Westar Drifting Into Orbit Above Equator; Tests Set—Hughes News April 26. 1974 Transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Up Two Days Ahead of Target

Westar, now drifting by small steps into permanent position 22,300 miles above the equator, was a giant leap for US. Domestic communications when launched from Cape Canaveral April 13.

Designed and built by Space and Communications Group for Western Union, Westar became the first synchronous-orbit domestic satellite for private U.S. industry.

Liftoff was delayed two days due to a leaking fuel valve in the Delta booster, yet the launch by NASA technicians went smoothly that Saturday night – still two days ahead of the first Western Union target date.

When finally positioned at 99 degrees west longitude, the satellite will undergo in-orbit tests for about 30 days.

“With Westar, Western Union is demonstrating the same pioneering spirit that provided the first transcontinental telegraph in the United States 113 years ago, and leads the way for the future of U.S. domestic communications,” said Vice President Albert D. Wheelon, S&CG executive, who attended the launch.

“Remarkable History”

“The short history of communications satellites has been remarkable,” he continued. “Syncom, built by Hughes and launched in 1963, was the first synchronous communications satellite. Since that time we have built four of the five generations of Intelsat satellites, and the Canadian Anik. The launching of Westar brings U.S. technology back to serve U.S. communications needs.”

Dr. Wheelon said the Westar and Anik satellites are forerunners of similar national satellite systems planned for Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Australia, and the Arab states.

Westar will serve government, business, and general public users by relaying voice, television, data communications, and private messages to the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

Western Union will provide around-the-clock service initially through New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and L.A.

Westar has 12 transponders for an average capacity of 6000 voice channels or 12 simultaneous color TV channels. It is 11 feet high and six feet in diameter and weighed 1265 pounds at liftoff.

Three Westars were purchased by Western Union under a $24.9 million contract signed in 1972. A second satellite is scheduled for a June launch, and a third will be held on the ground until traffic growth warrants its launch.

Hughes also supplies the satellite control earth station at Glenwood, NJ, and the services of a tracking station in Guam under a separate contract.

Other Hughesites attending the launch, in addition to Dr. Wheelon, were Vice President Bob Roney, assistant Group executive; Dick Brandes, Advanced Program Laboratory manager; Lloyd Harrison, program manager; Hal Smith, assistant program manager; Mike Houterman, Systems Engineering manager; and Henry DiCristina manager of Systems Test and Launch Operations.



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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 thought on “Westar Drifting Into Orbit Above Equator; Tests Set—Hughes News April 26. 1974 Transcribed by Faith MacPherson

  1. As Intelsat IV was being deployed and before Tony tied me into the SDS program in ’72, I spent a short time with the Western Union Folks at their Mahwah, NJ facility.
    We were working on the requirements and I don’t recall who went up there with me.
    While I don’t recall the details of any of those technical discussions, I do recall the Western Union folks taking out for dinner at the new Playboy club near their facility.
    This was a real venture into the commercial world for me at the time.

    I do recall there was an issue on how many of the Western Union folks would be allowed into the SSC facility during development. As I recall, this was the only contentious issue in the contract. The rest is history as this paper documents.
    The Western Union people, to their credit, put aside their bicycles for satellites and for that I always respected them.
    Best to all those who followed on with the contract and the operational deployment

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