HAC to Build Solar Orbiter; OSO to Be Oh So Advanced—Hughes News January 15, 1971 Transcribed by Faith Macpherson

Three Spacecraft Scheduled Under $22 Million Pact

The Orbiting Solar Observatory satellites HAC will build for NASA under a recently awarded $22 million contract will carry the most advanced experiments every designed in an effort to provide a better understanding of solar phenomena and their effects on earth.

That was the statement of Vice President Albert Wheelon, Space and Communications Group executive, after NASA announced that Hughes had won the contract from several other top-notch aerospace firms that competed vigorously for the prize five-year program.

Under the current contract, S&CG will build three OSO satellites, with the first scheduled for launch in mid-1973. The program is a follow-on to the OSO effort launched by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 1959.

Sun Is Vital

The new class of satellites, however, will be far more sophisticated in design and capability and will carry more advanced experiments to meet NASA objectives for learning more about the sun, solar radiations, and their effects.

The sun is of paramount importance because it is the source of all the earth’s energy. Further understanding of the sun’s energy system could open up all kinds of scientific and practical possibilities.

One of the great scientific phenomena not yet understood is that the chromospheres, an irregular layer of gases extending outward from 3000 to 10,000 miles, varies in temperature from a minimum of 4500 degrees C to more than 20,000 degrees C in the outer limits.

The exact nature of this temperature change is fundamental to an understanding of the sun.

OSO will seek to explain how this heat transfer takes place by observing a comparatively tiny 10,000-mile portion or edge of the sun’s surface.

The difficulty of this task is considerable. The sun, 860,000 miles in diameter, when observed from earth has a visual angle of only one-half a degree. To accurately observe a 10,000 mile slice of the 860,000 miles will require a pointing accuracy of three arc seconds….20 times greater precision than provided by previous solar orbiters. This is comparable to pointing within an inch one mile away.

Other improvements to be included in the Hughes OSOs are: a satellite larger in size, weight, and power, with increased experiment data handling capacity.

The contract is of such consequence to Hughes that some of the experienced space program managers have been assigned to OSO.

Marriott in Charge

Ed Marriott, manager of NASA Applications Programs, has overall responsibility. Dick Bentley is the program manager, and Marv Mixon is the associate program manager.

Mr. Marriott headed the highly successful Applications Technology Program and Mr. Bentley was the program manager for Early Bird, the world’s first synchronous communications satellite, and had key roles in the development of its successors.

“This program represents a real technical challenge, the kind we like to get involved in here at Hughes,” Mr. Bentley said.

Mr. Mixon, with more than 17 years of experience in spacecraft and missile systems fields, was responsible for the OSO advanced program and proposal efforts since their inception almost a year ago.

“We’re very proud to win the OSO Program because it was a long, difficult effort during which scores of people here in Space and Communications made valuable contributions,” Mr. Mixon declared.

“During the peak effort on the initial proposal we had as many as 200 employees on the program. Then, following a lengthy oral presentation back at Goddard, we revised our proposal considerably to meet the customer’s new requirements.”

“Throughout this entire period there were five men who worked long and hard, doing an exceptionally fine job, both for the customer and the company.”

Names the Men

“John Bozajian was responsible for the vehicle design; Fred Hummel and Lynn Grasshoff had the attitude control system assignment, particularly difficult because of the pointing accuracy requirements; Chuck Agnew was responsible for the complex telemetry and command system, and Mal Meredith was the overall system engineer.”

“While the entire team obviously did an outstanding job, these men made particularly significant contributions.”


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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.