‘Public Satellite No. 1’
Launch of the Early Bird communications satellite – an event described as “the beginning of a new, exciting era in worldwide communications with staggering impact on our future” – can take place at Cape Kennedy in early April – the bird being available for its first flight.
This was announced Tuesday by HAC, which designed and built the commercial “public satellite No. 1” for the Communications Satellite Corporation, agent for a world consortium of more than 40 nations.
When it is launched into a synchronous stationary orbit and is successfully operating over the Atlantic, Early Bird will provide 240 two-way telephone channels 24 hours a day between Europe and North America, linking 85 per cent of the world’s telephones, Richard M. Bentley, Early Bird project manager, told the group of reporters from Europe and the United States.
He said that a functioning Early Bird will mean that, for the first time, the average man in the street from many nations on two continents will be able to participate actively in the space age, rather than being a mere observer, by placing business or social calls via the satellite.
Not only will Early Bird handle phone traffic, but it will link Europe and America with two-way television broadcasts, he added. The spacecraft also will carry teletype and photo facsimiles.
“In the future, satellite communications will encircle the earth,” he said. “Cities, remote areas, ships at sea, aircraft flying anywhere over the globe – all will be in instant touch with one another. Information such as business data, weather reports, stock market quotations, educational television, world news, transportation schedules, government reports, and contents of libraries will be available anywhere without delay.
“The technology to accomplish this is here now!”
After its orbit launch, Early Bird will undergo a period of experimental testing of its telephone, television, teletype, and facsimile capabilities before Comsat puts it to public use as the first commercial satellite of any kind.
At that time, he predicted, “the people of Europe, Canada, and the United States will experience a new awareness that the world is rapidly becoming a single community.”
He added that it is likely that two-way television programs will be broadcast through Early Bird to commemorate “this historic beginning of commercial operation.”
Mr. Bentley described the launch plan to place the 80-pound Early Bird into a near-stationary orbit 22,300 miles high over the Atlantic as similar to the launch last August that put the NASA-Hughes Syncom 3 spacecraft over the Pacific at the intersection of the equator and the International Dateline, from where it carried “live” TV coverage of the Olympic Games.
(Syncom 2 and Syncom 3 are still operating successfully over the Indian and Pacific Oceans.)
Early Bird’s intricate space maneuvers – from Cape Kennedy launch pad aboard a Thrust-Augmented Delta (TAD) to final orbit position over the mid-Atlantic – will take about 39 hours, he said. At the fourth apogee, its solid propellant motor will be commanded to fire and the satellite will be “kicked” into a circular near-synchronous orbit.
Then corrective maneuvers using hydrogen peroxide control jets will bring the spacecraft to the desired 27.5 degree West longitude position and reorient its attitude to point its antenna to illuminate the eastern part of North America and Western Europe.
“Primary advantages of this stationary satellite will be apparent when the earth terminals at Andover, Maine, U.S.A.; Pleusse Bedou, France; Goonhilly Downs, England; Raisting, Germany, Fucino, Italy; and Mill Village, Nova Scotia, begin their commercial operations with Early Bird by training their large antennas on the spacecraft without need for complex tracking,” he said.
Reviewing the company’s experience in satellite technology with its Syncom series, Fred P. Adler, vice president and manager of Space Systems Division, said that Hughes has built several small highly transportable ground terminals, with antennas only 15 feet in diameter, which have been used to provide communications between Saigon and the United States via Syncom 2 and 3.
“Another far-reaching experiment has been a two-way teletype transmission from the Camp Roberts, Calif., terminal to a Pan American aircraft flying over the Pacific,” he said. “This was the first transmission of information via a satellite to and from a commercial aircraft and marks the beginning of a new era in long-distance aircraft communications.
Sets Longest Link
“Another recent achievement is a double-hop link using Sycoms 2 and 3 by the U.S. Army Satellite Communications Agency (SATCOM) between Fort Monmouth, N.J., and Asmara, Ethiopia. The voice link was piped by land line from New Jersey to the antenna station at Pt. Mugu, Calif., then beamed to Syncom 3 above the International Dateline. The signal was then relayed to a portable ground terminal at Saigon and piped from an adjacent antenna up to Syncom 2 over the Indian Ocean and back to Asmara. It is the longest voice link using synchronous satellites ever established.”
Dr. Adler termed the forthcoming Early Bird launch as “only the first step in deploying a global commercial system, using simple ground stations, providing for low-cost communications through the International Consortium formed by the Communications Satellite Corporation.