Note: This material was extracted from NASA Technical Report TR R-252, Syncom Engineering Report Volume II with some minor editing.

The coincidence of the availability over the Pacific Hemisphere of Syncom III, with its ability to relay television signals, and the Olympic Games in Japan presented an attractive opportunity to bring the attention of the world to the revolution in communication being wrought by synchronous satellites. The televising of the Olympics live from Japan to the United States had been under consideration both in Japan and the United States since NASA’s decision to locate Syncom III over the Pacific. Much informal investigation and discussion had been carried on among interested agencies.

Near mid-1964, the Space Council reviewed a proposed program for live TV coverage of the Olympics and found it to be in the national interest. The Council suggested the Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat) as the appropriate U. S. agency to coordinate the program and endorsed the utilization of various U. S. government facilities for the program.

Comsat set about organizing the program as a non-profit endeavor and obtained funding from interested sponsors. Among those expressing interest were the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the European Broadcasting Union. The latter company, which distributes program material to the whole of Europe (Eurovision),found that it could bring the events to its audience at a much earlier time (the same day as their occurrence and at prime viewing time)by combining transmission via Syncom III and microwave link from Tokyo to Montreal, Canada, with fast jet aircraft transport from Montreal to Europe. These organizations arranged with Comsat to purchase transmission time for Olympic program material.

The entire program arranged by Comsat is outlined in Comsat’s filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The report that follows describes the transmissions that took place, the transmitting and receiving equipment used in the program, and lastly, provides a few photographs illustrative of the program material transmitted and a tabulation of receiving, antenna pointing angles attesting to the stationarity of Syncom III’s orbit.


Between 17 September and 24 October, a daily period of three to four hours was devoted to the transmission of video material from the Radio Research Laboratory at Kashima, Japan, via Syncom III to Point Mugu, California. The total number of separate scheduled transmission attempts was approximately 48.  All were successful except the one attempted on 25 September, which was terminated by a typhoon in Japan (that forced stowing of the antennas to prevent damage to them). From 17 September through 9 October, the transmissions consisted primarily of four-hour periods of test patterns and still picture material for station adjustments.

During the period 10 October through 24 October, approx-imately three hours of Olympic Games video program material (from video tape) was transmitted daily from Kashima to Point Mugu. (Voice was transmitted via cable and voice and sound were synchronized by addition of time delay to the voice circuits.) Some material, including the opening day ceremonies in Tokyo, were shown (via microwave relay link) in real time in the eastern United States, Figure VI-1 shows the routing of signals in their passage about the world.Olympic Signal Routing        The quality of the video received on all transmissions to Point Mugu was outstanding as judged by technical and subjective measurement standards.  On most viewers’ sets it was not distinguishable in quality from most other program material, though it was reprocessed many times after its initial receipt at Point Mugu with the normal degradations attendant on such processing steps.

The schedule required by the European Broadcasting Union to provide effective exploitation of Syncom-relayed material was governed by the relative geographic position of Europe and Japan and by the time required for editing the material and transporting it to Europe. These factors, along with the restraints imposed by other users of the satellite, dictated a time of transmission of the material through the satellite which coincided with the eclipse time of Syncom III. It was necessary to interrupt transmissions during the eclipse period to allow the satellite to be turned off. No deteriorating effects of the shadow transit on the relayed video were observed.

The time of day did not affect the quality of the video or the noise levels of the receiving system. The test periods were used for acquisition of the satellite (primarily at the transmitting end where pointing tests were conducted with both the receiving and transmit- ting antennas to obtain optimum illumination of Syncom by the transmitter) and for adjusting the modulation parameters. Signal-to-noise         and carrier-to-noise measurements were made during each test period.

The schedule was adhered to 100 percent of the time, except for five minutes of program material and ten minutes of test time lost on 14 October due to a failure in the transmitter. All transmitted video material was judged acceptable by the exhibiting agencies. This performance attests to the dependability of communication by synchronous-orbit satellites.

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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.


  1. I was fortunate to be there when the first signal was received and observed. It was dark and the large Pt Mugu dish painted white was illuminated by floodlights. We all watched the monitor as the first transmissions of the Olympics appeared. A half century later, real-time worldwide TV is just a ho-hum event.

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