the spacecraft in a magnetized and demagnetized state.  The stray field test to determine the magnetic field of the operating spacecraft was conducted in the Hughes high bay in the early morning to provide a magnetically quiet environment.  The test results are presented in Figure 4.2 in from Reference 1.  Chris Thorpe oversaw these tests.

According to Chris Russell:  The most definitive measurements of the magnetic moment of Venus were obtained during the Pioneer Venus Orbiter mission in its first years of operation (1979-1981). Repeated low-altitude (~ 150 km) passes by that spacecraft over the antisolar region, coupled with dayside observations to the same altitude, proved the insignificance of a field of internal origin in near-Venus space. The observed fields for the most part could be explained as solar wind interaction-induced features. The new upper limit on the dipole moment obtained from the Pioneer Venus Orbiter wake measurements placed the Venus intrinsic magnetic field at ~ 10-5 times that of Earth.

At the conclusion of the Pioneer Venus program Chris and I were assigned to the newly started Galileo probe effort.  After I left Galileo I lost track of Chris.  Recently I learned that he passed away in 2000 at the age of 76.   If someone can provide any biographical details for Chris I can add them to this post.

Reference 1.  Pioneer Venus Final Report, Contract No. NAS 2-8300, December 1978, Bernard J. Bienstock.

 

Pioneer Venus Mass Properties—Jack Fisher

The two Pioneer Venus spacecraft were designed to be launched by the Atlas-Centaur for the 1978 Venus opportunity.  Earlier studies had considered the Thor-Delta launch vehicle, but the Atlas-Centaur was judged by NASA to provide superior science performance and potential cost savings due to the greater payload capability.  The starting point for spacecraft design is the allowable mass for the two spacecraft that is determined by the performance of the designated launch vehicle.  Our customer, NASA’s Ames Research Center, adopted a specification weight for us to work to allowing for a cushion or contingency below the Atlas-Centaur launch capability.  The ARC specification values, as a function of time, are shown in Figures 4-1 and 4-2 for the Orbiter and Multiprobe spacecrafts.

The 1978 Venus launch opportunity can be divided into two phases.  The earlier launch opportunity, late May-early June, has a greater flight time to Venus and is a Type II interplanetary trajectory traversing an arc of more than 180O about the sun.  However, this launch requires greater launch vehicle performance and provide less payload capability.  The later launches in August, use a Type I interplanetary trajectory (less than 180O solar arc) and provide more than a 50% greater payload capability.  As neither Hughes nor NASA Ames could support two simultaneous launch campaigns the Orbiter and Multiprobe require using both the early and late launch opportunities for the 1978 Venus opportunity.  The Orbiter weight was significantly less than the Multiprobe and could launched during the earlier opportunity.  An advantage is the 60% lower ∆V required for orbit insertion at Venus.  The August launch opportunity is then available for the 60% heavier Multiprobe.

The final mass properties measurements for the two spacecraft are shown in Table 4-1 from the Reference 1.  Note that the first row in the Table which is labeled “Spacecraft height” should read “Spacecraft weight.”  Both spacecraft are stable spinners based upon the HS-333 design.

Joe Lotta was responsible for the Pioneer Venus mass properties analyses.  This involved collecting inputs from each design area on a monthly basis and calculating the overall mass properties for each spacecraft.  As shown in Figures 4-1 and 4-2 from Reference 1, over the course of the nearly four-year program weight growth was a constant concern.  Considerable effort was devoted to trying to control weight growth and finding weight savings.  At every opportunity trade-offs were considered and lists of weight savings with the cost detailed for each saving would be considered.  Those weight savings characterized by lower dollars per pound would be implemented.  Reference 1 documents 90 pounds of savings implemented for the Orbiter and 105 pounds for the Multiprobe.  NASA ARC was able to provide increases in their specification weights to accommodate our weight growth.  Some must have been due to Atlas Centaur performance improvements and the rest due to reduced contingencies and weight reserves.  In retrospect it all came together and we witnessed two very successful missions.

Reference 1.  Pioneer Venus Final Project Report.  HS507-7970. December 1978, Bernard J. Bienstock.

Pioneer Venus Cost Growth Analysis

The attached letter, dated 27 August, 1979, from Dr. Wheelon to C. A. Syvertson, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, analyzes the cost growth in Hughes’ Pioneer Venus program.  The contract was cost plus award fee and what was at stake here was the determination by the Ames Performance Evaluation Board of Hughes’ award fee.  This analysis was undertaken at the invitation of Ames to provide the causes for the program cost growth.

The following comments have been added by Steve Dorfman:

Of course I wrote the letter and NASA took mercy.  They appointed Tom Young from NASA HQ to adjudicate and he came up with 2% fee in a Solomon-like decision which gave us a $2M profit instead of a significant loss due to our aggressive cost share proposal which, in hindsight, was way too risky.  We had proposed this aggressive cost share, which had us going to negative fee (that is losing money) to be consistent with NASA HQ desire to have a management experiment in reducing the cost of planetary programs. However Charlie Hall ignored the “management experiment” and ran the program just as he had all Pioneer programs.  In hindsight Charlie was right and NASA HQ was wrong and naive and so were we. Tom Young knew all this and that is why he gave us a modest fee.
In fact the program was an outstanding success in keeping costs low when compared with other NASA Planetary Programs.  For $105M  Hughes achieved a technically ambitious and difficult program.  A bargain.

 

 

 

Mission Design and Orbit Operations for the First Lunar Flyby Rescue Mission–J. Salvatore, C. Ocampo

Preface

Jerry presented this paper presented at the 50th International Astronautical Congress, 4 – 8 October 1999, Amsterdam, Netherlands see www.iafastro.org.  It details the recovery operations, led by Jerry, for the Hughes HGS-1 satellite that was launched for Asia Satellite Communications Ltd.  Our search of the International Astronautical Foundation (IAF) online archives reveals that this paper or any reference to it is not available.  The IAF indicates that no papers prior to 2004 are available.  We feel that researchers should have online access to this paper as it is the definitive reference for this recovery mission.

Many wonderful and talented people at Hughes contributed to the success of this mission.  A tribute to many of them as well as other contributors around the world is illustrated in the official mission poster which bears the signatures of all those folks.

 

 

Three Domestic Systems For U. S. to Get HAC Craft Hughes News September 14, 1973

$150 Million Satellite Projects Seen

Hughes Aircraft Company’s Space and Communications Group will have an additional $150 millions in business with the decision by the Federal Communications Commission to authorize five additional domestic satellite systems.

Granted were applications by American Satellite Corporation, RCA Global Communications, GTE/Hughes Satellite Corporation, American Telephone and Telegraph Company/Comsat and Communications Satellite Corporation.

Hughes will build the satellites for the AMSAT, GTE/Hughes and ATT/Comsat systems.  The company last week signed a $65.9 million contract with Comsat for four satellites to serve the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

(Previously, the FCC had approved an application by Western Union Telegraph Company, for which Hughes will build three satellites.)

Vice President Albert D. Wheelon, Group executive said the FCC decision was welcome for two reasons:  “Approximately $200 million of private capital will be invested in the aerospace industry.  Part of this investment will go to McDonnell-Douglas and General Dynamics companies for rocket boosters.  The remainder is for the communications satellites to be built for the ATT/Comsat, GTE/Hughes, and ATT/Comsat systems.”

Dr. Wheelon added, “This is the largest single injection of private capital into the space industry and marks a turning point in that it represents the development of a substantial non-government market for spacecraft and booster manufacturers.  This opportunity comes at a time when defense and NASA funding of satellite development is declining and is thus doubly welcome.”

“While communications satellites have been used to carry international traffic for 10 years, U. S. space technology will now be put to work for the 200 million people who supported the development of this technology.  With the Western Union systems authorized early this year, the decision by the FCC guarantees that a breadth of innovative and improved domestic communications services will be available starting in 1974”

The 20th Anniversary of the First Commercial Lunar Flyby Rescue Mission—Jerry Salvatore

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the remarkable efforts that recovered the Hughes HGS-1 after a failed launch.  This satellite launched as AsiaSat was placed in an unusable 51-degree inclined orbit after the fourth stage of the Proton launch vehicle failed.  A recovery plan that involved two lunar flybys was developed and implemented.  I documented this historic journey a year later and presented it at the 50th International Astronautical Congress in Amsterdam on October 4, 1999. This definitive paper describes the complex rescue limitations in detail, discusses the numerous mission considerations that had to be addressed, defines the nominal rescue maneuvers plan, and documents all (planned and ad hoc) maneuvers during the 68-day journey. This document will be posted on the Hughes heritage website for all to read the facts of the rescue.

May 13, 2018 marks 20 years since HGS-1 flew around the moon for the first time in a risky, epic rescue mission that attempted to transfer a Hughes HS601 HP spacecraft stranded in a highly inclined (51.6 degrees) geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO, via a Proton upper stage failure ) into a useful geosynchronous orbit (GSO, similar to Syncom 2).

This mission was actually initiated on April 10, 1998, had an ad hoc second flyby of the moon on June 6, 1998 and achieved the best possible GSO orbit on June 16, 1998 with an inclination of about 7.5 degrees relative to the equator and a longitude south of Hawaii.

During this historic rescue, I wrote two US patents for Hughes that used single and multiple lunar flybys to assist transfer from any GTO to a GEO (geostationary orbit). Both patents were awarded in late 2000.

In the interim, a small company Innovative Orbital Design (IOD) filed suit against Hughes claiming we had infringed on their intellectual property. This is the same company that claimed to be responsible for giving Hughes the idea to use the moon for rescue with Belbruno’s “Fuzzy Boundary” theory. The court found that IOD’s claims were without merit and dismissed the suit by summary judgement. The court did not allow the case to proceed to trial and fined IOD for certain Hughes costs of defense. The initial legal and political attacks on this innovative Hughes accomplishment were successfully refuted.

Ironically, on the 10th anniversary (2008) of the HGS-1 flyby, a Lockheed Martin spacecraft, AMC-14, owned by SES, experienced a similar failure of the Proton upper stage resulting in a similar stranded orbit to HGS-1.  I was employed by SES for one month to study a possible lunar flyby rescue.  The lunar geometry in this case was near perfect and a double lunar flyby would restore roughly eight years of the nominal 15 – year GEO mission.  The only requirement was for Boeing (who now owned my original patents) to allow the rescue to occur.  Unfortunately, SES had a $50 million law suit against Boeing to replace a satellite, lost during a sea launch explosion, at the original cost. Boeing required dismissal of the law suit, SES refused and the rescue mission was aborted.  Amen to any previous or future commentary of whether the patents were valid or unenforceable. In hindsight, though, I regret writing the patents that precluded a “near perfect” rescue of HGS-1’s stranded younger sister a decade later.

On the 15th anniversary (2013) a bombshell article, “Beyond GEO”, was published on the Space Review website (and republished on the Hughes heritage website). The story told by Rex Ridenoure reveals that an alternate rescue plan to the practical one that I devised was supported by Hughes personnel (Chris Cutroneo, Loren Slafer, and Cesar Ocampo). Rex acknowledges that Slafer told him on January 28 (a couple of weeks after his initial proposal) that the plan was impractical. I learned of this impossible plan from Ocampo a month later and instructed him not to reveal the official Hughes approach. Unfortunately, Rex reveals that Ocampo told Belbruno of the Hughes approach a month after he was instructed not to be a “leaker”. This occurred two weeks before our first maneuver Rex reveals there were subsequent leaks during the entire mission.

After several months in the blind with no contribution to this mission, Rex admits that he and Belbruno initiated their own PR campaign to sell their story about how the core enabling idea of using the Moon to salvage AsiaSat 3 entered into the option trade space at Hughes; and to insure this story was not buried by the personal or corporate motivations that apparently wanted to squelch the facts. Rex concluded in the article that “the story got out and stuck”. The rebuttal to “Beyond GEO” was published two months later on both the Space Review and Hughes heritage websites as 2 essays: “The Real Story”, part 1-Jerry Salvatore, mission director, and part 2-Mark Skidmore, project manager.

Remarkably after 20 years there still is controversy surrounding the facts of this recovery effort.  On March 10, 2018, Chris Cutroneo wrote a blog for the Hughes heritage website entitled “HGS-1 Mission–Setting the Facts Straight.” This blog resurrects the Ridenoure and Belbruno PR campaign described above and purports to be factual. While Chris is entitled to his personal opinions, he is not allowed to distort the facts in his blog.

Chris Cutroneo, Loren Slafer and Cesar Ocampo worked with Ridenoure and Belbruno in January 1998 on an untenable rescue plan. Chris confirms that these Hughes personnel were told by the HGS project office in February to terminate all conversations with these outsiders. Subsequently, Cutroneo and Slafer voluntarily chose not to contribute or consult during any phase of the rescue mission. Chris’ statement “I relayed Cesar’s calculations and Rex’s information to Jerry via email, mentioning Rex’s company as well as the fuzzy boundary theory and that it was a novel theory but impractical” is absolutely “fake news”. As stated above I learned of this absurd plan from Ocampo in late February, well into the planning phase of the actual mission. This invented fact would apparently support his opinion in the blog, “But I believe we did have their idea in hand that helped us come up with the idea to do a lunar flyby and mimic the Apollo missions”.

Chris’ description of Cesar Ocampo’s position is correct. Cesar is a brilliant trajectory analyst who verified my original thesis and performed all trajectory studies during the entire mission. I named him a co-author on the definitive paper as well as the two patents issued because of his analytical contributions to the rescue mission. I was his principal sponsor when he was named  “Hispanic Engineer of the Year” in 1998. However, I learned from Rex’s paper 15 years later that: He divulged our approach to Belbruno in late March; He continued his leaks to Belbruno during the mission; He refused to obey the HGS program office in April about public discussions of the mission; He wrote a paper seven years after the mission that lifted key paragraphs from the definitive paper (which has never been posted on the internet), embraced the Ridenoure PR propaganda and accused Hughes of unethical behavior.

Five years ago, Cesar shared a quote by me during the mission on the heritage website: “There are those who make things happen, others who watch it happen, and the rest who ask what happened. And Jerry falls in the first category.” In his response to my article on the HGS-1 mission Cesar adds, ‘I will be forever grateful to Hughes and individuals there, for having given me the opportunity to spend four wonderful years at Hughes, and the opportunity to work on HGS-1 and other missions. This has been a major highlight in my career.’

Chris further states in a final note, “HGS-1 achieved only a short period of time in GEO orbit post recovery.  There was a more optimum time (better Earth, Moon, Sun geometry) to pull off the recovery plan, 6 months later than when we started it. It would have achieved a much longer life span (years), orbitally, for the satellite.  It was unclear to me as to why this option was not selected.”

This is the second incorrect statement in his blog.  I refer him to the trajectory design section of the definitive paper to help him understand the real options available.  The fact is that given the lunar/spacecraft orbit geometry and spacecraft propulsion capability, no GEO orbit was achievable with the lunar flyby until 2029.  Only GSO inclined orbits were achievable at about 2-year intervals.  The first opportunity in April 1998 was selected.  The resulting GSO orbit with an initial inclination of about 7.5 degrees was designed to become GEO (zero inclination) in 2007 using solar/lunar perturbations.  The spacecraft was operated by Hughes Global Services for several years. The US Navy leased several transponders and it provided service to the Atlantic Fleet up to its deorbit.  It was operational on 9/11 when an urgent call came for more capacity.  Unfortunately, HGS-1 ran out of fuel and was placed in a multiyear pendulous GSO disposal orbit in late 2002 that positioned it over the dateline in 2007.  This would minimize any possible collision hazard as the spacecraft traveled in the equator with no neighbors.  It worked!

I recorded my views about this mission in an article in the July 15, 2013 Space Review entitledThe Chief Technologist’s View of the HGS-1 Mission.”  Mark Skidmore, Hughes program manager for the recovery mission, also presented his views in the July 8, 2013 Space Review in an article entitled “An alternative view of the HGS-1 salvage mission.”  I believe that two articles provide the most complete and correct description of the events surrounding the recovery mission design and implementation.