Early Bird…..Remarkable 5-Year Record in Space Hughes News April 17, 1970

Early Bird, the world’s first commercial communications satellite and the granddaddy of the Intelsat IV now in production, celebrated its fifth birthday April 6 after logging 3 billion miles in space and a faultless performance.

The birthday coincided with the opening of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics third Communications Satellite Systems conference at the International Hotel, where a giant cake replica of the remarkable bird was cut and served to NASA, Comsat and Hughes people who collaborated to bring into the world the tiny satellite with this record.

The Significance of It All

Dick Bentley, now assistant manager of the Communications Satellite Labs in Space Systems Division who was the Early Bird Program manager, cut the cake and reminisced about the satellite’s significance.

“Early Bird has been a model in every sense of the word,” Mr. Bentlley said.  “Essentially, there have been no failures, even in the control system.”  This is testimony to the ability of the people at Hughes to build highly reliable systems.  Early Bird proved what can be done!

“Several years ago when we were forecasting this kind of reliability the promise sounded incredible.  Not today.  Most people in industry now speak of satellite lifetimes of 5 years.  Some even go as high as 7 or 10 years. Early Bird is the basis for this confidence,” he added.

Early Bird’s success as the first commercial communications satellite has led to subsequent planning and implementation of commercial satellite programs.

Things Would Be Different

 If Hughes had not won out and proved the feasibility of the synchronous altitude concept and station keeping techniques, and if Early Bird did not have the reliability exceeding that of the trans-Atlantic cables, the whole approach to communications satellites would well be drastically different today.

Probably the greatest spinoff of the Early Bird experiment, and it was just that, will be its great impact on and benefit to people everywhere.  Every place on earth can be linked to every other place by a worldwide communications network featuring satellites and low-cost ground stations.

When historians record the genesis of this network, valued at billions of dollars, Early Bird must certainly will be listed as the father of it all.

Vision…Courage…Ingenuity

This, again, is a tribute to the contributions of the people at Hughes who had the vision, the courage of their convictions, and technical ingenuity to design and build a spacecraft that not only has met all objectives but has exceeded the contractual requirements in every way.

Operational for nearly four years, Early Bird was retired from active service by Comsat a year ago but was called into service for the Apollo 11 mission.  Two months later it again was placed on reserve status.  But it still can chirp, anytime its needed.

 

See “World’s First Commercial Communications Satellite at

http://web.archive.org/web/20100118182008/http://www.boeing.com:80/defense-space/space/bss/factsheets/376/earlybird/ebird.html

$66 Million Contract For Satellites Placed by Comsat General– Hughes News October 12, 1972

 

Comsat General Corporation has awarded Hughes a $65.9 million contract for four advanced high-capacity satellites which will be operated by Comsat under a lease arrangement for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

Comsat General’s contract followed the Federal Communications Commission’s Sept. 12 approval of five U. S. domestic satellite systems, four of which will use satellites built by HAC’s Space and Communications Group

Immediately after the FCC action Comsat President Joseph V. Charyk executed the agreements calling for the first delivery in late 1975.  Vice President Albert D. Wheelon, S&CG executive on behalf of Allen E. Puckett, executive vice president and assistant general manager.

Anik-Type Family

A whole family of Anik-I type satellites is being built in S&CG with Western Union’s Westar for telecommunications and TV slated for service by next summer.  (Hughesnews Aug. 18, 1972).  The WU system was approved earlier by the FCC.

The General Telephone and Electronics Corporation and the American Satellite Corporation also had systems approved by the FCC in the Sept. 12 action.

ASC has ordered three Anik-type satellites (Hughesnews March 30), and expects them to be operational by the third quarter of 1974.

GTE has contracted with the Hughes subsidiary National Satellite Services for 10 leased channels on a 12-transponder satellite.  GTE plans a September operational dated on its domestic system to provide either 12,000 one-way voice-grade circuits, 10 TV channels or various combinations.

Comsat’s order for four spacecraft, each having twice the capacity of the Intelsat IVs, will result in these Hughes-built satellites covering the U. S. territorial limits for the decade following launch in 1976.

Although design life is seven years, S&CG engineers are eyeing the possibility of 10 years service for these advanced spacecraft.  With 24 channels compared to the Intelsat IV’s 12 and Intelsat IVA’s 20, the Comsat domestic birds will be bigger, standing about 18 feet high and weighing about 3200 pounds in orbit.

Three Antennas

To provide coverage over a third of the earth’s circumference the spacecraft will have three antennas.  Each satellite will be placed in geostationary orbit at 22,300 miles altitude and have a capacity for approximately 14,000 two-way high quality voice circuits.

Frequencies will be used in the presently allocated 4 and 6 Gigahertz bands.  Horizontally and vertically polarized transmit and receive antennas will be mounted atop the spin-stabilized body of each spacecraft.

Through the first-time application of the cross-polarization technique on a commercial satellite, the entire frequency band will be utilized twice by each satellite, thus doubling capacity and conserving limited spectrum space.

In addition, each satellite will carry amillimeter wave experimental package permitting tests and development of higher frequencies near 19 and 28 Gigahertz for possible future commercial satellite applications.

The contact signing was preceded by final negotiations between Comsat officers and S&CG’s Contracts Director Chuck LeFever, Program Manager Al Owens, Assistant Program Manager Dick Hemmerling, and Steve Parker senior contract negotiator.

Clell McKinney of HAC’s Corporate Marketing office in Washington DC provided assistance.

Further Notes—Jack Fisher

Comstar, with the Hughes designation HS-351, was based upon the Hughes Intelsat IV and IVA designs with a number of improvements.  Four satellites were built and launched by the Atlas Centaur—the first two in 1976 and the other two in 1978 and 1981—providing telephone service for ATT and GTE.  The Comstar program and spacecraft design are described in the Spring 1977 issue of the COMSAT Technical Review—see http://www.comara.org/legacy/ctr/CTR_V07-1_Spring_1977-Comstar.pdf

The fourth Comstar launched in 1981 has a very interesting history having been sold to the island nation of Tonga, a Pacific archipelago.  For an account of that history see Dwayne Day’s article in the Space Review.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1787/1

Hughes donated a model of the Comstar satellite to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Photographs of the model can be seen at https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/model-communications-satellite-comstar

 

HGS-1 Mission – Setting the Facts Straight Chris Cutroneo

For years I struggled with talking about this story and what I knew. I was an employee of Boeing (and Dept Manager of the Mission Group) up until 2016 and I didn’t feel it was my place to discuss this on-line. Now that I am 2 years into retirement and have I seen the blog posting from Steve Dorfman regarding HGS-1 mission, I think, finally, it needs some clarification – and the full truth. I was both the lead Astrodynamacist Team leader of the Asiasat-3 mission (on console when the Proton 3rd stage failed to ignite) as well as the function manager of the Mission Analysis and Operations group (30+ engineers). Cesar Ocampo was a direct report to me.

For weeks after the launch, we struggled with Asiasat-3. We knew it did not have enough fuel to get to GEO and at the time we were baby sitting it. Not long after the failure (Dec launch) in January, I got a call from Rex Ridenour. In our discussion he described that there was an idea floating around his company that we could send Asiasat-3 using the “fuzzy boundary theory” from Bel Bruno. I took down some notes after a brief discussion and I approached Cesar Ocampo with the data that Rex had provided. Cesar (he had some “issues” but was undoubtedly super smart) found the paper, read it and did some calculations which I reviewed. He said yes, in theory sending the s/c 1,000,000 miles out (we had fuel to do this) could recover the s/c but we both felt it was highly impractical especially given the impossible comm link for controlling/monitoring the s/c once it was out that far and we needed to maneuver it. 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.

Please note that Cesar was NOT part of the Asiasat-3 mission team. He had no access to what was going on there until I (and the Astro Functional Manager) brought him this info. Cesar was at that time working on the 702 XIPS orbit ascent and the difficulties of constant thrust maneuver planning.

Soon after the idea of going around the moon came up and back to the MAO group. I fully believe this was 100% Jerry Salvatore’s idea. Jerry brought Cesar into the solution process to do a lot of analysis using STK. Jerry fed him the big picture and Cesar did basically all orbital calculations and mission planning using STK and the mission planning was off and running. Please note that we did not use Bel Bruno’s idea – it was impractical but inspirational. We were directed after the Lunar Fly By idea came out to stop talking to Ridenour and Bel Bruno. But I believe we did have their idea in hand that helped us come up with the idea to do a Lunar Fly By and mimic the Apollo missions – I am nearly 100% sure of this since I was the primary relayer between them in the early days before stepping away once the HGS project took off. Ridenour and Bel Bruno claimed, at one point we “stole” their idea but we didn’t. But, I think that all Hughes path we got on would not have happened without Ridenour and Bel Bruno to get us out of or standard orbit planning thinking to come up with a solution that worked.

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. There was both amazing technical accomplishments as well as incredible in-fighting going on during the HGS-1 mission – a real dichotomy. Nothing in my career (36 years at Hughes/Boeing with 34 years in mission operations) even came close. Cesar felt slighted (and in a few ways he was but not in others), Jerry felt under siege (by the Bel Bruno comments and I think lawsuit) and Bel Bruno and Ridenour felt slighted in terms of even the most limited recognition in the end. It worked but it could have been so – so much – better.

APPLICATION TECHNOLOGY SATELLITE – VHF EXPERIMENT ONLY–Roland Boucher

BACKGROUND

In early 1963 as a young 31-year-old engineer I was assigned the task of developing a method for mobile users to communicate through a synchronous satellite.  A brief study of the problem indicated that for truly mobile communications the user should be able to use a simple dipole antenna. This led to a company funded effort to demonstrate the reception of the one-half watt Syncom 2 VHF telemetry signal on a simple dipole antenna. On 21 February, the one-half watt Syncom2 VHF telemetry signal was successfully received on a dipole antenna. Three months later, on 8 May 1964, a teletype message was repeated through Syncom 2 telemetry and command system to a ground transmitter with a power of 19 watts using 12 and 14 db. gain Yagi antennas.

When news of these tests reached Frank White of the Air Transport Association he set in motion a series of events that led NASA to fund the ATS VHF Experiment.  His plan was to demonstrate two-way communication between a Pan-Am jet leaving Hong Kong with the NASA ground station at Camp Roberts California via the Syncom telemetry and command system.  On Jan 27 1964, these tests were successful and within weeks NASA funded the ATS VHF experiment.

The ATS-1 is the first of a series of five spacecraft built for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center by the Hughes Aircraft Company. The objectives of the VHF repeater are as follows:

• Demonstrate feasibility of providing continuous voice communications link between a ground control station and aircraft anywhere within the area covered by the satellite

• Demonstrate feasibility of providing a network in which data from small- unmanned stations or buoys are collected via satellite and disseminated

• Evaluate feasibility of VHF navigational systems

• Evaluate airborne and ground stations required in the above ­ mentioned networks

A fifth objective area was later added to demonstrate two-way voice and teletype communications from ships at sea anywhere in the satellite coverage area.
VHF REPEATER GENERAL DESCRIPTION

The VHF communications experiment is a frequency ­translation limiting (Class C) repeater receiving at a frequency of 149 Mhz and transmitting at 135 Mhz. The repeater both receives and transmits through an eight-element, phased-array antenna; Table 1 presents the repeater characteristics.

Operation of the repeater is as follows: incoming-signals at 149 mHz arereceived on each dipole element, routed through diplexers, amplified by a low-noise receiver, and shifted in phase to compensate for the relative position of each dipole antenna. The electronically controlled phase shifter in the receiver unit, driven by the waveform generators, causes the output s of each receiver to be in phase only for those signals originating from the earth. Reference sinusoids used to drive the waveform generator s are obtained from the same phased-array control electronics used to position the microwave beam toward the earth. The eight receiver outputs are summed together, filtered, down­ converted to an intermediate frequency (IF) of 29 megacycles, amplified, and passed through a crystal filter to limit the receiver bandwidth.

The IF is then amplified, up converted to 135 mHz, further amplified, and divided into eight equal parts. Each of the eight signals is routed to a transmitter where it is amplified, phase-shifted, and further amplified to a power level of 5 watts. Each transmitter output is routed through its respective diplexer to one of the antenna elements.

The transmitter phase shift is controlled by the waveform generator, which causes the signals from each antenna to reinforce in the direction of the earth. Provision is made to operate only odd or even sets of four transmitters, if desired, to reduce the DC power required.

It is also possible to drive the waveform generator from either the redundant Phased Array Control Electronics or to shut down this unit entirely creating a pancake antenna pattern, approximately 60 x 360 degrees that will encompass the earth during most parts of the launch trajectory and at all times after satellite reorientation.

The ATS spacecraft power supply and thermal design allow for continuous operation of the VHF experiment except during periods of eclipse. The repeater elements are supplied with -24volt and 23.4-volt regulated power. Switches are provided that allow operation of the equipment according to commands from the ground stations. Telemetered outputs are also provided which can be transmitted to earth either by the VHF or microwave telemetry systems.

The repeater is made up of nine subassemblies: eight units containing one transmitter, receiver, and diplexer; and one unit containing an up converter, down converter, waveform generator, and two voltage regulators. These units are shown in Figures 3 and 4.

TECHNICAL ADVANCES MADE BY ATS-1

1) The first VHF phased array in orbit

2) The first phased array to operate on both transmit and receive frequencies

3) The first deployable antenna on a spinning spacecraft

4) The first spacecraft repeater to use separate receivers and transmitters for each antenna element

The VHF antenna consists of eight full-wave dipoles arranged in a circle of one wavelength diameter (86 inches). Volume limitations in the Atlas-Agene shroud dictated the use of a deployable antenna. The eight-dipole elements were mounted on a radial arm attached to the forward solar panel and pivoted to place the antennas in a three-foot circle directly over the apogee motor nozzle during launch.

At separation from the Agena, the spacecraft is spun up; centrifugal force causes the antennas to deploy to the 86-inch diameter at 50 rpm. Deployment takes place during the normal spin up of the spacecraft without the use of ground commands.  When the spacecraft apogee motor is fired, the antennas are subjected to high Mach numbers and high heat fluxes. The rocket motor in the center of the array contains 750 pounds of propellant and burns for 40 seconds increasing the spacecraft’s apogee velocity by 6000 fps.

To withstand the severe thermal environment, the antenna elements were constructed of beryllium, flame-sprayed with aluminum oxide, and further covered with a Teflon ablative material. The high heat capacity of the ablative material and of the beryllium itself maintains the antenna temperatures below the unprotected equilibrium temperature of 3000° F.

IN-ORBIT PERFORMANCE

The following report is taken from a presentation given in May 1967 at a meeting of the RTCM in Las Vegas Nevada by Roland Boucher.

ATS-1 was launched into orbit on 6 December 1966.  The VHF repeater was first operated 3 days later. Since then, it has been used to successfully communicate voice and data between NASA ground stations at Rosman, North Carolina; Mojave, California; and Kooby Creek Australia. It has sent weather facsimile pictures and has been used to determine propagation properties of the ionosphere.

Simplex air to ground communication tests have been conducted with aircraft operated by Pan American, Eastern, TWA, United, American, and Qantas airlines as well as those operated by the FAA and the U.S. Air Force. Both simplex and duplex communications were successful with a shipboard terminal   constructed by Hughes. This terminal was leased to the U. S. Coast Guard and has operated successfully on the Coast Guard Cutter, Klamath at Ocean Station November in the Pacific Ocean which was described by a member of the U.S. Coast Guard.  In May 1967, the VHF repeater experiment had operated successfully for over 5 months with no signs of degradation.

Prior to the launch of ATS-1, there was considerable skepticism as to the feasibility of VHF satellite communications in mobile service despite the fact that nearly every satellite to date had used the VHF band for its primary mode of telemetry and weather photo video transmission.

SCINTILLATION FADES

The uneven diffractive properties of a disturbed ionosphere can cause deep fades at VHF frequencies. These fades are normally of a very brief nature lasting typically from 8 to 30 seconds. Examination of this phenomenon by Hughes Aircraft Company under NASA contract NAS-510 174 indicated that fades of greater than 6 db. depth could be expected 0.002 percent of the time in the mid-Pacific area, Tests with ATS – 1 during the first 5 months in orbit have failed to yield any statistically significant data on scintillation fades. The rarity of their occurrence makes it almost impossible to detect them in a normal push-to-talk circuit. They do not present a serious problem to this type of communications.

MOBILE TERMINAL NOISE

Mobile terminal noise was also cited by some as a nearly insurmountable problem as late as a few months before the ATS-1 launch. Tests on aircraft and on the cutter Klamath have shown this problem can be cleared up by normal RFI practices.

SEA WATER MULTIPATH

Multi-path fades were held up as an obstacle to VHF mobile communications with fades up to 30 db predicted. Tests with the ATS-1 to date have shown multi-path propagation not to be a serious threat. In examining the records of many hours of shipboard and aircraft communication, no clear evidence of multi-path propagation fades could be found. This despite the fact that Hughes intended to use the evidence of such fades as a requirement for the development of a new type antenna for the NASA/Hughes ATS C. The fades were not found. The antenna was not funded.

EARTH-NOISE TEMPERATURE

Earth-noise temperature was cited as a possible deterrent to VHF satellite communications. The proponents of this concept reasoned that many spurious emissions from the large number of earth transmitters would form a noise blanket which would jam the satellites receivers.

Measurements taken in late 1966 by Boeing Aircraft to determine receiver noise temperatures in flight from a commercial aircraft indicated that cities could be found quite easily by the noise they created. This noise was seldom evident more than 10 or 20 miles from the city centers. Noise temperatures even at relatively low altitudes seldom were in excess of 20 db. with a 10-db-background level being more nearly an average figure.

A simple calculation involving the area of the world covered by cities indicated that this noise would not be a serious problem at synchronous altitude. Corroborating evidence was the fact that most satellite command systems operate in the VHF band. Any serious problems in the uplink would certainly have been discovered before 1966.

The launch of ATS-1 proved this point. Up-link receiver sensitivity of the ATS-1 spacecraft is essentially that measured in the laboratories.

UNANTICIPATED PROBLEMS

The ATS uplink is in the land mobile band. In the early phases of the in-orbit test program, strong signals were heard in the satellite s passband. Many of these were conversations in English from what appeared to be military personnel. The conversations contained description of maintenance operations on jet aircraft indicating that a ground terminal used to communicate with mobile airport vehicles was transmitting to the spacecraft. Other signals in the spacecraft ‘s pass band that have been annoying at times have contained considerable 60 cycle modulation, indicating they originate from an earth borne transmitter.

None of these emissions proved detrimental to the test program after December 12. On that day, the severity of the jamming indicated that up link ERPs in excess of 2 kilowatts were present

A number of interested parties, through the cooperation of NASA and Aeronautical Radio listened for a one-week period in an effort to determine the origin of these strong signals. They were not present during this one-week period and have not returned. In the first 5 months as equipment and operating procedures have improved both in the aircraft and shipborne tests, this problem, which seemed so serious on 12 December, has been nearly forgotten.  Today VHF communications via satellite have been shown to be feasible for aircraft and maritime mobile application.

THE ATS-3 VHF EXPERIMENT

Spacecraft operating at microwave frequencies operate their transmitters well below peak power (transmitter Back-Off).  The VHF Experiment on ATS-3 Replaced the Class C RF amplifiers used on ATS-1 with linear RF amplifiers. This was important because it greatly reduced the inter-modulation distortion inherent in multi-channel transmitters. These transmitters were solid state and used a class A/B final stage; The DC power required was reduced 1/2 db. for every 1 db. of back off. This was a very important discovery since power is a very expensive commodity on any Spacecraft.

At low elevation angles multipath can cause a significant loss in signal for short periods of time as the reflected signal alternately cancels and adds to the direct signal. Circular polarization can eliminate this problem when used by receiver and transmitter that was later verified in field tests with TACSAT in 1969.

Hughes designed and tested circular polarized replacements for the dipole antenna elements on ATS-3.  Unfortunately, NASA did not approve their use.  Meanwhile Boeing designed a circular polarized flush mounted VHF antenna for the 747 aircraft.  C.A. Petry at ARINC worked with the airlines and FAA to produce a spacecraft compatible aircraft radio set in ARINC Specification 546.

When the first Boeing 747 was delivered to Pan Am, it was equipped with and ARINC 546 communication transceiver and a circular polarized antenna. This aircraft was equipped for satellite to aircraft communications.

ATS-3 was launched successfully on November 5, 1967, and positioned over the Pacific Ocean. Together with ATS-1 nearly global communications were possible at VHF frequencies.

Hughes designed a small inexpensive VHF terminal for the US Coast Guard that was installed on the USS Glacier, the ship used to resupply the Antarctic Base.  Sun spot activity was heavy during the 1967-68 winter, and HF radio was unusable for long periods of time.  The $4000 Hughes satellite terminal got through every time.

In the fall of 1969 I was selected as a representative of the State Department to the CCIR Conference on satellite communications.  Captain Charles Dorian and I were able to persuade the Russian delegate to support the US position to authorize VHF aircraft communications by satellite.  France led the opposition. The Russians brought along the eastern bloc, even Havana supported us. The French opposition was defeated – WE WON

Unfortunately, France played politics better than we did. As I understand it, they got NASA to oppose Aerosat in exchange for France support of the Space Shuttle. In any case, I received a phone call in Geneva from Hughes saying NASA pulled the plug – ITS ALL OVER.  I had spent nearly almost 10 years in the pursuit of a VHF Aeronautical Satellite to no avail.

At least the military did not have to play these politics.  Both Russia and the US adopted VHF communications (TACSAT).  The Syncom and ATS experiments produced at least two winners.

Completely independent of my employment with Hughes, I had developed the concept of an electrical powered battlefield surveillance drone and a Solar Powered high altitude spy plane. Dr. Bob Roney told me Hughes was not interested.

I left Hughes Aircraft in January 1973 and successfully proposed both aircraft to DARPA. The prototype electric powered battlefield drone flew that year and was shown on Los Angeles television. The 32-foot span proof of concept model of the spy plane flew on solar power alone in 1974.  A patent for the electric powered aircraft was granted on May 18, 1976.

POSTSCRIPT

On September 29, 1995, Ben McLeod and Bob Bohanon (Both from Pan American) organized a 30th anniversary celebration in Washington DC. Personnel from ATA, ARINC, Bendix, Comsat, FAA, FCC, Hughes, NASA and or course Pan-AM were in attendance. We all were all thrilled that the aging Frank White was able to attend and were sad that other important contributors from Comsat, Collins Radio, and the US Coast Guard were unavailable or deceased.

INTELSAT VI and the COMSAT Technical Review—Jack Fisher

Comsat was created by the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 and led an interesting and tortuous life until 2000 when it merged with Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications (LMGT).  LMGT shut down operations in December 2001. COMSAT’s story is well told in David J. Whalen’s book “The Rise and Fall of COMSAT” published in 2014.

From 1971 through 1992 COMSAT published semiannually a technical journal that contains a number of articles concerning various Hughes satellites.  These journals are available online and can be accessed at http://www.comsatlegacy.com/CTR.html  From 1990 to 1992 COMSAT devoted five journals to a description of the Hughes INTELSAT VI satellite and it operations.  These are summarized below and can be found at the link indicated above.

COMSAT TECHNICAL REVIEW Volume 20 Number 2 Fall 1990

INTELSAT VI:  The Communications System (This issue is particularly interesting as it describes the INTELSAT procurement process and the evaluation of the Hughes and Lockheed INTELSAT VI proposals.

COMSAT TECHNICAL REVIEW VOLUME 21 Number 1 SPRING 1991

INTELSAT VI Spacecraft Bus Design

COMSAT TECHNICAL REVIEW Volume 21 Number 2, Fall 1991

INTELSAT VI: From Spacecraft to Satellite Operation

COMSAT TECHNICAL REVIEW Volume 22 Number 1, Spring 1992

INTELSAT VI: System and Applications

INTELSAT 603 Reboost

COMSAT TECHNICAL REVIEW Volume 22 Number 2, Fall 1992

SSTDMA in the INTELSAT VI System

 

Improved Syncom C Set for May Launch—Hughes News April 10, 1964

Syncom C, an improved version of Syncom 2 that has performed so spectactularly since last July 26, will be shipped from the El Segudno plant next week to the John F. Kennedy Space Center in preparation for launching into a synchronous orbit early in May.

Syncom C has been undergoing extensive tests for several weeks and at presstime all systems aboard the tine spacecraft were “go.”

Leaning heavily on experience gained from the success of the Syncom 2 spacecraft, personnel in Space Systems Division have incorporated several improvements into Syncom C, which will become Syncom 3 the moment it lifts off the pad at Cape Kennedy in May.

Probably the most significant improvement will be in the solar cells which help provide power for the spacecraft’s systems. On Syncom 2 the soar cells were the P on N type with a 6 mill glass cover, providing minimal protection against radiation.

In Syncom C, N on P type solar cells with a 12-mil fused silica quartz cover will be used, providing 10 times the resistance to radiation.

“This will assure in excess of three years of oribital operation before any restriction will be placed on full 24-hour day use of the satellite’s communication systems,” said R. M. “Dick Bentley, Syncom manager, Communications Satellite Laboratory.

The major threat to the solar cells , Mr. Bentley said is the Van Allen radiation belt, which extends on past the 22,300 mile orbit on the synchronous Syncoms. Solar cells on Syncom 2, for example have shown 24 per cent degradation from radiation. It now appears that it will continue to operate effectively until March 1965, though becoming somewhat marginal after September 1964.

A second major improvement involving solar cells in the new fabrication technique which provides a better solar panel structurally from the adhesive standpoint. Preston DuPont of Space Systems developed the technique, which with the support of Components and Materials Lab, which saved 1 pound of weight on the spacecraft, a significant reduction.

With Mr. DuPont’s technique all solar cells are applied to the panel simultaneously through a vacuum differential method, with only a thin layer of epoxy provided the adhesive. The technique has proved extremely successful in ground tests in the Space Environmental Laboratory, with no structural defects or loss of cells due to failure in the bonding.

Syncom is the first spacecraft in history to make use of a hydrogen peroxide control system for a period longer than two weeks.  Syncom 2 uses a combination of hydrogen and nitrogen systems and both have operated effectively, but the dual hydrogen peroxide in the Syncom C system will give increased satellite control capability.

Hydrogen peroxide, with a higher specific impulse, gives more energy per pound of fuel, resulting in 600 feet per second of control capability in the continual pulse mode of Syncom C. The nitrogen-hydrogen combination systems on Syncom 2 gave 350 feet per second capability.

“We’re completely confident, from our experience with the hydrogen peroxide system on Syncom 2, which has performed all types of space maneuvering, that we have a perfectly clean system not subject to corrosion associated with hydrogen peroxide and its containers,” Mr. Bentley said. “Though even a speck of contamination can adversely effect a hydrogen peroxide system, we feel that our procedures are adequate so that no corrosion will exist.”

The other major improvement to Syncom C involves changing one of the transponders from two 500 kc channels for two-way voice communication to dual mode capability.  By command from the ground, the transponder bandwidth can be switched from 10 megacycles for transmitting television to 50 kc for optimum relaying of messages from small terminals.

Syncom C, built in 1962, served as the backup spacecraft for the earlier Syncom launches and has been under the direction of Spacecraft Engineer Bill Penprase from the start of assembly.

“Bill has virtually lived with this spacecraft for two years being totally in charge,” Mr. Bentley said. “He deserves a great deal of credit for getting Syncom C rebuilt, including a new wiring harness, and supervising all the subsequent tests to keep us right on the launch schedule established by NASA.”

Mr. Penprase will continue his vigil over Syncom C right up until it is launched, being one of the last men on the pad before it is boosted into its orbit.

HAC Gets $31 Million Canada Satellite Pact—Hughes News October 2, 1970

For Domestic System

A $31 million contract between TELESAT, Canada and Hughes Aircraft Company was signed Wednesday morning in Ottawa. The System will be one of the first if not the world’s first domestic satellite communications system using satellites in synchronous orbit.

Under the terms of the contract, HAC will supply three spacecraft to implement the space component of TELESAT’s domestic satellite communications system.

First delivery is scheduled for October 1972, with the second and third to be delivered at four-month intervals. Present plans call for launching the first in late 1972 from Cape Kennedy, using a thrust-augmented Thor Delta as the launch vehicle. The start of the commercial operations is planned for early 1973.

Included in the agreement are provisions for performance incentive payments over the full life expectancy of the spacecraft and penalty clauses for late delivery.

Full scale commercial operations are slated to begin with the orbiting of the second satellite by mid-1973. An earth station network, initially of 30 to 40 stations, will range from the main heavy route stations near Victoria, B.C., and Toronto, Ont., to the much smaller stations for communities in Canada’s far north.

Allen Puckett, executive vice president and assistant general manager, signed the contract for Hughes Aircraft, while TELESAT’s President D. A. Golden and Jean Claude Delorme, vice president fo Administration and general counsel, signed for TELESAT.

With Dr. Puckett were HAC’s Albert D. Wheelon, vice president and Group executive of Space and Communications Group; Paul Visher, assistant Group executive; Harold A. Rosen, Satellite Systems Laboratory manager; and Lloyd Harrison, program manager for the Canadian satellites.

With TELESAT officials were representatives of the Northern Electric Company, Ltd., of Montreal, Quebec, and SPAR Aerospace Products, Ltd., of Malton, Ont. Agreements with these two major subcontractors were executed prior to the contract signing between TELESAT and Hughes.

Northern Electric will provide the complete electronics system and SPAR will provide the spacecraft structures and engineering support services.

HAC Bidding to Build U.S. Domestic Satellite System—Hughes News January 15, 1971

Primarily for Cable TV

The Federal Communications Commission is considering a Hughes Aircraft application for a nationwide domestic satellite system primarily for cable television operations.

As planned by the Space and Communications Group the system would have two 12-channel synchronous satellites above the equator, a large ground transmitting station at each end of the country, and from 100 to 500 small receiving stations. Cost would be between $50 million and $80 million.

Channels Leased

General Telephone already has leased eight channels on one satellite for seven years at $50 million. The channels would provide 10,000 telephone circuits. The firm plans a $27 million independent system, which could be operating two years after FCC approval of the Hughes proposal.

The drum-shaped satellites, 6 feet in diameter and weighing 1120 pounds, would have an estimated seven-year operational life in orbits 22,300 miles above the equator. The 5-foot diameter parabolic antennas would be trained on the 60-foot transmission antennas of the earth stations below. The earth stations would beam up television programs which the satellites would transmit to local stations, using 30 or 40-foot receiving antennas scattered over the U.S.

Third of Year

General Telephone would use its channels to relay facsimile, high speed data signals and TV signals in addition to telephone messages. Its earth stations would be at Triunfo Pass north of Los Angeles, in Florida, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.

The Hughes-General Telephone proposal is the third of its type filed this year with the FCC. Others have been filed by Western Union Corporation and the American Telephone and Telegraph acting jointly with Comsat Corporation.

Westar makes headlines—Hughes News November 3, 1978

….and the rest of the paper too

Newspaper transmissions through communications satellites is now an everyday transfer for the Wall Street Journal which uses the Hughes

Owned by Western Union the Westar domestic satellite system has two spacecraft in synchronous orbit 22,300 miles above the equator and a third satellite is being held by Western Union as a launch-ready spare.

The daily process begins at the Journal’s Palo Alto plant where the stories are written, the type is set, and the page layouts are created.

Next, the page is “read” by an optical scanner using high intensity light and converted into electronic impulses.

The impulses are beamed into space to a Westar satellite at the rate of 300,000 bits of information per second.

This is done to send the Journal to regional printing plants in Seattle, Riverside, and Denver, where editions are printed and distributed to subscribers in the Northwest, southern California, and Rocky Mountain areas, respectively.

The signals are received by giant, dish-shaped antennas 33 feet in diameter and, with the use of lasers and photo film, the signals and translated back into the original images of Journal pages.

It takes less than 10 minutes to then convert the page from film into metal for use on the printing press. It takes 3-1/2 minutes for each page to be sent and received.

The Journal’s first experience with satellite transmission was in the fall of 1973 when a facsimile of a Journal page was transmitted to an Intelsat IV, also a Hughes built satellite, above the Atlantic Ocean.

The return signal was captured on an adjacent receiver with the transmitted page reproduced in 6 minutes, 12 seconds.

SCG signs $54 million Anik pact—Hughes News April 21, 1978

To keep pace with Canadian communications demands in the 1980s, Telesat Canada has contracted with Space and Communications Group to build three new satellites under a $53.6 million agreement.

The three satellites will comprise the Anik C series. Anik is an Eskimo word meaning brother.

Once they are operational, the three spacecraft will handle a major portion of the countries long distance communication traffic within 1000 miles of the U.S border where most of Canada’s 23 million citizens live.

The first Anik C is scheduled for a 1981 launch from NASA’s space shuttle.

Once Anik becomes operational, it will be one of the world’s first satellites to provide telecommunications services in the super high frequency range of 12-14 billion cycles per second.

Use of these frequencies permits the antenna to remain about the size of antenna used on previous Anik satellites, yet to be capable of producing narrow beams necessary for the high-radiated power.

Because of these capabilities, Anik C will be able to use compact earth stations located in the middle of urban areas without causing interference to terrestrial systems using lower frequencies. The earth terminals will be small enough to be mounted on the roofs or in the parking lots of user offices.

Anik C features 18 communication channels supplying audio, video, and data communication services.

The use of polarization diversity on Anik C allows for a 100 percent increase in communications capacity over the first Anik, launched in1972.  Anik C will use a solar panel that will generate nearly three times the power of the first satellites

The new Aniks will join the HAC-built Anik A spacecraft satellite system. That system which became operational in early 1973, was the world’s first national commercial telecommunications network.

Anik satellites are operated by Telesat Canada, a firm owned jointly by the Canadian government and 13 Canadian telecommunications carriers.