Clarke, Man Who Fulfilled Prophecy, Meet at HAC—Hughes News August 25, 1967

 Discussion Runs Gauntlet From Space to Ground Stations

The man who prophesized synchronous communications satellites visited Space Systems Division recently to meet the man most responsible for the invention of Hughes satellites.

The meeting, which brought together Arthur C. Clarke, British author-electronics engineer-astronomer, and inventor Harold A. Rosen, manager of Communication Satellites Systems, had several highlights:

• Mr. Clarke presented two pages from the Los Angeles Times dated Feb. 3, 1946, to Philip A. “Phil” Rubin, manager of Commercial Communication Satellite Earth Stations, Advance Program Development.  The pages announce the Briton’s historical prophecy of a triad satellite system.

• Mr. Clarke’s opinions on educational television satellite distribution systems were sought by Mr. Rubin, who has completed assignments in India and Ceylon as a United Nations technical expert and advisor on communications satellite systems.

• They discussed the forthcoming motion picture “2001: A Space Odyssey,” based on Clarke’s book by the same title and his October-December lecture tour in the United States.

• Mr. Rubin told of his work in Ceylon where Mr. Clarke resides and writes about many subjects, including skin-divers’ search for the fortune in pearls that exists in those waters, Ceylon’s rich natural resources, and precious gems and minerals in the mountains.

• The Hughesite also discussed his work in India as technical expert and advisor to the Indian government in the designing of the Earth station at Ahmedabad.  He returned to to India last month for the final acceptance tests of the station which has been under construction for the past several months.

The Times reported on its front page in 1946:  “…..the British scientist’s plan to solve long distance broadcasting problems by establishing manned radio relay stations that would forever circle the Earth like tiny moons…is receiving serious consideration…the scientist has won his spurs as a prophet by predicting we’d hit the man-in-the-moon with radar.”

Satellites Are Different

Actually the Hughes communication satellites are vastly different from those envisioned by Mr. Clarke, in the post war era when science started focusing on space as the next frontier.

He projected a manned system with supplies and manpower fed to the stations by rocket ships.

Mr. Clarke and Dr. Rosen hold high awards for advancement of worldwide communication.  Mr. Clarke’s Kalinga prize from UNESCO is for scientific writing.

Dr. Rosen holds the National Space Club’s 1963 top honor for scientific achievement and “…for pioneering efforts which led to an early concept of the synchronous communication satellite system…for conviction of the system’s feasibility, and for dedication and perseverance which eventually culminated in the birth of the Syncom project…”  In 1965 Dr. Rosen received the Golden Plate award from the American Academy of Achievement in Dallas, Tex.

Editor’s Note:  This article is most curious in that while it headlines a meeting between Clarke and Rosen it only mentions discussions between Clarke and Rubin.  No pictures of Clarke were shown with the article.  Clarke’s paper entitled “Extra-Terrestial Relays” in the October 1945 Wireless World was the first discussion of the utility of geosynchronous orbits.


“Probe” is an export; diamond duty saved—Hughes News January 6, 1979

The cost of HAC’s highly successful Pioneer Venus mission was reduced by $12,474 because of an agreement established 10 years ago between the U. S. Customs Service and Space and Communications Group.

The precedent-setting agreement classifies a spacecraft as an export. Once launched, satellite components were judged to be “severed from the possibility of trade within the United States” and therefore considered to be exports, according to Customs officials.

Since the U. S. Customs Service considers the Pioneer Venus mission spacecraft to be exports, the $12,474 duty paid on a 13.5 carat diamond window manufactured by D. Drukker and Sons in Holland was refunded to Hughes, which then credited the amount to NASA’s Pioneer Venus account.

The window is the size of two pennies stacked together and was installed on the largest of the four probes that landed on Venus last month.

A diamond was used for the window because it the only material that allows infrared wavelengths to penetrate the window’s surface and that can withstand the 920 degree F heat and pressure 100 times that on Earth.

Radiometers within the probe must be able to respond to those wavelengths to collect meaningful data on the atmosphere.

The request for the refund, known as a “drawback” in U. S. Customs Service terminology, was initiated by SCG’s Export/Import Operations and was granted by the Customs’ Los Angeles District Office.

CLEAR VIEW of Venusian atmosphere was possible on Pioneer Venus probe because of this diamond window the size of two pennies stacked together. Mal Meredith, NASA Systems Division associate manager, inspects the window during probe assembly in El Segundo last February.

CLEAR VIEW of Venusian atmosphere was possible on Pioneer Venus probe because of this diamond window the size of two pennies stacked together. Mal Meredith, NASA Systems Division associate manager, inspects the window during probe assembly in El Segundo last February.

Richardson Names Carlson, Roney, Visher to New Posts—Hughes News May 17, 1968

Appointments of Clare G. Carlson as Director of Operations for Aerospace Group and of Robert K. Roney to succeed him as manager of Space Systems Division have been announced by Senior Vice President and ASG Executive John H Richardson.

At the same time, Mr. Richardson announced the promotion of Paul S. Visher from assistant to associate manager of SSD.

Mr. Richardson in describing Mr. Carlson’s new assignment, said that he will “implement the operating systems and procedures essential to the effective conduct of Aerospace Group business in today’s competitive environment and under the rapidly changing requirements of Department of Defense procurement.”

Other Duties

In addition, Mr. Richardson said, Mr. Carlson will assess the effectiveness of the ASG organizational structure and recommend modifications designed to increase the Group’s ability to manage its business and meet growth and diversification objectives.

“Mr. Carlson will be responsible for Data Processing and Management Systems Operation, for integrating Group activities into our overall business management system, and for the implementation of Management Training activities within the Group,” Mr. Richardson said.

Dr. Roney takes over the top spot in Space Systems, where he had been associate manager for seven years, helping to direct the highly successful Surveyor, Syncom, Early Bird, and Intelsat II programs.

Mr. Carlson has been with Hughes 21 years, serving in a number of executive positions, including manager of the Advanced Armaments Laboratory and manager of the former Guidance and Control Division (now Data Systems) prior to his SSD assignment. He holds a B. S. degree in physics from the University of Alberta and a B. S. M. A. from Stanford.

Falcon Planner

Dr. Roney, a Hughesite since 1949, was a member of the pioneering team that developed the Falcon family of air-to-air missiles before assuming a leading role in HAC’s space efforts. He graduated from the University of Missouri and took his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Caltech.

Mr. Visher joined the company in 1956 and served as a senior project engineer on the GAR-11 program before accepting an appointment in Washington in the office of the Secretary of Defense and later served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Civilian Defense).

He has been with Space Systems since his return. Mr. Visher was graduated with highest honors as a Phi Beta Kappa from Indiana University, completed the M. I. T. electronics course, and received a law degree from Yale Law School. He practiced patent law before joining HAC.




Space & Communications Group Formed by HAC—Hughes News August 7, 1970

Wheelon Appointed to Executive Post: Roney and Visher Named as Assistants

A major new operating group, the Space and Communications Group, has been formed by Hughes Aircraft “to develop opportunities for new business and new services to the community,” announced Executive Vice President Allen Puckett.

He said the new group is headed by Albert Wheelon, formerly vice president Engineering, who now becomes vice president and Group Executive.

Assistant Group executives are Bob Roney and Paul Visher, formerly manager and associate manager of the Space Systems Division of the Aerospace Group.

“One of the most important practical applications of space technology has been in the field of communications, in which Hughes has been a pioneer and leader ,” Dr. Puckett said.

“Explosive Growth”

“The entire field of communications is in a period of explosive growth in which the use of broad-band satellite relays with the very broad band video signals provide access in every home. This creates exciting opportunities for new business and new service to the community. It is our intention to develop these new opportunities to the fullest.”

“As an example, only last week the Canadian cabinet authorized Telesat Canada Corporation to open negotiations for the award of a contract to Hughes to build three domestic satellites for Canada.”

Space and Communications Group will be headquartered in Space Systems Division’s Bldg. 366 at El Segundo. Initially, Dr. Puckett said, the Group is made up of the employees and facilities of SSD, with other organizational elements to be added when they are required.

Made Famous

SSD gained fame for the company by designing and building the successful Surveyor lunar landing vehicles for NASA: Early Bird, the world’s first commercial communications satellite and the Intelsat II series of communications satellites for the Comsat Corporation and the 76-nation Intelsat consortium; the Applications Technology Satellites for NASA and the TACSAT tactical communications satellite for the U. S. Air Force.

The company currently is building the Intelsat IV series of communications satellites, the first of which is scheduled for launch in 1971. Each will be capable of carrying simultaneously 6000 two-way telephone calls or 12 color television programs, or various combinations, across oceans from a 22,300 mile-high synchronous orbit, a concept pioneered by Hughes with the Syncom satellites in the early 1960s.

Careers Outlined

Dr. Wheelon joined HAC in 1966 after serving with the Central Intelligence Agency as deputy director of science and technology. He is a member of the Defense Science Board and is a consultant to the President’s Scientific Advisory Council and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He holds a B. S. in engineering from Stanford and a Ph.D. in physics from M. I. T. Last December he was named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Dr. Roney has been with HAC since 1949. He was on the team that developed the Falcon family of air-to-air missiles and has been in SSD since its inception in 1961, first serving as its associate manager. He was a member of the original team handling the Surveyor proposal and later helped direct that program as well as several other satellite programs. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri and received his masters and doctors degrees in electrical engineering from Caltech.

Mr. Visher joined HAC in 1956 as a development planner for guided missile programs and has been assistant and later associate manager of SSD since 1964. In 1961 he served for almost a year in Washington, DC, as assistant Secretary of Defense, managing national civil defense programs. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Indiana University and this L.L.B. from Yale Law School.


Space Communications: It All Started 20 Years Ago This Month SCG Journal July 1983

Friday morning, July 26, 1963: Another warm, muggy dawning in coastal Florida. Although it was cool inside Bldg AE at Cape Canaveral, perspiration—mental as well as physical—was evident. For a small band of Hughes engineers, technicians, and company brass gathered in the Delta mission director’s center to monitor the launch, now only minutes away, of the little Syncom II satellite, this Friday was a climax to four years of intensive effort—and more than occasional frustration.

Back in 1959, when Hughes first began looking for someone to sponsor Syncom, the idea of a small spin-stabilized satellite to relay communications from geosynchronous orbit was not exactly well received. The idea was to place a communications satellite in a path 22,300 miles high, where the vehicle would seem to hover above a selected spot on the surface of the Earth. In this geosynchronous orbit, the satellite would act as the “sky-high” terminus for the tallest radio tower ever conceived, able to broadcast continuously to one-third of the Earth’s surface within the blink of an eye. Dr. Harold Rosen and his colleagues Thomas Hudspeth, now chief scientist, Division 41, and Donald Williams, and others had produced a working prototype with company funding, but no one was biting.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done

Initially, the concept was nixed by every U. S. agency, as well as every commercial communications firm Hughes approached. The reaction was the same from European firms, even after Hudspeth demonstrated communications with Syncom from atop the Eiffel Tower during the 1961 Paris Air Show. “People doubted that a small satellite could work,” now SCG vice president Engineering, recalled recently. “Experts outside the company also questioned whether voice communications relayed from geosynchronous altitude would be any good.” However, Hughes finally convinced NASA that Syncom could work, and the company was awarded a $4 million contract to build three of the roughly two-feet high, two-and-a-half-feet-wide satellites.

Syncom Satellite Components.  Photograph provided by Curtis Shepard.

Syncom Satellite Components. Photograph provided by Curtis Shepard.

The Little Satellite That Couldn’t

Then, in February 1963, catastrophe struck. During the first Syncom’s apogee motor firing in space—the crucial burn to boost the craft into geosync orbit—the little satellite exploded. Small wonder, then, that six months later, “there was a fair amount of anxiety and anticipation associated with Syncom II’s launch,” said Clyde McGee, who was in charge of launch operations for Syncom, and who has overall responsibility for Division 43 mission operations.

Last minute crises just days before liftoff probably didn’t help lighten the general mood. “It was a rough week for all of us,” said Rosen. “NASA was worried whether Syncom would actually work and their reps kept throwing “What if….?” questions at us.” Gremlins popped up to plague the engineers: Electronics had to be modified while Syncom was perched on the 11-story rocket; the night before blastoff, the communications repeater mysteriously started oscillating; and during countdown, someone accidentally activated one of Syncom’s attitude control thrusters. The way events were developing, the Hughes team was on the lookout for positive omens. When the Bldg AE soft drink machine jammed open and began spewing out bottles of Coke, “I took it as a sign of good things to come,” Rosen deadpanned.

The Bird Flies

Perhaps it was such a sign. At 7:30 am on July 26, 1963, Thor Delta No. 20 rocketed the 85 pound Syncom II into space. Five and a half hours later, NASA telescope in South Africa recorded the historical moment when the pioneer achieved geosync orbit, the fiery plume from its apogee motor blazing out behnind.

Because the Thor Delta rocket and Syncom II’s apogee motor together couldn’t generate the thrust to boost the satellite into an equatorial orbit, Syncom II’s path was inclined to the equator. To an observer on Earth, Syncom II would seem to drift north and south along a straight line during a 24-hour period, but would always remain in sight. An attempt at a geostationary orbited satellite would come later, using a new, more powerful Thor Delta equipped with strap-on rockets.

Beyond the achievement of the hardware, the story of Syncom II is a story of people. At the program’s peak, 350 employees of the old Hughes Aerospace Group were involved. Today, nearly all of the key Syncom II personnel are still working at Hughes. Many are at SCG: Pres Du Pont, Meredith Eick, Tom Hudspeth, Joe Lotta, Clyde McGee, Murray Neufeld, Al Owens, Dick Parfitt, Bill Penprase, Laura Pesola, Bob Roney, Harold Rosen, Bob Scrafford, Paul Sengstock, John Swancara, Joe Vorndran to name a few.

Syncom pioneers gathered in 1973 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the little satellites successful orbiting--in front left to right Jean Fazel, Adele Pausmer, Harold Rosen, Tom Hudspeth, Bob Roney and Dick Bentley. Photo provided by Adele Pausmer.

Syncom pioneers gathered in 1973 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the little satellites successful orbiting–in front left to right Jean Fazel, Adele Pausmer, Harold Rosen, Tom Hudspeth, Bob Roney and Dick Bentley. Photo provided by Adele Pausmer.



Hughes Galaxy Licensed by FCC for DBS—SCG Journal January 1985 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

“Round two” of the regulatory bouts to establish DBS licensees ended at the Federal Communications Commission last month, and when the bell sounded, four more firms won permits for DBS space systems and two were asked to amend their filings.

Hughes Communications Galaxy was among the four firms granted DBS licenses by the FCC as it passed judgment on the second group of applications from companies seeking the right to establish TV direct broadcast satellite systems.

The permit authorizes Hughes Communications Galaxy to build a direct broadcast satellite system with 32 channels of television programming from a single orbital location. Two 16-channel satellites will be used, each one covering half of the continental Unites States (CONUS). HCG wants to position the system at 101 degrees west longitude.

The construction permit was granted in December, after which HCG submitted a construction contract for the two-satellite system with Space and Communications Group to show due diligence. Orbital slot and frequencies for the colocated spacecraft will be assigned after the FCC approves the due diligence showing.

In announcing the license, HCG President Steve Dorfman said, “Our unique approach to direct broadcast service provides a different approach to the technical and marketing questions faced by prior applicants. We will be able to offer an unprecedented diversity of programming at lower cost per channel by placing two 16-channel, medium power satellites in the same orbital slot. “

Hughes Communications Galaxy plans to operate its DBS system on a condominium basis, as it has successfully with cable TV distributors on Galaxy I. “The closest analogy would be to Galaxy I,” Dorfman told an industry newsletter in December. “The general plan is that we would not be a programmer. We would provide capacity to programmers. It wouldn’t necessarily be the cable TV people we have on Galaxy.”

Among the possible candidates to start a DBS service aboard a Hughes DBS system would be such current Galaxy transponder owners as Home Box Office and Showtime/The Movie Channel; both of which are important producers and suppliers of premium cable TV entertainment.

Bob Waldron, HCG senior vice president who’s managing Hughes Communications Galaxy’s new business efforts, said that the success of HCG’s DBS venture lies in program diversity. “We think the key is to give the customers a good selection of programming, so now we’re actively marketing the service with programmers to build a DBS ‘Galaxy Club’ similar to the group of distributors who transmit over the Galaxy I spacecraft,” he said.

Waldron said the target market for a Galaxy-type DBS service would be non-cabled areas or locations where geography interferes with good reception of over-the-air television transmission, or where the quality of cable systems is marginal.

The three organizations which were licensed with HCG were:

• Advanced Communications Corp., which plans two six-channel satellites at 101 degrees and 148 degrees west. ACC plans to program its satellites with entertainment and educational services, while leasing some transponders to other programmers.

• National Christian Network Inc., which applied for six half-CONUS channels each at 101 and 148 degrees to offer free-to-the viewer religious, cultural, educational, and other programming. The company plans to operate as both programmer and common carrier.

• Satellite Syndicated Systems Inc., which wants six half-CONUS channels each at 101 and 148 degrees west or alternatively at 110 and 157 degrees.

The construction permits give the holders license to build, launch, own and operate direct broadcast satellite systems to transmit television to residence-mounted antenna dishes approximately 1.5 meters or less in diameter. The quartet join the three “first round” firms sanctioned by the commission in July 1984: Comsat’s Satellite Television Corp. (STC), Dominion Video Satellite which has a contract with Hughes SCG, and Unites States Satellite Broadcasting.

The FCC gave two of the other second round filers – National Exchange Inc. and Satellite Development Trust – 45 days to amend their filings to address FCC concerns about relatively low power levels they proposed to use.

The FCC has opened a third round of DBS applications, setting Feb. 4, 1985, as the cutoff date – 45 days from the commission’s Dec. 20 public notice.

Ironically, the announcement of the new licensees came on the heels of the announcement of a casualty among the first-round DBS hopefuls. STC, the first company to file for a DBS license back in 1981 and viewed by many within the industry as the company with the best chance of making a go of its proposed venture, dropped out.

STC said that it was “redirecting” its approach to DBS, declared as a loss $24 million already spent on STC’s non-satellite assets; and said that it had terminated merger discussion with United Satellite Communications, the company which has been using the SCG-built Anik C3 for a medium power direct-to-home service in parts of the Midwest and northeastern United States. Earlier in 1984, joint venture talks between STC and CBS (itself a DBS dropout) also ended unsuccessfully.

In 1982, STC contracted with RCA Astro-Electronics for two high-power DBS satellites. Comsat has told the FCC that construction will be completed on the satellites, but how the company intends to use the vehicles is not clear.

STC is the latest in a series of first-round dropouts. Last summer CBS decided to bow out, citing costs and risks. Western Union singled out market uncertainties in conceding the business to the entertainment industry. And RCA Americom disclosed that it was discarding its high-power system plans and would refile for a medium powered system similar to the Hughes approach.

Despite the risks inherent in starting business in a new marketplace, SCG’s DBS satellite customers are moving forward with confidence. A Dominion Video spokesman said that the Naples, Fla. – based outfit intends to broadcast religious, family-oriented, educational, news and public affairs programming. It wants to lease its channels at cost to programmers and sell earth stations to viewers. With other companies supplying the programming, Dominion will be able to concentrate on building a base of earth station owners for the special DBS service. “We think we will be the first to put a large audience in place,” the spokesman said.

I can’t guarantee there will be a market-place for DBS but I think we have the best chance of succeeding,” Hughes Communications Galaxy President Steve Dorfman told Satellite Week. He said Hughes will be successful if it wins one-third of the noncabled market, said to be 15 to 20 million TV households, but “five million customers is more than enough to support DBS.” Programmers “have a lot of interest” in the opportunity to market satellite-delivered services directly to home viewers – “interest tempered with caution because [of the major investment necessary] to enter a new and relatively costly marketplace.”

HCG wants to orbit its birds in July 1989 and December 1989 – “thereby giving us time to do the planning necessary to get a successful DBS business going. If it looks good, we will consider accelerating.”

“It’s a question of timing,” SCG President Albert Wheelon explained. “Direct broadcast TV, like many other technical innovations and emerging services, is taking longer to evolve than its advocates had hoped, and perhaps less time than its detractors imagined. The technology is ready. It offers a highly efficient means of distributing TV over a wide geographical area. What is retarding the emergence of DBS is largely a business issue. When it becomes evident that DBS offers a service at a competitive price for a suitable-sized market, the business will take root. The financing which is now so elusive will be there. Then the merits of the concept will be judged where they should be – in the marketplace.”







Spin stabilization ‘simple, elegant, brilliant’—Hughes News June 28 1985 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Telecommunications capacities have changed dramatically from the one-channel circuit carried by Syncom in 1963 to the 33,000-circuit capacity of the new Intelsat VI series.

Yet, no matter how complex or how large Hughes satellite systems have become, the basic spin-stabilized design has remained the same.

Developed by Hughes engineers, the concept for spin stabilization broke a technological barrier, providing continuous communications on a global basis live via synchronous satellite.

“Spin-stabilization is a simple, elegant, brilliant system on which Hughes has built year after year,” said Lynn Grasshoff, associate manager of Space and Communications Group’s Systems Design Laboratory.

“The best solutions are always the simplest.”

Mr. Grasshoff has been working in attitude dynamics and orbital control of spin-stabilized satellites since joining the company in 1961, shortly after the development of Syncom.

“The system is so reliable and easy to implement that nothing has ever come close to it,” he continued. “Every aspect of it has been ideally realized, making Hughes the leader in spin-stabilized satellites for synchronous orbits.”

Thirty-nine of 41 spin-stabilized commercial satellites in synchronous orbit operating today were designed and built at SCG.

Early satellites of the late 1950s had a tendency to tumble uncontrollably, compounding an existing problem of positioning them in particular orientations to Earth.

Two basic methods were subsequently developed to hold spacecraft steady and pointing towards Earth: spin stabilization and three – or multi-axis stabilization.

Three – or multi-axis stabilization requires the use of flywheels and little rocket or gas jets to control the spacecraft through its roll, pitch, and yaw axes.

Twelve to 18 thrusters are required for orbit and attitude control of the three – or multi-axis spacecraft, which, during the first full-scale effort in 1958 to design a synchronous communications satellite, provide too complex to implement.

Meanwhile, work was progressing on an in-house study conducted at Hughes that featured a spinning control system in which all orbit attitude requirements were accomplished by two thrusters, or four for full redundancy.

“Spin-stabilization is the method that nature prefers, even assists,” said Mr. Grassfhoff. He explained that once spinning, the spacecraft has angular momentum like a gyroscope, and like a gyroscope, is reluctant to change its attitude and resists such change.

The orbit and attitude control system for synchronous satellites was developed by the late Don Williams. A patent was filed in his name for the idea in August 1964 with the U.S. Patent Office.

“The Williams patent is still used today for all of our spinners,” said Mr. Grasshoff. With the exception of Surveyor, all Hughes spacecraft are “spinners.”

The Hughes Leadership in the spin-stabilized market was later strengthened by the Iorillo patent, issued in 1969.

Anthony Iorillo, Group vice president and manager of SCG’s Defense Systems Division, showed the industry that gyroscopic dynamics do not restrict the size of despun platforms on which communications electronics are mounted.

Mr. Iorillo discovered that stabilization of a large despun platform was not only possible, but also practical, even with destabilizing elements on the spinning portion.

The Hughes system developed from this concept was called the Gyrostat, a motorized technique for dualspun spacecraft that uses a passive damper to dissipate energy and overcome all destabilizing forces, such as propellant sloshing and structural flexing.

By using the Gyrostat approach, a satellite can be virtually unlimited in platform size.

The concept was confirmed in February 1969 with the launch of Tacsat, a 1600-pound, two-story experimental communications satellite that ushered in the era of large, complex satellite systems.

“Tacsat also introduced a new technique for the damping of nutation, coning motion, by utilizing to advantage the natural dynamic coupling between the despin torque and the nutational motion of the spacecraft,” said Mr. Grasshoff.

“Those two patents, the Williams and the Iorillo, form the basis of spin-stabilized technology and are the reason that Hughes has advanced so far in the field.”






Pioneer Venus Photographs—Jack Fisher

Here are a few Pioneer Venus photographs that I have had in my files for more than a few years.

Pioneer Venus Orbiter Spacecraft

Pioneer Venus Orbiter Spacecraft

Pioneer Venus Orbiter Launch, May 20, 1978

Pioneer Venus Orbiter Launch, May 20, 1978

Pioneer Venus Orbiter Launch TeamPioneer Venus Orbiter Launch Team

The Orbiter team depicted here consists of both Hughes and NASA personnel.  I can only identify a few members of this group.

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Spacecraft

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Spacecraft

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Launch, August 8, 1978

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Launch, August 8, 1978

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Launch Team

Pioneer Venus Multiprobe Launch Team

The Multiprobe team depicted here consists of both Hughes and NASA personnel.  I can only identify a few members of this group.

Steve Dorfman dug this photo of the Pioneer Venus team out of his files. It was taken in early 1979 and the occasion was a lunch at the Marina City Club for the team celebrating the Nelson P. Jackson Award at the annual Goddard Memorial Dinner. Steve is holding the plaque. PVPicture

Here’s the team roster:

First Row left to right : Lee Hennis, Dick Jones, Bill Stahura, Bob Morris, Harvey Palmer, Lance Mohler, Tony Lauletta, Mike Chekel, Dick Switz

Second Row left to right: Irwin Baker, Ted Savo, John Bozajian, Jim Mercier, Bill Dawson, Steve Dorfman, Jack Fisher, Joe Vorndran, Tel Oswald, Leo Nolte, Bob Gittelson

Third Row left to right: unknown, Arnie Neil, Fred Barker, Henry DiCristina, Mal Meredith, Andy Ott, Don Pedretti

Fourth Row LTR: Phil Klein, Hap L’Heureux, Mark Frisman, unknown, Ray Sisson



The Intelsat VI Proposal—Dick Brandes

My recollection is that Jerry Dutcher was the proposal manager, or maybe the technical proposal manager. Steve Pilcher was heavily involved, as was Bill Pomeranz who ran the cost proposal. Cost was the principal driver, including Shuttle launch cost. That factor favored the Hughes spinner design which occupied a shorter bay length than a 3-axis design. The Intelsat technical team wanted Ford to win, so they gave short shrift to this advantage. They determined Ford to have the better technical design, based on two or three relatively minor technical points, e.g. Hughes proposed NiH2 batteries based on Air Force funded developments rather than Comsat lab technology.

On the cost side, Hughes had the better price. When Intelsat requested the bidders to resubmit pricing, Hughes management objected. Wheelon had extracted a promise from the Intelsat Director-General that the competition would not be a repeat of the Intelsat V auction where numerous rebids occurred until then manager, Comsat, got the result they wanted; i.e. Ford. In a rather dramatic meeting in Washington between the DG and Wheelon accompanied by Hughes General Counsel Dick Alden, he made clear that Hughes would take legal action if rebids were solicited. The DG backed off, but required Hughes to make all changes required by the technical staff. The resulting changes added significant cost, most of which Hughes had to eat to avoid exceeding Ford’s price.

Hughes had made an aggressive bid, counting on future orders to make the product line profitable. No such orders materialized. Whether that was due to lingering hostility from Intelsat, or because they decided to add capacity with smaller satellites, e.g. Intelsat V size, as they professed, I don’t know. We do know that the losses on Intelsat VI were enormous, exceeding our worst predictions.

The following comment was added by Steve Dorfman

Sometime later as head of Hughes Communications I met with Goldstien, Intelsat DG, in Washington who had the audacity to chastise me for Hughes becoming a service provider potentially competing with Intelsat. I respectfully pointed out to him that Hughes had lost significant money in Intelsat VI, which he knew, and had made significant money as a service provider using its own satellites and that we planned to continue on that path while still competing in the manufacturing side of the business. Hughes never won another contract from Intelsat though we tried.

There is no question in my mind that the Comsat/Intelsat bureaucracies enjoyed working the satellite manufacturers off against each other and the international intrigue that accompanied the competitions. Unfortunately they got away with it though at least one Intelsat executive went to jail.

Ironically Intelsat eventfully went public, Hughes Communications merged with PanAmSat and both companies were merged into Intelsat. A significant amount of profit was extracted by hedge funds in a number of transactions involving Intelsat which is now the biggest global satellite company along with SES. Both Intelsat and SES got their start using Hughes technology.


SCG Selected for Intelsat VI Contract Negotiations—SCG Journal February 1982 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Decision Made at Washington, D.C. Meeting

It’s official. On Friday, February 12, the board of governors of the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT) authorized the director general to negotiate a contract for the Intelsat VI series of communications spacecraft with Hughes Space and Communications Group.

Dr. Albert Wheelon, SCG president, and other Group executives left Monday for Washington D.C., to meet with INTELSAT’s director general, Santiago Astrain. Negotiations began on Tuesday.

Astrain said that the choice of Hughes was the result of a balanced assessment of the total submission from the bidders, including financial, contractual, and technical proposals for the satellites.

“Intelsat VI is the largest and most expensive commercial communications satellite program ever planned,” said Dick Brandes, manager of SCG’s Commercial Systems Division. But, he pointed out, I-VI is comparable in size to programs SCG has managed for the U.S. Government. INTELSAT’s initial request is for five “hybrid” (C and K band) spacecraft, with options for three more. However, anticipated follow-ons could raise the final number of Intelsat VI satellites to as many as 16.

According to INTELSAT, total value of the satellites could amount to more than $1 billion. The Intelsat VI series of satellites will be capable of relaying the equivalent of more than 30,000 telephone calls and several TV programs simultaneously, according to INTELSAT. This compares with the 12,000 telephone calls and TV capacity of Intelsat V, currently the world’s largest commercial communications satellite.

Intelsat VI is an unusually large satellite. It is 12 feet in diameter. In its on-orbit configuration, the satellite will stand nearly 40 feet tall – almost twice the deployed height of an HS 376 satellite. Its communications payload has 50 channels, compared to 24 channels for most HS 376 models.

Brandes noted that the Hughes design for Intelsat VI borrows heavily from two satellites now in production at SCG – the HS 376 “extended power spinner, “and widebody “shuttle-optimized” spacecraft like LEASAT. Intelsat VI will use high-energy nickel hydrogen (NiH2) batteries developed for SCG widebody satellite programs. And it borrows the telescoping solar panel idea and much of the interior configuration from the HS 376.

Solar cells on Intelsat VI’s 25-foot-tall solar drums will generate over 2,200 watts of power. In comparison, the widebody LEASAT will produce 1,238 watts, and HS 376 spacecraft generate around 900 watts. Intelsat VI’s advanced antenna farm will provide a variety of radio wave transmission coverages – beams transmitting to entire hemispheres, “global” beams, focused regional beams, and very narrow spot beams for broadcasting high-speed data.

Hughes will be supported in its Intelsat VI manufacturing effort by an international team of aerospace companies. Nippon Electric Company (Japan), Spar Aerospace, COMDEV (both of Canada), and Thomson-CSF (France) will build communications payload components. British Aerospace (England), MBB, AEG Telefunken (both of Germany), and Selenia (Italy) will manufacture various bus subsystems. British Aerospace will also supply the spacecraft carrier and cradle for I-VI space shuttle launches.

INTELSAT and Hughes: 17 Years of Working Together

 INTELSAT’s selection of Hughes continues a long and cordial working relationship that began in 1965 with the launch of the Hughes-built Early Bird satellite. Since that time, Hughes has provided the international communications entity with its own increasingly capable and sophisticated spacecraft.

Intelsat II’s were twice as large and had twice the power of Early Bird. Four were launched in 1967, operated successfully during their three year design lives, and then retired. Seven Intelsat IV’s and five Intelsat IVA’s, all built by SCG, now form the backbone of the INTELSAT system. This run of Hughes-built INTELSAT spacecraft has been interrupted twice – by the procurement of Intelsat III’s from TRW, and the Intelsat V contract with Ford.

Ford was the only other bidder for Intelsat VI – possibly because, as SCG President Albert Wheelon noted in last year’s “State of the Group” message, “Most aerospace companies seem to find a billion dollar, firm fixed price program too challenging for their financial peace of mind.”

INTELSAT said that negotiations are being undertaken with Hughes with “the view of reaching mutually agreed contractual arrangements.” If, however, this proves impossible, negotiations will be opened with Ford, according to INTELSAT.

Present plans indicate a negotiated and signed Intelsat VI contract by the end of March. The first spacecraft will be delivered 44 months after program go-ahead. First launch of Intelsat VI Is scheduled for 1986.

Present plans indicate a negotiated and signed Intelsat VI contract by the end of March. The first spacecraft will be delivered 44 months after program go-ahead. First launch of Intelsat VI Is scheduled for 1986.