An Historic Trip to China–Norm Weinhouse

Those people who are old enough might remember the diplomatic trip by President Nixon to China and the marvelous live TV coverage that came to the U. S. and to the world in 1972. President Nixon is generally credited with opening up China to the world.

The satellite earth station that was used in this event was provided by the Earth Station and Satellite Test Department of S&CG, led by the fearless leader Lou Greenbaum with assistants Al Koury and Joe Angeletti. I had the title of Station Manager for this mission. Legally and contractually the Chinese government was leasing the station from Western Union Co. (who was the “International Common Carrier of the day) and Hughes was subcontracted to provide the equipment, personnel, and training of the Chinese people to operate the station.

There were many memorable incidences during the trip, but to me the most memorable one happened before we went to China. There were 10 of us that were going and we were invited to the office of Dr. “Bud” Wheelon, Vice President of Hughes and head of S&CG. Dr. Wheelon was very cordial and said that “all 25,000 employees of Hughes Aircraft wished that they could go.” He also said, “We must remember that Hughes Aircraft is a major supplier to the United States Government. Now Mr. Nixon may or may not be a vindictive man, but the equipment better not fail.”

Now that was major pressure, especially when considering the equipment. It was what could be laughingly called a transportable station. I am not sure what the gross weight was, but it filled a C-130.

• The antenna was a 7 meter fiberglass reflector with a new feed system (not fully tested for overall performance).

• Two large steel truck bodies were used to house the gear that consisted of a pair of 10 kilowatt high power amplifiers of early 1960’s design, up/down converters and baseband equipment that was put (slapped) together for this mission, and a 60 channel bank of telephone equipment.

• Two monster diesel generators for power

Despite our anxiety the equipment performed flawlessly.

Our little group was treated like royalty. We attended the official diplomatic dinners; there were two vans and two sedans with drivers at our disposal, and two interpreters to help in communication with our Chinese counterparts


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About Jack Fisher

Jack was a systems engineer at Hughes from 1961 to 1992. He contributed to various programs including Surveyor, Pioneer Venus, Galileo, Intelsat VI and innumerable proposals. He was the manager of of the Spacecraft Systems Engineering Lab until his retirement. Upon retirement Jack taught systems engineering at a number of national and international venues.