Mars Observer—Jack Fisher

Mars Observer as originally planned was to be a low cost Mars orbiter and a successor to Viking. Preliminary mission goals expected the mission to provide planetary magnetic field data, detection of certain spectral line signatures of minerals on the surface, images of the surface at 1 meter/pixel and global elevation data. The February 1984 NASA budget included funding and the release of the JPL RFP was scheduled to for June. The spacecraft was to be launched with the Space Shuttle in 1990. There, however was a significant disagreement between NASA headquarters and JPL. JPL wanted the boost from earth orbital velocity to Mars transfer velocity to be integral with the spacecraft while NASA headquarters wanted a separate stage that could be used with other missions. The final compromise was an RFP that included three potential options: 1. spacecraft only; 2) separate transfer orbit stage and 3) spacecraft with integral propulsion. JPL would be responsible for 1 and 3 while NASA Marshall Space Flight Center would handle Option 2. Working out this compromise delayed the RFP to June 1985.

Hughes saw this as an opportunity to get back into the NASA world of planetary exploration based upon experience building and flying communication satellites with integral propulsion. A proposal team was formed headed by Leo Nolte and Jack Fisher. The Hughes proposal was based upon a modification of Intelsat VI with a despun science platform with and without integral propulsion for Options 1 and 3.

The Mars Observer proposals were submitted in August 1985. Hughes, RCA and Ford Aerospace bid on Options 1 and 3 while Orbital Sciences was the only bidder for Option 2. The proposals were evaluated and best and final offers were submitted in December. After JPL evaluation of the proposals an amendment to the RFP was issued in February 1986 limiting source selection to Options 1 and 2 eliminating work package 3. Shortly thereafter Hughes submitted a protest that was denied.

On March 24, JPL announced that RCA submitted the successful spacecraft proposal for Option No. 1. The spacecraft design was based upon the RCA Satcom, TIROS and DMSP satellites. Note: within a year RCA was purchased by General Electric Astrospace who completed design and construction of the Mars Observer. OSC was the successful bidder for option 2.

          Mars Observer was originally planned to be launched in 1990 by the Space Shuttle. In March 1987, the mission was rescheduled for launch in 1992 with a Titan III due to the loss of Challenger and spacecraft weight increases. Along with the launch delay, budget overruns necessitated the elimination of two instruments to meet the 1992 planned launch.

         Mars Observer was launched on September 25, 1992 aboard a Titan III launch vehicle and a Transfer Orbit Stage that placed the spacecraft into an 11-month, Mars transfer trajectory. Mars Observer was scheduled to perform an orbit insertion maneuver on August 24, 1993. However, contact with the spacecraft was lost on August 21, 1993. Likely reason for spacecraft failure was the leakage of fuel and oxidizer vapors through the improperly designed check valve to the common pressurization system. During interplanetary cruise, the vapor mix had accumulated in feed lines and pressurant lines, resulting in explosion and their rupture after the engine was restarted for routine course correction. The total cost for the mission was estimated to be $813M.

Comment by Steve Dorfman

The Mars Observer was NASA at it’s worst. They believed the TOS stage would a fitting complement to the Shuttle launching communication satellites. Orbital Science was created based on that premise and a successful IPO was launched promising a series of communication satellite launches on shuttle. Unfortunately all the communication satellites contemplated at that time (RCA and Hughes) intended to use integral propulsion, a much more efficient way to transition from the Shuttle to transfer orbit. By eliminating that possibility for Mars NASA clung to the TOS solution for Shuttle transfer orbit to preserve the concept.

The TOS launch of the Mars Observer was the only TOS launched. It was never used for commercial satellites as originally advertised. To its credit Orbital Science did a “pivot” from this flawed strategy and has become a successful Space company building satellites and launch vehicles. But it started from a false premise supported by a misguided NASA.

It is ironic that the mission was also a failure in adapting commercial satellite technology for planetary exploration though Pioneer Venus proved it could be done if done carefully.


3. NASA Systems Division Campaigns, 1975-1979—Will Turk

3.1 Introduction

The NASA Systems Division business center had a broad set of objectives and opportunities in early 1975. The Division’s success in again becoming part of NASA’s exploration programs opened new horizons and opportunities for the Group. Steve Dorfman became the Pioneer Venus campaign manager in 1972 and ultimately the Program Manager for the Pioneer Venus Program in 1974.   As a result Harvey Palmer, NASA Division Manager, was looking for help to extend the earlier successes in the Planetary Sciences, Earth Resources and Weather Observation sensors and systems. At that time S&CG was already under contract to deploy the Japanese Meteorological Satellite (GMS), a program led by Steve Petrucci. Steve’s thrust was to parlay our GMS experience into the future opportunities at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), then planning for the USA’s first operational Geosynchronous Orbit Environmental Satellite (GOES).

Harvey got his wish fulfilled.   Dr. Wheelon made two additions to the NASA Systems Division in early 1975. Will Turk was brought in to manage the Advanced Programs and several months later Dick Jones was made Harvey’s deputy.   Jacque Johnson and Hap LaReux were responsible for Division Marketing and Contracts respectively. The new business management team took on the task of expanding the NASA Division’s business over the next 5 years to new heights with many successes. Dick took the Division helm after Harvey’s retirement in 1979

The material that follows is my recollection of the major thrusts that were undertaken to evolve and expand our businesses over a very active 5-year period.   I have chosen to describe the campaigns in a more or less sequential time manner and will let those involved in the actual developments provide the details of their specific programs separately. The NASA Division team all made major contributions towards evolving our satellite, spacecraft, probe and sensor businesses.

3.2 Business Objectives

The Earth Observation and Planetary Exploration customers within the NASA included several key organizations: Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Ames Research Center (ARC), and Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). During this period we extended our NASA customer base to include communications projects at the Lewis Research Center (LeRC) and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC).

In the Meteorological Satellite arena the customers included the NOAA, DoD, and NEC of Japan.   It was our objective to re-kindle our relationships with NASA in the area of communications technology as well as subsystem development. From a business point of view, we chose to follow the near term STS Shuttle Ku Band communications needs and to develop advanced communications opportunities with LeRC. Finally, we made it our business to continue to provide excellence in space sensors, a variety of earth orbiting satellites as well as planetary probes and spacecraft.

Having developed the first prototype Multi-Spectral Sensor (MSS) in 1970 for the GSFC’s Landsat, (earlier called the Earth Resources Technology Program), we had a great deal of understanding and experience with respect to measuring the spectral characteristics of the Earth. The images collected from the three instruments on Landsat were used in agriculture, cartography, forestry and geology.   The first Landsat was launched with the Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC) MSS 1 in July 1972. The follow-on MSS-2 and 3 were placed under the joint management of the S&CG/SBRC. A sole source follow-on was expected in 1976. The GSFC had been developing the technology and specifications for a much improved sensor, the Thematic Mapper [TM]. With the maturity of the MSS Program, NASA was preparing the RFP for the Landsat earth observation system which would include the TM and MSS-D. Targeting this procurement was a natural path for the Hughes S&CG and SBRC team. It was a larger step for us to make the decision to compete for the Landsat Spacecraft, the vehicle that would house the TM.

This Landsat technology was different from current Hughes spin-stabilized spacecraft technology in that it took us into a class of low-altitude body-stabilized satellites that were better suited for Earth observation missions. GSFC was planning to introduce the Multi-Mission Modular Spacecraft (MMS) that fundamentally incorporated pre-designed spacecraft subsystems modules and a mission-peculiar structure to support the specific scientific missions payloads and communications package. Their objective was to use this bus for a whole array of planned low-altitude scientific satellite missions. The Technology Division was considering bidding on the Attitude Control Module for the independently procured MMS.

The NOAA had spent years developing the low altitude TIROS/Nimbus weather satellites while the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP ) served the DOD customer.   S&CG was about to launch the first Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS ) and a sole source follow on was expected in mid 1977. The major opportunity on the horizon was the competition for the follow-on to the NOAA’s Synchronous Meterological Satellite (SMS) , the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system (GOES).   This was also a natural follow on to the GMS activity and we were prepared to compete for this very important part of the weather observation business. The Visual Infra-red Spinning Sensor Radiometer VISSR was to be procured separately from SBRC and integrated into the GOES spacecraft.   In parallel we continued our advanced efforts to internally explore alternative means of collecting weather data using microwave radiometry. That instrument was key to the upcoming GSFC Stormsat mission studies which we believed could lead to expanding our foothold into systems that provided for improved weather forecasting.   To that end we also made a significant effort to bid for the advanced microwave radiometer procurement planned for the DMSP.

Having recently been awarded the Pioneer Venus Orbiter and Multiprobe, we planned to expand our business by being a major supplier to NASA for planetary missions.   We had made attempts to participate in the Voyager and Viking activities but hadn’t had a major success until the award for the Pioneer Venus.   The next program on the horizon was the Galileo Jupiter Orbiter/Probe, We put a major emphasis on being part of that effort by supporting Ames and JPL during the preliminary definition phase of the mission with a variety of viable spacecraft and probe designs.

Finally, not since the Syncom/ATS Programs had we conducted advanced communications studies or programs with NASA. With the development of the Space Shuttle, the opportunity to provide the Space Shuttle communications relay link to the TDRSS network unfolded. The Ku-Band Comm/Radar procurement was being planned for 1978. We teamed with the Hughes Radar Systems Group to develop and compete for this important subsystem that was part of the Space Shuttle Program under development at Rockwell International.

Along the way we saw several new NASA/NOAA opportunities in which we chose to participate in. Many of them won’t be recognized because of their size or little notoriety, others never made it into the governments budget for development. A list of Campaigns and lead engineers follows: For example, we looked at the Venus Orbiter Imaging Radar (VOIR)-Andy Parks, Out of the Ecliptic Observatory, the Solar Polar Mission-Uldis Lapins, Halley Comet Flyby, Ion Drive Interplanetary Spacecraft-Jerry Molitor, Solar Sail, Tethered Satellites-Tony Lauletta, Lunar Polar Orbiter, Mars Polar Orbiter/Penetrator, Seasat B, StereoSat , the Spinning Solid Upper Stage (SSUS)-Len Bronstein, MLA Sensor-Ed Harney and a Laser Communication Study. Outside of NASA we tracked the FAA’s Aerosat, and created several Syncom 4 applications.

3.3 Execution

The Division under Harvey Palmer through his unique style of leadership did an astounding job. In addition to those already mentioned, Jacques Johnson as head of marketing was always on top of the competition. We prepared many leading edge technology developments and studies. Our ability to meet with the right people when we were in the need of information or when we wanted to disseminate results to our customers or the scientific community was made available to us. With the base programs of GMS, MSS, and PV in hand we laid out a winning strategy for the future. The key areas we focused on were:

Technology Development

  • Ku Band Subsystem-1975
  • Thematic Mapper-1975
  • Jupiter Probe-1975
  • Microwave Radiometer Test Bed-1976-1978

Pre-Proposal Planning

  • Ku Band Subsystem-1975-1976
  • GOES DEF-1976
  • Thematic Mapper-1976-1977
  • Galileo Jupiter Orbiter/Probe-1976-1977
  • Landsat D-1976
  • 18/30 Ghz Advanced Communications Study-1978
  • DMSP Blk5D Microwave Radiometer Subsystem-1978


  • GOES DEF Proposal-1976
  • Ku Band Proposal1976
  • Thematic Mapper Proposal-1977
  • Landsat D Proposal-1976
  • 18/30 Ghz Advanced Communications Study Proposal-1978
  • Galileo Jupiter Probe Proposal-1978
  • DMSP Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSMI) Proposal-1979

We won 6 of the 7 competitions that we entered over the 5-year period.

3.3.1 GOES Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite

          Hughes had made a significant business commitment to participate in a major way in the NOAA meteorology programs. The early ATS experiments and the pre-planning with the Synchronous Meteorological System (SMS) in the late 60’s along with the award to SBRC of the advanced geo-synchronous altitude sensor placed us in an enviable position. Steve Dorfman and Pat Dougherty made key contributions to the early planning. We were awarded the GMS program in 1973. Preparation to compete for the upcoming GOES was well underway having launched the Japanese GMS in mid-1977. Japan had been the first country to launch an operational high altitude weather satellite.   Steve Petrucci and Louis Fermelia led the program development. The primary payload for GMS and GOES was the VISSR developed by SBRC.

The GOES DEF was planned to be launched by the larger Thor Delta 3914 and would be built around an advanced version of the instrument that would include atmospheric sounding—the VAS or VISSR Atmospheric Sounder. Steve Petrucci’s team from GMS were in place and had been interfacing with the NOAA Program Office and were well prepared to compete for and win the three satellite procurement in 1977. Louis Fermelia’s systems engineering group had conducted design work prior to and during the proposal to meet the specific NOAA requirements. Our proposal team took up quarters on the 11th floor of Bldg 391 with the Advanced Programs acting as Steve Petrucci’s book bosses to develop the Technical Proposal. The team included Dana Salisbury, Tom Shoebotham, Jerry Lewis, Jason Endo, Dr. Chuck Rubin, Hugh Witt, Peter Fono, Tom Eakins, John McIntire, Bill Turner and John Smay. Marilyn Gatto of Publications was personally responsible to Harvey and was involved in seeing that this important proposal met its deadline.

Success came in 1977 when we were awarded the GOES D/E/F Program.

 3.3.2 Thematic Mapper (For Landsat 4-6)

         NASA GSFC had been preparing the design specifications for the Thematic Mapper for many years. This instrument was to provide a greater number of bands than the MSS and provide an even greater precision for the imagery. The Thematic Mapper (TM) is an advanced, multi-spectral scanning, Earth resources sensor designed to achieve higher image resolution, sharper spectral separation, improved geometric fidelity and greater radiometric accuracy and resolution than the MSS sensor. TM data are sensed in seven spectral bands simultaneously. Band 6 senses thermal (heat) infrared radiation. Landsat can only acquire night scenes in band 6. A TM scene has an Instantaneous Field Of View (IFOV) of 30 square meters in bands 1-5 and 7 while band 6 has an IFOV of 120 square meters on the ground. The TM radiometric resolution is 0-255 or 256 discrete numerical levels. The MSS instruments on both Landsat 4 and 5 also have radiometric resolutions of 0-255. S&CG was the lead organization for Hughes and the SBRC team provided the experience of the MSS and their advanced technologies to create a superior scanner. The specifications were still evolving for the instrument that was to fly on Landsat 4 and 5 around 1982.

Ed Harney was designated as the proposal manager in 1976. During the pre proposal, Ed knew well that there were issues associated with our current MSS program management and technology that would have to be overcome. However he left the details to others to sort out….his focus was on delivering a first class Thematic Mapper proposal and he did just that. With all of the preparation that went into the pre- proposal, we were quite ready to give the NASA GSFC a first class proposal and we did.

The award for development of the Thematic Mapper was made in 1978 with Roy Blanchard assigned as the initial program manager followed by Dick Jones.

 3.3.3 Multispectral Sensor MSS (for Landsat Program)

The radiometry programs at SBRC have all been successful. The MSS was first launched in 1972 and demonstrated the usefulness of measuring   Earth reflectance in 3 bands.   Hughes and particularly Virgnia Norwood were recognized by NASA for efforts in the definition of the 3 spectral band MSS. The program initially was under direction of SBRC while MSS 2 & 3 management responsibilities were transferred to SCG. Several Program Managers Art Gardner, Tony Lauletta and Ed Felkel were responsible for the development Programs. In 1976 a sole source contract was awarded to Hughes to incorporate updgrades to the MSS for the upcoming Landsat D mission.

Over the course of manufacturing and testing the MSS-3 instrument we did have some serious problems that had to be resolved. NASA GSFC’s on-site representative was adamant about the fact that the Hughes team was lax in solving many of the perceived problems…this was particularly so in the 1977/1978 period during the testing of MSS-3.   This could potentially delay the launch of Landsat 3. Recognizing that the difficulties in MSS would impact two major new business procurements, the Thematic Mapper and Landsat, Harvey Palmer made a bold decision. He temporarily closed down the Advanced Programs and assigned the whole team to help resolve the issues within the MSS Program. This was a first. The MSS was then being managed by Ed Felkel with Lee Groner as systems engineer. The apparent problem was that the MSS was in the thermal vacuum chamber and the test results were giving erroneous data relative to the expected measurements.

My assessment team included John Stivers, Ken Brinkman, Virginia Norwood, Yale Weisman from the Technology Division, and included several SBRC and Culver City engineers that were responsible for designing the instrument. We started with discussions with our MSS Program Office to get a thorough review from the team about the test program and the expected results. This was followed with updates from the on-site NASA tech to understand his many concerns. Over the period of 6 weeks the team oversaw the programs offices activities in regards to resolving some very specific issues having to do with sensor image distortions that could not at that moment be associated with the instruments design.

As the review team undertook the assignment, the program office was embarking on building a structure to isolate the MSS test support fixture from apparent noise thought to be generated by vibrations within the test facility or generated outside of the facility. Starting from scratch the Advanced Programs Team poured over the MSS design information and focused on the mirror control system. As an essential part of the instrument, mirror mechanics and electronics appeared to be a candidate for creating what appeared to be imperfect test images. With help from Hughes Culver City engineers supporting SBRC, a comprehensive review finally uncovered some very subtle problems in the control electronics. Design corrections were incorporated in the MSS and the final systems test was concluded six weeks later with total success, however the MSS was delivered late. The problems were isolated and resolved over a period of six difficult weeks. The tests were finalized successfully and the instrument delivered to the Landsat spacecraft contractor, GE, for final integration and systems testing. Landsat 3 was launched in March 1978 and was operational over 5 years although the new thermal band failed early in the mission.

While we vindicated ourselves with the local GSFC representative, we still had some difficulty in convincing the GSFC Program Office of our ability to oversee both the 7-band Thematic Mapper and the Landsat Satellite developments. With commitment of the Hughes management evident, and with the delivery of the MSS and the on-orbit success of the Landsat 3 we believed that the two-bid strategy was still viable.

 3.3.4 Landsat 4-6

The proposal for the Landsat 4-6 took place twelve months after the Thematic Mapper award. Hughes would be providing two key sensors to the Landsat contractor, the MSS-4 and TM. We felt strongly that we could put together an excellent proposal and put a major effort in place under the direction of proposal manager Jerry Farrell. Our understanding of the mission requirements was excellent and we felt that we could offer an exceptional design. Recognizing that the GSFC had completed the design and development of the Multi-Mission Spacecraft (MMS), we would have to show how effectively we could integrate the sensor suite with the MMS and include the deployable solar array and the Ku-Band communication’s tracking antenna and electronics to provide for the uploading of the scientific data to the Tracking Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). The Landsat satellite operates in a low altitude sun-synchronous orbit.   The greatest unknown was whether we could convince the GSFC Program Office of our ability to overcome technical issues that were occurring on MMS-3 just prior to the release of the Landsat RFP as noted in the prior discussion. Based on interactions with the customer we believed that we had mitigated all of the government’s concerns.

As things turned out we lost that competition.

3.3.5 Shuttle Ku-Band Communications/Radar Proposal

The Space Shuttle development program was maturing in 1976 and NASA was preparing the specifications for the major communications/ radar system used to transmit critical information back to mission control via the TDRSS and to track objects. The Marshall Space Flight Center was the lead NASA organization for the Shuttle Communications/Radar Program.   Norm Averech, Marketing Manager for the Technology Division and I worked with Lowell Parode from Radar Systems Group during the pre-proposal phase of the Ku-Band campaign. Our first visit to MSFC to meet with their Program Office established an excellent reference point for the future procurement. The ability to apply our direct K-band experience and hardware to meet the Shuttle’s needs were sound and opened the door for Hughes S&CG to be part of the manned space program.

The Ku-band antenna aboard the space shuttle orbiter was to be physically located within the payload bay; the payload bay doors are opened and the Ku-band antenna is deployed. The subsystem operates in the Ku-band portion of the radio frequency spectrum between 15,250 MHz and 17,250 MHz. Once the Ku-band antenna is deployed, the Ku-band system can be used as a communication system to transmit information to and receive information from the ground through the NASA Tracking & Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). The Ku-band antenna aboard the orbiter can also be used as a radar system for target tracking objects in space, but could not be used simultaneously for Ku-band communications and radar operations. The orbiter Ku-band system includes a rendezvous radar that skin-tracks satellites or payloads in orbit to facilitate orbiter rendezvous with them. For large payloads that must be carried into orbit one section at a time, the orbiter will rendezvous with the payload segment currently in orbit to add on the next section. The gimbaling of the Ku-band antenna permits it to conduct a radar search for space hardware. The Ku-band system is first given the general location of the space hardware from the orbiter computer; then the antenna makes a spiral scan of the area to pinpoint the target.

         This program was awarded to Hughes in 1978.

3.3.6 Galileo Probe Proposal

There were many customer meetings that Uldis Lapins and I attended to develop an understanding of the planned Galileo Jupiter Orbiter/ Probe scientific mission. Visits to Ames Research Center, the home of the Pioneer-class deep space missions, were made exploring ideas and demonstrating our commitment to be a part of this program. Uldis and his team came up with various spacecraft concepts and used our Pioneer Venus experience to create alternative probe designs. Ames was focused on a Pioneer-class mission with the Pioneer Jupiter Orbiter Probe (PJOP) while JPL was evolving their Mariner class vehicle to create a Mariner Jupiter Orbiter Probe (MJOP).

When the overall NASA management of the future program was directed to JPL in early 1976, we similarly introduced our concepts to their program office. One thing that was very apparent was that JPL’s spacecraft experience was with 3-axis stabilized spacecraft while Ames had built a number of spin-stabilized spacecraft for their missions. We chose to be bold and offer JPL a dual spin concept. The design proposed a spacecraft that incorporated all of the science, communications and bus electronics/ power on one side of spacecraft with the probe located on the opposite end of the spacecraft.   The two sides were joined through a Bearing and Power Transfer Assembly (BAPTA) that Hughes had developed for communications satellites. We took John Velman, Loren Slafer and Lynn Grasshoff to present our expertise.

For a period of time we thought that we had opened up a unique opportunity with JPL. They had a great deal of interest in our concepts, in particular an option that incorporated a Perigee Kick Motor (PKM) stage to launch from the Shuttle. They were especially focused on the intricacies of our spacecraft’s BAPTA.   In follow ups, Jim Cloud, Manager of the Technology Division was even contacted over the possibility of providing a BAPTA to JPL. By the summer of 1976 JPL had made a preliminary choice of a dual spin spacecraft as their baseline. By early 1977 they decided to build the spacecraft in-house. However, the probe would be competitively procured through Ames Research Center for a launch in January 1982.   From that point, Uldis directed the team’s Galileo Probe effort through an ever-changing set of circumstances. .

The Galileo mission evolved as a single orbiter spacecraft that also served as the transport vehicle for the Galileo Probe. Congress approved funding for the Galileo mission in 1977; in September 1978, as the Pioneer Venus spacecraft were heading towards Venus, Hughes was awarded the contract for the Galileo Probe. The mission concept was that the JPL orbiter would release the probe 150 days prior to arrival at Jupiter and receive probe data as it descended into the Jovian atmosphere and relay the data back to Earth. Hughes would design and build the probe as well as the radio relay hardware (RRH) to be mounted on JPL’s orbiter. The spacecraft, orbiter plus probe, was to be launched by the Space Shuttle and the Interim Upper Stage (IUS)(later called the Inertial Upper Stage) in January 1982 arriving at Jupiter in August 1984. This was a very favorable Jupiter opportunity as a Shuttle/IUS could launch the Orbiter/Probe to Jupiter with a single Mars gravity assist.

However, IUS development problems and Galileo weight growth delayed the mission and NASA began to consider separate orbiter and probe missions as the combined mass of the Orbiter and Probe became too great for a single launch for the next Jupiter launch opportunity. Ames Research Center prepared and released an RFP for a probe carrier as a separate spacecraft and mission from JPL’s orbiter. Hughes, along with TRW, developed carrier designs and submitted proposals. Although Hughes was selected as the winner of the competition, NASA soon determined that there was inadequate funding to complete both the Galileo Orbiter and probe carrier/probe missions and this development effort was canceled. The Galileo mission was restructured to accommodate the original plan of the combined Orbiter/Probe vehicle utilizing a Centaur upper stage modified to be compatible with the Shuttle and a launch planned for May 1986.

The loss of the Challenger on January 28, 1986 had two immediate effects on the Galileo mission—a significant delay to allow Shuttle modifications and cancellation of the modified Centaur stage and return to the IUS upper stage. Also the flight-ready probe had to be returned to Hughes and conditioned for a three-year launch delay as well as an increase in Jupiter transit time from two to six years. This required determination of expected life of the probe and resulted in the replacement of some units. This phase of the probe program was ably managed by Bernie Dagarin.

        The revised mission plan resulted in a Galileo launch on October 18, 1989, that propelled the combined Galileo orbiter and probe into the so-called VEEGA trajectory with gravity assist flybys of Venus and Earth (twice) on the way to Jupiter. The Galileo Probe was separated from the Orbiter on July 12, 1995, entered the Jovian atmosphere on December 7, 1995 and returned science data for more than 60 minutes sustaining pressures up to 22 atmospheres.

Although a number of other mission opportunities arose the Galileo probe was the last planetary program awarded to Hughes.

3.3.7 DMSP Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSM/I)

The initial Microwave Radiometer work at S&CG was led by Chuck Edelsohn The initial Microwave Radiometer work at S&CG was led by Chuck Edelsohn and jointly pursued by Manny Siskel and Frank Godwin of the Technology Division. The radiometer operated at 140/183 Ghz and provided atmospheric sounding measurements that were not then available to the meteorological community. Capabilities from geostationary and low altitude orbits were evaluated. There were many customer exchanges at NOAA and DoD demonstrating the technology necessary to deploy such a device on a low altitude satellite. Much of our satellite design work was based on the NASA Multi Mission Modular Spacecraft being planned for Landsat D and other missions at that time. The radiometer required deployment of a large earth pointing antenna aperture necessary to collect sounding measurements at the higher frequencies. The Stormsat mission was evolving in the scientific community as well as the GSFC Program Office.   While we had spent several years testing and designing the Microwave Radiometer for the expected Stormsat Program competition there were many delays on the decision to proceed at NOAA.

Over the same period a new opportunity was unfolding at DOD. The operational Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) program had plans to introduce an advanced radiometer into their network of low altitude orbiting satellites. A deployable spinning Microwave Imager/Sounder RFP was in preparation and we shifted our effort to concentrate on preparing briefings and our capabilities to the DOD customer. The frequencies were lower than those used in Stormsat but our experience was directly applicable to this mission. The specifications called for a smaller spinning radiometer. We felt strongly that all of our technology would satisfy the mission specifications defined by the Navy and made a decision to focus a major effort on this procurement. Al Edgerton, who had just joined Hughes and was very familiar with the DMSP radiometer planning, and Manny Siskel led our efforts.

The SSM/I is a seven-channel, four-frequency (19.35Ghz, 22.235 Ghz, 37Ghz/85 Ghz), linearly-polarized, passive microwave radiometer (a total-power instrument configuration) that measures atmospheric, ocean, and terrain microwave brightness temperatures and are converted into environmental parameters such as sea surface winds, rain rates, cloud water, precipitation, soil moisture, ice edge, and ice age. SMM/I data is used to obtain synoptic maps of critical atmospheric, oceanographic and selected land parameters on a global scale. The archive data consists of antenna temperatures recorded across a 1400 km swath (conical scan), satellite ephemeris, Earth surface positions for each pixel and instrument calibration. The electromagnetic radiation is polarized by the ambient electric field, scattered by the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface, and scattered and absorbed by atmospheric water vapor, oxygen, liquid water and ice.

In 1979 S&CG was awarded a contract for the SSM/I Program.

3.3.8 Advanced 20/30 GHZ Communications Technology Study

Lewis Reserarch Center had initiated internal activities to develop an Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS). In the mid-70s they were particularly focusing on operating in the higher frequency bands…namely Ka-band or 20/30 Ghz and were preparing to contract for studies to support their internal efforts. Dick Jones and I traveled to Cleveland for our first exchange in mid-1977. Our purpose was to extend S&CG’s base of leading edge communications technologies by working with NASA’s development team at LeRC. Over the next year through multiple exchanges we competed for and were awarded one of several contracts to investigate the technology associated with 18/30ghz satellites. Len Bronstein led the Division’s effort.

During the period 1981-83 several spacecraft contractors including Hughes were awarded study contracts for defining an R&D spacecraft configuration. These studies by LeRC led to the definition of Advanced Communications Technology Satellite (ACTS). In March 1983 LeRC released an RFP to industry for ACTS. The only bidder was RCA Astro-Electronics with both Hughes and Ford Aerospace declining to bid. Later that year Hughes filed an application with the FCC for a Ka-band domestic system consisting of two satellites to be launched in 1988. Hughes claimed that ACTS was a duplication of the Air Force’s Milstar technology and that any technology applications should be developed by industry rather than NASA. Although nothing came of this application it set the stage for consistent Reagan administration opposition to the ACTS program despite the favorable disposition of Congress. The original launch date of September 1989 eventually slipped to August 1993 due to funding cutbacks, development problems, and other difficulties.

The ACTS, operated successfully in a geostationary orbit over 11 years and with the greater bandwidth available at Ka-band helped the satellite industry compete with fiber optic cable in the evolving broadband telecom arena.




Task Team’s Efforts Save The Day For JCSAT Launch By Nick Brown—SCG Journal January 1990 Transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Fast thinking by an SCG team saved the day for the launch of JCSAT 2, which was in jeopardy of being scrubbed when a telemetry transmitter malfunctioned at the launch site.

The team’s unique plan to lower a technician into the satellite to retrieve the malfunctioning unit resulted in the successful December 31 launch of the Japan Communications Satellite Company’s (JCSAT) JCSAT 2 spacecraft from Cape Canaveral.

“The problem was the satellite was fully configured on the Titan III rocket, that is, all sealed up and ready to go on the launch pad,” JCSAT 2 System Engineering Manager Art Rosales explained. “Also, the unit is located 8 feet below the top of the fairing assembly, which encloses the spacecraft and is not easily accessible; it is under the reflector and despun thermal blankets.”


Mechanical technician Pete Corbett, rigged to a special safety harness, is lowered into an HS-393 spin stabilized satellite in a never-before-used procedure to remove a malfunctioning telemetry transmitter from JCSAT-2. Assisting in the high bay area were (on top from left) SCG Fire Department officials Dean Anders and Jeff Alvich, with help from JCSAT-2 System Engineering Manager Art Rosales.

With only 7 days to remove, fix and replace the transmitter, a task team was assembled to carry out a plan to lower a man into the satellite to remove the unit. “Since the procedure had never been done before, we had to demonstrate it, videotape it, and give a presentation to the Air Force Safety Officer to prove it was feasible and safe,” Rosales said.

The plan involved rigging a special safety harness above the spacecraft and lowering mechanical technician Pete Corbett down to the transmitter. In addition to bypassing the reflector and unsealing the thermal blankets, the technician had to squeeze down the side of the spacecraft through a clearing of only 12 to 14 inches; he also had to avoid dropping any tools into the satellite. A secondary rig was attached to support his legs and, to keep him from touching any part of the spacecraft, a pole was attached to his legs and guided by another individual.

To demonstrate that the technique could be accomplished, the team constructed a mockup of the Titan enclosure and spacecraft solar panels around the despun section of the HS 393 satellite in the high bay area. The setup designed was identical to the configuration at the launch pad and allowed the task team to develop and perfect the techniques and procedures used to remove and replace the unit.

The Fire Department officials Dean Anders and Jeff Alvich set up and worked the rigging, with assistance from the nearly 20 task team members representing System Test, Quality Assurance, System Safety, and System Engineering. As Corbett was lowered into the spacecraft, he had to curve his body to fit the curvature of the inside edge of the satellite.

After Corbett unsealed half of the thermal blankets above the transmitter, he was pulled out, turned around and lowered back in to unseal the other half. A light was lowered down to him also, to keep the tools from dropping, a team member lowered them down to him in a bag; and each time he used a tool, Corbett tied it by a string to his wrist.

Once the videotape of the operation was made, SCG officials flew to Florida where they convinced the Air Force that the technique could be accomplished. After the transmitter was removed, it was flown back to SCG and turned over to the Communications Laboratory, where a team of 19 engineers and technicians worked around the clock to repair and test the unit. The transmitter was then returned to Florida and placed back in the spacecraft.

The launch went off without a hitch, with all systems working A-OK.

“It went well; everybody worked hard to make it all happen,” Rosales said. “And, we did it in 6 days instead of 7. It was a great team effort where many different parts of the company came together and successfully met a difficult challenge.”

After deployment of the powerful HS 393 satellite from a Titan III rocket, spacecraft controllers at SCG’s Mission Control Center in Building S67 performed a series of mission operations and orbiting sequences. Next they conducted spacecraft checkout under contract to Hughes Communications Inc. (HCI), which procured the satellite from SCG. HCI is a partner in JCSAT with C. Itch & Co. Ltd. and Mitsui & Co. Ltd., two of Japan’s largest trading firms.

The spacecraft, placed on station at 153 degrees east longitude, is now set to be delivered to JCSAT after testing of its Ku-band, 32-transponder communications payload.

JCSAT 2 joins JCSAT 1, launched last March, in providing Japan with communications services for broadcast and cable television, very small aperture terminal data networks, video teleconferencing, and business television. When JCSAT 1 became operational last May, it inaugurated commercial satellite borne telephone, television, facsimile and high-speed data services for Japanese businesses and consumers.



2. Space Exploration Opportunities 1965-1975–Will Turk and Jack Fisher

In the early 1960’s the Hughes Space Systems Division (SSD) was organized around the NASA JPL Surveyor Program led by Dr. Stoolman and the NASA GSFC Syncom/ATS Programs under the leadership of Dr. Rosen and his key managers Al Owens, Bill Bakemeyer and Ed Marriott. As the Syncom and ATS Programs matured, their new business teams continued the process of identifying opportunities within both the Intelsat organization and NASA.

The Surveyor spacecraft was being developed for the NASA JPL in support of the lunar exploration program.     Dr. Rosen’s team was focused on completing the development of the first ATS 1-3 spacecraft which was successfully placed in orbit in December of 1966. Ed Marriott was responsible for the evolving opportunities within the scientific community including the NASA Goddard (GSFC) scientific, meteorological and earth resources programs. The Division was also responsible for the evolving operational weather satellites in planning at the NOAA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japanese Space Agency NASDA.

Both Steve Dorfman and Steve Petrucci joined Ed Marriott in the search for new business, tracking opportunities in planetary and earth exploration, meteorology and earth resources procurements. The business plan laid out by Ed Marriott called for the focusing on the meteorological opportunities evolving from the ATS 1-3 successes.   Winning the Synchronous Meteorological Satellite ½ and plans to compete for the follow-on for the future first Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES A,B,C) was given high priority.

With the formation of the Space and Communications Group (S&CG) in 1970 Dr. Bud Wheelon moved from his corporate position as Vice President of Engineering to take the leadership role with Dr. Roney and Paul Visher as his deputies.

2.1 Campaigns 1965 – 1967

The Synchronous Meteorological Satellites

The NASA/NOAA, ESA, and the Japanese Space Agency were developing plans to place meteorological satellites into synchronous orbit to provide complete cloud coverage of the Earth. Two key opportunities were available to Hughes. First the SMS follow-on to the ATS on orbit experiments and second the Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS). Steve Dorfman and Pat Dougherty focused on the SMS that was the first competition.   Steve Petrucci was responsible for the competition for the GMS in the 1967/8 time period.

European Space Agency Earth Science Mission

The European Space Agency (ESA) was conducting a competition for an Earth based scientific mission ‘Thor Delta 1/2” in the summer of 1966 . Two major competitors were vying for the ESA contract. The Hughes SSD was teamed with British Aircraft Corporation (BAC).   The primary proposal was formulated in a proposal bullpen located in a high rise behind the International Hotel on Century Blvd. After a four week effort a smaller team flew to Europe and met at BAC to complete the proposal. this proposal team was led by Steve Dorfman and Steve Pilcher. We jointly designed a 3-axis stabilized scientific satellite with our European team from BAC and with Messershmitt Boelkow (MMB) responsible for the attitude control subsystem. Overseeing the control systems engineering was an exciting opportunity technically and the opportunity to spend several weeks in Munich with MMB and at BAC in Stevenage, England was quite an experience.   The team that Steve Dorfman brought to England also included Andy McClellan, Virginia Norwood and Will Turk. Probably one the most memorable events during the stay which occurred over the July 4th period was the Colonial Day Cricket match inspired by both Dorfman and Pilcher. The whole team participated in a wonderful international exchange.

While the competition was spirited, several months later BAC informed us that our team had not been selected.

Introduction to NASA Science Missions

In 1967 Steve Petrucci led a team to bid on the GSFC Atmosphere Explorer (AE) Program follow-on. An objective of the AE Satellite was to dip down into the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetopause to take critical scientific measurements. The spacecraft was despun to align the scientific instruments along the satellite’s velocity vector for the short period of time as the satellite passed through the magnetosphere at the perigee of a highly elliptic sun synchronous orbit. This was an opportunity to apply our spin stabilization technology derived from Syncom to a special scientific mission   We won one of the two competitive studies and Perry Ackerman was chosen to lead the effort to unseat RCA for the follow on Program. Members of the team included Will Turk and John Stivers in Systems Engineering, Jim Wensley heading thermal design, Bob Meese overseeing the propulsion, and John Radecki in charge of the power subsystem. This was a fascinating mission incorporating a Delta class spin stabilized satellite with a unique set of requirements. While we fell short on our bid for the development program SSD gained a considerable amount of experience in dealing with both low altitude missions and the GSFC scientific satellite management as our bid for the Orbiting Solar Observatory overlapped the AE competition.

        Winning a competitive study from GSFC was rewarding for all who participated….losing the development program in 1968 was a surprise to many.

2.2 A New Chapter—The Space and Communications Group (S&CG)

Organization Structure Changes

With the creation of S&CG under Dr. Wheelon in 1970 the prime business centers became the Defense Systems, Commercial Systems and NASA Systems Divisions.

The NASA Systems Division, managed by Ed Marriott and later by Harvey Palmer and Steve Dorfman, saw continual evolving opportunities in Earth Resources, Meteorological and Scientific Satellites as well as planetary sciences and missions at the Ames Research Center (ARC) and Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL). Ed Marriott and Steve Dorfman initially saw NASA GSFC as a major focus. Building on the excellent customer experiences with the Synchronous Communications Satellite (Syncom) and the Applications Technology Satellite (ATS) the programs such as Atmosphere Explorer (AE), Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO), Synchronous Meteorological Satellite (SMS), and the Landsat (formerly called Earth Resources Technology Satellite) were all viable targets for Hughes technology and expertise. The planetary exploration programs overseen by Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Labs also provided significant opportunities.

2.3 Key Campaigns 1968 – 1974

Planetary Exploration and Pioneer Venus

With the formation of the NASA Division under Ed Marriott in 1970 Steve Dorfman assumed responsibility for new business activities. A very interesting opportunity arose with JPL’s efforts for a mission called the Grand Tour. A Caltech graduate student, Gary Flandro, working at JPL had discovered that a particular alignment of the outer planets in the late 1970s would allow a spacecraft to fly by Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, in turn, using the JPL-discovered technique of “gravity assist.” That this alignment occurred only every 175 years lent a degree of urgency to the mission. JPL was promoting this mission to be flown with a Thermoelectric Outer Planets Spacecraft, TOPS, and was seeking industry involvement in the design and construction of this spacecraft. Steve initiated an effort to track this activity to prepare for an eventual proposal effort.

Jack Fisher joined Steve’s activity and conducted preliminary analyses of spacecraft requirements including data storage, power and RF link assessments. He also traveled to JPL a number of times to meet with Ron Draper, JPL’s prospective systems engineer, to better understand JPL’s plans. This mission was to be included in NASA’s 1973 budget, however the priority at the time was the Shuttle, so TOPS didn’t make the cut. It was later resurrected as Mariner Jupiter Saturn with two JPL-built spacecraft launched in 1977 that successfully completed flybys of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Fortuitously another planetary mission appeared on the Hughes horizon just at this time. Due to science interest in the planet Venus NASA Goddard Space Flight Center instigated several studies of a Venus probe mission. Industry supporting studies were done by AVCO. In 1968 an in-house study at Goddard investigated small planetary orbiters utilizing the Delta launch vehicle again supported by AVCO. The resulting mission was called the Planetary Explorer. In 1969 the two missions were merged with the concept of a common bus spacecraft for the two missions. Missions for the Venus launch opportunities in 1975, 1976/77 and 1978 were considered.

The science community came onboard the bandwagon in 1970 with the publication of a report recommending Venus exploration with a low cost Delta launched spin stabilized Planetary Explorer performing atmospheric probe, orbiter and lander missions. Towards the end of 1970 it became obvious that NASA approval for a new-start 1975 mission was not a possibility. Plans were then directed towards a dual-launch multiprobe mission in 1976/77 and an orbiter mission in 1978. Goddard spent the most of the year 1971 completing their studies and preparing a project plan. In November 1971 NASA discontinued the Planetary Explorer program at Goddard and transferred the effort to the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. The program then became known as Pioneer Venus.

Ames was well prepared to handle this assignment as they had a proven project team in place, headed by Charlie Hall, who had successfully completed four Pioneer interplanetary missions, and was engaged in preparing to launch two Jupiter flyby missions. Ames organized a study group to review earlier studies and prepare recommendations for a system definition effort. The mission plans remained unchanged with a multiprobe mission in 1976/77 and an orbiter in 1978.

Steve Dorfman assembled a team and began to analyze these Venus missions. Although some early studies with AVCO had been done it was decided to team with General Electric for the upcoming study and eventually the program. In March 1972 an RFP was issued for system definition studies and parallel contracts were awarded in October to Hughes/General Electric and TRW/Martin Marietta. This was a time of intense effort. There were many trips to the Ames facilities in Mountain View. Most trips were just for one day flying from LAX to San Jose with a flight time of less than an hour. The PSA fare at that time was just $13. The studies continued through July 1973 when the final reports were issued. The Hughes report consisted of 15 volumes as listed below with the principal author:

Vol. 1 Executive Summary—Steve Dorfman

Vol. 2 Science—Lou Acheson

Vol. 3 Systems Analysis—Jack Fisher

Vol. 4 Probe Bus and Orbiter Spacecraft Studies—John Bozajian

Vol. 5 Probe Vehicle Studies–Leo Nolte/Dave Stephenson

Vol. 6 Power System Studies–Howard Prochaska

Vol. 7 Communication Subsystem Studies–Dave Newlands

Vol. 8 Command/Data Handling Subsystem Studies—Don Vesely

Vol. 9 Attitude Control/Mechanisms Subsystem Studies—Arnold Neil

Vol. 10 Propulsion/Orbit Insertion Studies—Bernie Rosenstein

Vol. 11 Launch Vehicle Utilization–Bob Varga

Vol. 12 International Cooperation

Vol. 13 Preliminary Development Plans—Marv Mixon

Vol. 14 Test Planning Trades—Don Pedretti

Vol. 15 Hughes IR&D Documentation

By the conclusion of these studies it became apparent to NASA that funding for a 1974 start was not in the offing and the Multiprobe mission slipped to 1978. Also during this period NASA decided to use the Atlas Centaur for both missions rather than the Delta. NASA issued holding contracts to both teams funded through December to study these modifications.

On February 1, 1974 NASA announced that the Hughes/GE team had been selected for negotiation leading to a contract for the Pioneer Venus spacecraft. On May 1 a contract was awarded for non-hardware activities and negotiations through October. The Hughes project team spent two full weeks with Charlie Hall and his team pouring over the NASA specification line-by-line. At the time it seemed very tedious, but with hindsight it was a very smart way to come to agreement on the contract specification. The final contract award was made on November 15 with a start date of December 1, 1974.

          Hughes was awarded the contract for this very challenging mission. Steve Dorfman led this campaign from the beginning and with the award of this important program in 1974 took on the responsibility of managing it with a team including John Bozajian, Leo Nolte with Jack Fisher heading systems engineering. Mal Meredith joined the team after the launch of OSO. Both the orbiter and multiprobe were launched in 1978 and successfully completed their missions. The multiprobe, large probe and three small probes all successfully entered the Venusian atmosphere while the orbiter continued to operate in orbit until 1992. The success of these missions led to capture of the Galileo probe in 1978.

 Synchronous Orbit Meteorological Satellite (SMS)

         The success of the meteorological experiments carried aboard the Hughes ATS-1-3 satellites led to NASA’s development of a satellite specifically designed to make atmospheric observations. In the early seventies study contracts for the development of the SMS-1 and SMS-2, operational prototypes, leading to launches in 1974 and 1975. SMS-1 and -2, and GOES-1-3 were essentially identical. The SMS satellite was to be the first operational spacecraft to sense meteorological conditions from a fixed location. They carried instrumentation for visible and international remote imaging, collection of data from automated remote platforms, relay of weather products (WEFAX), and measurement of a number of characteristics of the near space environment. Steve Dorfman and Pat Dougherty headed the proposal and study program.

The principle instrument on board was the Hughes Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC) developed Visible Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR) which provided day and night imagery of cloud conditions. The satellite had the capability to monitor cataclysmic weather events such as hurricanes and typhoons continuously, relay data from over 10,000 surface locations into a central processing center for incorporation into weather prediction models, and to perform facsimile transmission of processed images and weather maps to WEFAX field stations. In addition, a Space Environment Monitor (SEM) and Data Collection System (DCS) similar to those on the NOAA polar orbiters were installed. SMS-1 was placed in a geostationary orbit directly over the equator at 45o W longitude (over the central Atlantic). This location provided continuous coverage of the central and eastern US and the Atlantic Ocean.

        This study award continued our leadership in the stationary orbit meteorological satellite business….however we lost the bid for NOAA’s first operational Metsat GOES A,B and C.   It would take a number of years before we would compete for and win the follow-on GOES DEF Contracts.

 Japanese Geostationary Meteorological Satellite – GMS

Japan’s Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS) system was originally developed by NASDA relying heavily on the NOAA GOES design and is jointly managed by NASDA and the Japan Meteorological Agency. Japan’s NEC Corporation was the Prime contractor for this program. The major Earth-oriented instrument is the Visible and Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer (VISSR), used to obtain visible and infrared spectrum mappings of the Earth and its cloud cover with a specially designed optical telescope and detector system. Steve Petrucci’s team heavily borrowed from the work at Hughes competing for the SMS. Louis Fermelia joined Steve as head of systems engineering.

         Hughes were awarded the program by NEC and launched the first of the GMS spacecraft in 1977.  

 Orbiting Solar Observatory

The NASA Systems Division also saw the Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO) as an opportunity in 1970. Objectives of these satellites were to obtain data to better understand the region between the disk of the sun and its atmosphere. This relatively narrow region where the chromosphere and corona meet is a region with certain peculiar properties. This would require an unprecedented pointing accuracy of just several arc seconds. Accordingly a program office was established in April headed by Ed Marriott and Marv Mixon to prepare a proposal for OSO. The NASA requirements specified a Delta launch into an orbit at an altitude of 340 miles and inclined at 33 degrees to the earth’s equator. The satellite’s design life was to be one year.

This was an opportunity to apply Hughes’ dual spin satellite technology to achieve the critical solar measurements for this important scientific mission. The OSO platform consisted of a sail section, which pointed two experiments continually toward the sun, and a wheel section, which spun about an axis perpendicular to the pointing direction of the sail. Five experiments were integrated into the platform. Attitude control was provided by gas jets and a magnetic torquing coil that performed attitude adjustment. Pointing control permitted the pointed experiments to scan the region of the solar disk in a 40 by 40 arc-min to 60 by 60 arc-min raster pattern.

The effort to design, build and launch OSO was led by Dick Bentley and Marv Mixon. John Bozajian was responsible for the vehicle design; Fred Hummel and Lynn Grasshoff had the attitude control system assignment, particularly difficult because of the pointing accuracy requirements; Chuck Agnew was responsible for the complex telemetry and command system, and Mal Meredith was responsible for the system engineering.

Only one spacecraft, OSO 8, was built and launched in 1975. The spacecraft operated for 3 years well in excess of the design life requirement. OSO proved to be the only low altitude satellite program that S&CG ever built. The focus of the company became geostationary and highly elliptic orbit missions.

Multi-Spectral Sensor for Landsat 1-3

The Multi-Spectral Sensor program was being pursued separately by the Hughes subsidiary, Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC). SSD played a supporting role initially. The Multi-spectral Scanner System (MSS) was an experimental payload originating from an unsolicited proposal and using a less familiar “scanning” technology to acquire images. After a major proposal SBRC was awarded the contract to supply the NASA GSFC with three instruments for the Landsat missions. Plans for the multi-sensor Earth Resources Technology Satellite later called Landsat were being formulated and a 4-band instrument was being planned to be deployed on the satellite. The SBRC had a high degree of expertise in sensor technology and used it to demonstrate its abilities to achieve the scientific needs of the community to measure the spectral range of the earth for the purposes of allowing land managers and policy makers to arrive at knowledgeable decisions about our natural resources and the environment. Art Gardner was the lead at SBRC while Virginia Norwood was on the SBRC/SSD support team to interface with the science community and the NASA.

Two months before the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972, engineers from Hughes took their engineering model of the Multi-spectral Scanning System to Yosemite National Park, set it up on Glacier Point and took a spectacular and memorable picture of Half Dome from 2.5 miles away. The following comments taken from the NASA Landsat history illustrates some of the impediments that had to be overcome: “As the then-Landsat 1 Ground System Manager Luis Gonzales explained, no one knew if the spaceborne MSS would successfully produce a digital image. As the first civilian scanner to orbit Earth, could the MSS, traveling at such a high velocity, write out its binary data in real-time? Its scan mirror whirred back and forth at the then amazing rate of 13 times per second (13.62 Hz frequency with imaging occurring only in the forward scan direction), creating a loud buzz that made an impression on every engineer and scientist who visited Hughes during the MSS fabrication. John DeNoyer, the USGS liaison to NASA for Earth-Observation Satellites at the time, compared the scanner noise to that of a hammer mill. Hughes staff assured the visitors that no one would hear it in space.”

      “Reviewing the original MSS proposal, NASA geologist Paul Lowman thought, “this crazy thing vibrates 16 [sic] cycles a second; the moving parts will never work.” NASA engineers, USGS scientists, and many others involved with the project where naturally surprised when they saw the excellent quality of the data after launch. Virginia Norwood and her team at Hughes who built the MSS, however, were not surprised. Having seen the space-acquired MSS imagery, Lowman conceded, “I was dead wrong.”

      This program established Hughes as a viable supplier of this very important technology and served as the basis of our future MSS follow-on award and the win of the Thematic Mapper in the late 1970s.