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.
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.
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.
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