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.

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.

Elliot Axelband

Elliot’s obituary was published in the LA Times on May 24, 2017 and is reprinted here.

Elliot Axelband died suddenly on May 14, 2017 two weeks shy of his 80th birthday. He was born in Brooklyn New York in 1937. He attended Erasmus High School and earned a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1958 from Cooper Union on full scholarship. He then moved to Los Angeles to begin a long career with Hughes Aircraft Company. While working full time, he earned an MS in Electrical Engineering from USC, and a PhD in Control Theory from UCLA. His academic focus was helping to develop what is now known as Classical Control Theory.

Early in his career at Hughes Aircraft, he worked on communications satellites and on the motion control of the Surveyor which was the first craft to soft land on the moon. This paved the way for the Apollo program. He was a fellow in numerous professional societies, published over 50 scientific papers, was President of the IEEE Controls Society in 1977 and a recipient of the Air Force Meritorious Civilian Service Award. He worked at Hughes for 35 years ending his career there as a Vice President and General Manager. In his “retirement” he was, among many other things, Associate Dean of Engineering and Professor at USC, a senior researched at RAND Corporation and Director and part owner of Legacy Engineering.

Elliot is surviced by Barbara Axelband, his wife of over 40 years, his children, Erica Small (David), Allen Axelband and Debra Smotherman (Bob) and six grandchildren. He was a long time member of Temple Akiba in Culver City. He loved gourmet food, sailing, golf, vacations in Mammoth Lakes, Lakers Basketball and UCLA and USC athletics. In his later years he especially loved to watch the antics of his grandchildren.

He will be greatly missed.

SURVEYOR IN THE NATIONAL AIR & SPACE MUSEUM —Jack Fisher

The following material, text and photographs, was received in an e-mail from the Smithsonian on March 20, 2017 and is reprinted here with permission of the NASM.

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

 WHAT’S UP IN APRIL

Hello! How Have You Been Doing Up Here on the Moon?

On April 17, 1967, the Surveyor 3 spacecraft was launched toward the Moon. It was one of five Surveyor landers that touched down on the Moon. The Surveyor program confirmed that the lunar surface could support a spacecraft and that astronauts would be able to walk on the Moon. In 1969, during the Apollo 12 mission, astronauts Charles Conrad Jr. and Alan Bean landed near enough to Surveyor 3 to visit it and remove its television camera, surface sampler, and some tubing, which they brought back to Earth for analysis.

          The artifact in the collection is an engineering model, S-10, used for thermal control tests. It was reconfigured to represent a flight model of Surveyor 3 or later, since it was the first to have a scoop and claw surface sampler. After receipt in 1968 it was displayed in Smithsonian’s Arts & Industries Building and then was moved to its present location in Gallery 112, Lunar Exploration Vehicles, in 1976.

The Surveyor series was designed to carry out soft landings on the Moon and provide data about its surface and possible atmosphere. These were the firs U. S. probes to soft-land on the moon. Once landed they provided detailed pictures of the surface by means of a TV camera carried on each of the spacecraft. Later Surveyors carried the instrumented soil mechanics surface scoop seen on the artifact. These were used to study the mechanical properties of the lunar soil. Some of the spacecraft were also equipped to perform simple chemical analyses on lunar soil by means of alpha particle scattering. There were seven Surveyor launches starting in May, 1966, all launched by the Atlas Centaur rocket. All but two successfully achieved program goals returning over 88,000 high resolution photographs and invaluable detailed data on the nature and strength of the lunar surface.

Surveyor (1966-1968)

The Surveyor probes were the first U. S. spacecraft to land safely on the moon. The main objectives of the Surveyors were to obtain close-up images of the lunar surface and to determine if the terrain was safe for manned landings. Each Surveyor was equipped wotj a television camera. In addition, Surveyors 3 and 7 each carried a soil mechanics surface sampler scoop which dug trenches and was used for soil mechanics tests and Surveyors 5, 6, and 7 had magnets attached to the footpads and an alpha scattering instrument for chemical analysis of the lunar material. The following Surveyor missions took place.

Surveyor 1

Launched 30 May 1966

Landed 02 June 1966, 06:17:37 UT

Latitude 2.45 S, Longitude 316.79 E – Flamsteed P

Surveyor 2

Launched 20 September 1966

Crashed on Moon 22 September 1966

Vernier engine failed to ignite-southeast of Copernicus

Surveyor 3

Launched 17 April 1967

Landed 20 April 1967, 00:04:53 UT

Latitude 2.94 S, Longitude 336.66 E – Oceanus Procellarum

Surveyor 4

Launched 14 July 1967

Radio contact lost 17 July 1967

2.5 minutes from touchdown – Sinus Medii

Surveyor 5

Launched 08 September 1967

Landed 11 September 1967, 00:46:44 UT

Latitude 1.41 N, Longitude 23.18 E – Mare Tranquillitatus

Surveyor 6

Launched 07 November 1967

Landed 10 November 1968, 01:01:06 UT

Latitude 0.46 N, Longitude 358.63 E – Sinus Medii

Surveyor 7

Launched 07 January 1968

Landed 10 January 1968, 01:05:36 UT

Latitude 41.01 S, Longitude 348.59 E – Tycho North Rim

 

 

 

 

The Last Post—Jack Fisher

This coming March 16 will mark the end of the fifth and last year of my Hughes SCG space history project with the closure of this website. I am going to step down from operating the website for personal reasons. We have documented many aspects of Hughes space achievements that might not have been otherwise recorded. Despite the more that 30 years spent at Hughes I have learned more about the company achievements in the last five years than I could imagine. There is much more that could be written and I am hopeful that someone will step forward to take over the website–I would be willing to provide support to such an effort.

There are many people that should be thanked for their efforts in supporting our website: these include Steve Dorfman who supported the startup and provided a number of insightful contributions; our most prolific authors included Dick Johnson, Andy Ott, Boris Subbotin, Will Turk, and Dick Brandes; Faith MacPherson transcribed numerable articles from Hughes News and SCG Journal; Su Kim Chung at the University of Nevada Las Vegas library who supported my visits to the Hughes archives and Susan Smylie, technical consultant.

Our website is hosted by SiteGround (see SiteGround.com) and over our five years of operation I have had no serious issues and have been able to solve any minor problems with brief online chats. The website software used is WordPress (see WordPress.org) to structure the inputs. There is no charge for WordPress and it updated by SiteGround whenever a update is available. Individual posts created in MS Word can be directly input to WordPress.

It was my initial goal to find an author willing to write about our space activities using the information posted on our website. Despite a number of contacts I have not been successful and recent discussions have centered upon writing with our own resources a self-published book. I am very willing to support any effort along these lines.

I am including in this post an updated launch log for Hughes spacecraft. This log of all unclassified launches was first posted on March 10, 2016 and now includes the two additional HS-376 launches conducted by Boeing in 2002/3 that would be required to complete a history of that satellite platform.