Simplicity of Design to Make Launching Of First Syncom Possible by Late 1962—Hughes News October 27, 1961 transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Additional Details Disclosed

First launching of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration-Hughes synchronous communications satellite will be possible late in 1962 because of the simplicity of its design and its light weight, Project Manager C. Gordon Murphy, associate manger of the Space Systems Division, said in disclosing details of the spacecraft.

Under Project Syncom, Hughes will build three experimental high altitude communications satellites for NASA, Mr. Murphy said.

Hughes scientists have designed a small satellite which is stabilized by spinning, like a gyroscope, and which transmits a signal beam in the shape of a pancake with the “edge” toward the earth.

“This design did away with the need for complex controls and large size,” Mr. Murphy said. “Syncom will be only 28 inches in diameter, weigh 55 pounds and can be boosted to a 22,300-mile orbit by the Delta rocket of proved reliability. Yet, the satellite will be fully capable of relaying telephone conversations to Europe across thousands of miles of space.”

First of Its Type

Syncom will be the first spacecraft to be placed in a synchronous orbit, one in which a satellite’s orbital velocity is matched by the earth’s rotation so that it appears to hover over a given area, according to the project manager.

Maneuvering Syncom into a synchronous orbit and the correct longitude probably will require several days, according to Mr. Murphy. He listed the following sequence of events:

After burnout of the second stage of the Delta, the satellite will be spun up to approximately 1- ½ revolutions per second. After burnout of the third stage, Syncom will be at 160 miles altitude and at the perigee of an elliptical orbit. About 5-1/2 hours later the satellite will have “coasted” to the 22,300-mile apogee of tis orbit and will be over the Indian Ocean.

Further Details

An apogee rocket motor attached to the satellite will then be fired to place it in to circular and nearly synchronous orbit. It will then drift westward to a longitude near the eastern United States. A number of small vernier rockets will then be fired to bring it to approximate synchronism with the earth’s rotation. Final precise adjustments in velocity and in the spacecraft’s attitude in space will be made by pulsing small nitrogen gas jets.

Mr. Murphy said communication experiments with the satellites will be performed by the U.S. Army’s Advent Management Agency, using Project Advent facilities, in cooperation with NASA.

The design objective of Syncom is to have an operational lifetime of one year. The project is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

A model of Syncom was on display in the Hughes exhibit at the American Rocket Society Space Flight Report to the Nation in New York Oct 9-15.


NASA PRESS RELEASE NO; 74-34                                                FOR RELEASE

                                                                                                             February 1, 1974

                                                                                                             3:00 pm

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected Hughes Aircraft Company, El Segundo, Calif., for negotiation leading to award of a contract for continuing design of a Pioneer Venus spacecraft system.

This selection follows the completion of competitively awarded system definition studies by Hughes and TRW Systems Group, Redondo Beach, Calif.

The proposed cost of the conceptual design work is approximately $3 million. The resulting contract will contain an option for further work including final design as well as development, fabrication, and testing of two flight spacecraft and launch support. The proposed cost of the optional effort is approximately $55 million. The contract will be a CPAF (cost-plus-award-fee) type.

The Pioneer Venus flights planned for 1978 will employ both spacecraft. One will orbit Venus in a highly elliptical trajectory, transmitting data for a full Venus year of approximately eight months. The second will explore the characteristics of the atmosphere of Venus down to the surface of the planet by ejecting one large and three small probes prior to Venus atmospheric entry by the spacecraft. These probes will transmit data to Earth during their hour-long descent through the hot dense atmosphere.

Pioneer Venus is anticipated to be one of the most scientifically rewarding programs ever proposed by the Office of Space Science. The atmosphere of Venus, will be probed, not only to increase our knowledge of Venus, but as a planetary laboratory in which some of the factors that determine Earth’s complex environment can be isolated and examined.

Project management of the Pioneer Venus missions has been assigned to the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., under the overall direction of the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters.

The Surveyor Mockup—Jack Fisher


On July 9, 1960 Hughes was awarded a study contract for the design of a lunar soft landing spacecraft known as Surveyor. The contract, one of four awarded, called for the submission of a proposal for the program on December 15. As part of this effort Hughes designed and built a mockup of the spacecraft. Little is known about this effort. Bob Roney recalls that the mockup was built in Building 5 under the direction of Leo Stoolman and that it was very helpful in the development of the spacecraft configuration. It can be noted that the mockup configuration is quite similar to the final spacecraft design. Presumably pictures of the mockup were included in the Hughes proposal to illustrate the Hughes design approach.

After the award of the Surveyor contract to Hughes in January 1961 a number of pictures of the mockup were published in the Hughes News. A feature article describing the Surveyor spacecraft and mission illustrated with the two photos below also appeared in Aviation Week and Space Technology.

Leo Stoolman, Hughes Project Manager, with Surveyor Mockup  Photo courtesy of Caltech

Leo Stoolman, Hughes Project Manager, with Surveyor Mockup Photo courtesy of Caltech

Leo Stoolman and Gene Giberson, JPL Project Manager, with Surveyor Mockup  Photo courtesy of Caltech

Leo Stoolman and Gene Giberson, JPL Project Manager, with Surveyor Mockup Photo courtesy of Caltech

Hundreds Are Involved in Westar Story—Hughes News April 26, 1974 Transcribed by Faith MacPherson

 And Here Are the Key People

The planning, building, launching, and ground support of Westar have involved hundreds of persons, not only in the Los Angeles area but from as far away as Guam, a tracking station site.

Some of the key people involved with this spacecraft and satellite ground control are Lloyd Harrison, Westar Program manager; Hal Smith, assistant satellite program manager; Clyde McGee, assistant program manager for Satellite Ground Control and Hughes mission director; Murray Neufeld, Orbital Software.

Also, Henry Di Cristina, Systems Test and Launch Operations; Gene Purnell, Materiel Operations; Herm Braasch, Design Integration; Leonard Myklebust, Spacecraft Structure; Paul Bernstein, Stress; Bill Francis, Mass Properties; George Wolodkin, Thermal Design; and Dick Welfer, Digital Electronics.

Major contributors to the communications repeater, developed in Howard Ozaki’s laboratory, are Jim Shimizu, Neal Silence, Larry Shrum, Thurston Armstrong, Ted Plants, and Dave Kaplan. The repeater was developed by the Electron Dynamics Division under Herm Smith.

Other important personnel are Bill Turner, Controls; Art Cunningham, Motor Bearings Assembly; Bill Muldoon in Press DuPont’s laboratory, Power; Ward Putt and Fred Barker, Reaction Controls subsystem; Jim Ferry, Apogee Motor; Don Reed and Bruce Evans, Manufacturing; Ralph Rhoads and Bill Pomeranz, Contracts and Finance.

Mike Houterman, Systems Engineering; Lee Pressman, System Engineering for RF; Paul Sengstock and Ernie Eiting, Digital and Power Electronics; Frank Taomina, Antenna; Bob Brennan and Mit Wood, Reliability; Jim Bragg, Dick Snyder, Jerry Baab, and Joyce Ellison, Part Logistics and Configuration Control; and Norv Alcorn and Clive Butcher, Integration of Subcontractors Logistics Support.

The development of the ground control hardware and software at the Satellite Control Facility in Glenwood, NJ, as well as the tracking station at Guam was the responsibility of the Satellite Ground System Laboratory under Lou Greenbaum. Key individuals in development were Al Koury assistant laboratory manager; Joe Castaldo, Ground Control Equipment manager; and Walt Cohn, Ground Control Software Design.

The Guam tracking station worked in conjunction with and was under direction of the mission control center at the Western Union Satellite Control Facility during the transfer orbit phase and through apogee motor firing. The Guam station was supported by Al Koury, Chief Scientist Meredith Eick of Commercial Systems Division, Jack Clarkson, Bill Kinder, Larry Ohlrogge, Luis Mata, Bill Walls, Rod Payne, Hal Recher, and Jack Woods.

At Control Facility

The Western Union Satellite Control Facility (SCF) was the mission control center for all orbital control and operations. Transfer orbit and drift obit operations were under the direction of Bill Hayes, HAC Westar Flight director, and supported by SCF Manger Leo Titus, Joe Castaldo, John Swancara, Paul Sengstock, Ernie EiIting, Vern Trail, Joe Moore, Jack Tanner, Frank Gibbs, Marv Novak, Walt Cohn, Woody Sabel, Gary Krueger, Ron Budd, and Maury Storm.

Orbital operations functions under the direction of Murray Neufeld were handled by Jarry Cole, Carolyn DeGarmo, Ron Cox, Steve Sparks, Janice Kush, Jack Janken, Bill Snyder, Hugh Wright, Bo Wandzura, Mike Schecter, Murray Thompson, and Rudy Warniers.


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.



The Enduring “SMART” Satellite Manual–Jim Thompson

I joined Hughes in mid June 1964 on the Masters Fellowship Rotation Program in the satellite area as my first rotation. Within a week or so another new hire named Mickey Haney showed up with an MS from MIT. It was an exciting time to start at Hughes Space Division. The Earlybird contract was recently awarded as the world’s first commercial satellite program. Syncom II was successfully operating in orbit and Syncom III was about to be launched.

As new guys Haney and I were doing a lot of calculations on ground station look angles (azimuth and elevation angles) as function of location relative to the satellite, as well as the satellite return look angles to the ground station.  We also collected agreed-upon values of basic parameters like earth radius, geo-stationary orbit radius, and orbit equations for synchronous inclined orbits. As systems engineering people had need for different ground station locations, we ended up repeating calculations for each case. That led to a set of charts where one could read the satellite or ground station look angles for any location in the coverage region. These were the days of the slide rule for most engineers and no pocket calculators. Fortunately there was a time-share computer system one floor away where one could program in Basic to generate the data for these graphs. Charts for other geometric parameters quickly followed. We also learned about link budgets, the details of the various contributing factors in the budget, and communications capacity calculations. We made charts for many of those parameters. Clearly the work involved learning some basics of satellite communications.

Soon another individual, Dr. Boris Subbotin, transferred from what had been the Hughes Communications Division. He was a senior scientist and in addition to his other duties he was given the task of keeping Haney and I productively occupied. Boris suggested that we compile a handbook on communication satellite parameters. It could be as simple as some content in a monthly industry trade magazine called Microwave Journal which usually had some graphs or nomograms in each issue, or a hardcover year end yearbook with a collection of technical charts. We started with a three ring binder version that could begin with modest content and grow as demand and utility needed. Boris recently stated that he liked the idea for three reasons: 1) he had no work to keep us fully occupied at the time, 2) he noted that most of the engineers in the area had their own private collection of notes, shortcuts, references etc. that they might share if a handbook was in the works, and 3) it would be a good learning experience for us.

We thought it would be nice to have a catchy name for handbook, some kind of acronym based on words representative of the content. So we filled a blackboard with words like space, satellites, Syncom, communication, technology, data, tools, charts, information, reference, book, handbook, text, manual, etc. We made lists of candidate acronyms and in the end we selected one suggested by Boris.   Thus the SMART manual was named with SMART standing for ‘Satellite Manual and Reference for Telecommunications”. We made up an outline and by Nov of 1964 issued an IDC requesting input for a handbook with four sections.

Inputs came in over time, but nearly always needed some explanatory notes, at least for us new guys. We worked on this task part time during 1965, took what came in, and asked for help explaining it. It was reformatted if necessary and added to the handbook. By year end we had enough content for a first release. The publications people printed and assembled some 50 to 100 copies in three ring binders. We distributed these first SMART manuals with red bows just before the 1965 Christmas Holiday.

People apparently found SMART useful not only for its content but also as a repository for their own favorite pieces of useful information. We solicited additional input and received material to be included in future updates. These were sent out every few years. Mickey and I eventually wandered off into programs or other assignments. The Systems Engineering folks in Leo Stoolman’s organization apparently took on the task of updating SMART, their first being in 1975. They also handed out copies to new engineering hires starting in the mid 70’s. Scientific calculators became available during the 70’s, but the manual was still useful. Equations were often provided with charts for those who wanted higher precision using the calculators.

By 1980 the amount of new material accumulated was substantial and SMART needed a major overhaul. Marty Gale was given the task of reorganizing and issuing the updated version. Additional sections were added to the manual, which resulted in a rather hefty volume. A separate book was added consisting of satellite maps of Earth as viewed from geosynchronous orbit in 5-degree increments of longitude for a total of 72 Earth maps. Overlays were included to provide information on polarization angle, elevation angle, and coverage limits. During the 1990’s a simple plastic slide rule was designed and issued to replace the book of maps. It was compact, easy to use and also served as a useful gift to customers.

Other reference materials (usually power point presentations) were generated by many departments within the organization as training material for new or old people. In some instances the company provided training to customer staff as part of the satellite contract. By the mid 90s there were probably two dozen well-developed departmental training packages. Computers were available throughout the company in this time frame. Many engineers developed their own tools for mapping (LEO, MEO or GEO), sophisticated link budgets including rain fade statistics, modeling of non-linear devices and Monte Carlo simulations of just about any kind of random event. Today these tools are called apps.

In the 1990’s Macs and PCs were in wide use throughout Hughes S&CG. The use of software to create a digital version of SMART would offer the advantages of improved accuracy via direct use of the relevant equations, and portability via laptop or compact storage medium. However resources were not available at that time to support this effort. I personally used two small notebooks with 3.5 by 6 inch pages to house my portable SMART manual. In 2005 I arranged for a power point version of the SMART manual plus a large collection of the appropriate reference material to be included in Boeing’s knowledge management database project by Mike Whelan. The references were cited to give users knowledge of any assumptions or limitations on the use of the content. I retired shortly after the last update. Today employees can carry their SMART manual around on their (also smart) phone.

It is remarkable that something simply started as a part-time project in 1964 would survive and still be useful 50 years later when updated to provide terchnically current content via technically current presentation media.

Comment by Felix Yin

Thanks for making this great site. I joined Hughes back in 1996 as a co-op student out of the University of Illinois. Though there were many employees that insisted that the golden days of the company were long past, my time there was really special and there isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t think about the great projects and people I got to work with before I left in 2004. Jim Thompson is one of those great people I got to work with and I love that he submitted a post about the SMART manual. I learned so much from that, much more practical than anything from my college education! And Jim downplays his little notebook. I will never forget being amazed whenever Jim would pull out his little notebook while we payload engineers were working proposal designs… he’d look at some lines in a graph and throw out some estimate of mass, power or cost… we’d take note and then go back to our offices to run a calculation in our, at the time, fancy excel workbooks, only to find that his quick and dirty assessment was pretty much spot on! Great times! Glad to see Jim is doing well!