Section 10-Intelsat—Compendium of Satellite Communications Programs NASA X-751-73-178 June 1973

10.1 Program Description

The International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (Intelsat) is a partnership initially established between 14 member nations in 1964 for the purpose of providing global commercial tele-communications via satellite.         Since that time, the organization has expanded to include 79 member nations (as of May 1971), and new applications for membership continue to be received.

From the time it was established in 1964 to the present, Intelsat has produced four generations of satellite and ground systems. Development of the initial satellite, nicknamed Early Bird and later designated Intelsat I, was initiated by Comsat in November 1963. Just a year earlier, in August 1962, the U. S. Congress had passed the Communications Satellite Act, which authorized the creation of a private corporation (Comsat) to instigate the development of a global commercial communications satellite system. At the time when Early Bird’s development began, the Syncom II satellite had just completed demonstrating that reliable communications could be provided through lightweight synchronous satellites. As a result, the Syncom satellite design formed the basis for the Early Bird spacecraft.  Early Bird was launched in early 1965, as indicated in Table 10-1, and by April 22, 1965, had successfully achieved synchronization into the desired geostationary orbit with the satellite located over the Atlantic Ocean. After a period of satellite performance testing, system parameter evaluation using the operating ground stations, terrestrial and satellite circuit lineup, and public demonstrations, commercial operation was initiated on June 28, 1965. The satellite successfully provided commercial communications service between the United States and Europe until it was retired in early 1969. It was reactivated for a brief period later in 1969 when temporary difficulties were encountered with the antenna system of a third generation Intelsat satellite.Early Bird

The second generation of Intelsat spacecraft was designated Intelsat II. Even when the Intelsat I system was under development, it was realized that many of the inherent advantages of space communications could not be exploited. Specifically, its antenna characteristics were such as to embrace only the north-eastern part of North America and the western part of Europe, and it did not allow for simultaneous intercommunication among numerous earth stations. By late 1965, it was recognized that the constraints imposed by these deficiencies would be incompatible with a NASA requirement for multichannel communications in late 1966 among its tracking stations at Carnarvon, Australia, Ascension Island, Canary Island, tracking ships in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and the Manned Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas. In the past, these circuits had been carried by HF radio, but for manned space flights, improved communications were desired. Consequently, in the fall of 1965 the development for Intelsat II had begun with the primary goal of satisfying the NASA requirements; excess capacity was to be used for other commercial traffic.  Because of the urgency to satisfy the NASA requirement, the Intelsat II design evolved directly from that of Intelsat I.

Four Intelsat II satellites were produced and launched as indicated in Table 10-2. The first launch occurred in October 1966; but when the satellite’s apogee motor malfunctioned, the spacecraft was left in a highly elliptical inclined orbit, making it unusable for full-time commercial operations.         Subsequent launches in January and September 1967 successfully placed two satellites into operational service over the Pacific Ocean.  A March 1967 launch successfully supplemented the Intelsat II satellite in operation over the Atlantic Ocean. With these three satellites in place, commercial service was available over both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The Intelsat II satellites continued to meet international commercial communications requirements successfully until third generation replacement satellites allowed them to be retired to the active reserve.Intelsat II           The development of Intelsat III was initiated in 1964 with a design study and followed 2 years later with the award of a contract for the design, development, and fabrication of the necessary spacecraft. Eight Intelsat III satellites were launched between September 1968 and July 1970 as indicated in Table 10-3. Launch failures in September 1968, July 1969, and July 1970 made three of these satellites unusable. A successful launch in December 1968 placed a spacecraft in service over the Atlantic. Some difficulties were encountered when this satellite’s mechanically despun antenna started sticking in mid-1969.  This occurrence made necessary the aforementioned reactivation of Early Bird. The antenna problem was resolved by August 1, 1969, and commercial operations were resumed until a subsequent January 1970 Intelsat Il launch allowed the satellite to be placed in the retired reserve.  In April 1970 another successful Intelsat III launch supplemented the operational capability available over the Atlantic.IntelsatIII        An Intelsat III satellite was first placed into operation over the Pacific in February 1969. This satellite was supplemented by a second spacecraft in May 1969. When the first Pacific Intelsat III lost 6 dB of transponder gain due to an RF receive amplifier malfunction, it was relocated over the Indian Ocean where the traffic requirements were lighter. As a result, four Intelsat III satellites were, as of May 1971, providing global commercial service over the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Development of the fourth generation of Intelsat spacecraft, Intelsat IV, began in the latter portion of the 1960s.  These satellites, manufactured by Hughes Aircraft Corporation, have been designed to provide a substantially greater capability to meet the increased global communication needs of the 1970s. The first, in an expected series of eight satellites, was successfully launched by an Atlas Centaur rocket into a geostationary orbit on January 25, 1971.         It was positioned over the Atlantic at 24 5°W longitude. Subsequent Intelsat IVs will be launched for service over the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans with an additional two satellites as spares in orbit. Each satellite will have a design life expectancy of about 7 years.

Because the Intelsat program has been a commercial venture, the number of major innovations in equipment and techniques employed has been limited. The intent has been to minimize the risk of spacecraft failure and the exceptional reliability record amassed by the system testifies to the success of this policy. Nevertheless, the Intelsat program has made significant contributions to satellite communications.

Numerous subjective tests with Intelsat I demonstrated conclusively that the round trip time delay and echo due to two-wire user terminations were not insurmountable obstacles to the utilization of synchronous satellites for commercial communications. This was in confirmation of preliminary indications obtained on Project SYNCOM.

The Intelsat II spacecraft demonstrated that tunnel diode amplifiers of operational reliability were available for use as RF receive preamplifiers.         Utilizing these relatively low-noise, high-gain preamplifiers allowed direct RF to RF conversion in a single stage to be employed.  Sufficient spacecraft power and high performance earth terminals allowed these transponders to be designed for linear input/output power transfer characteristics. Additionally, Intelsat II and an expanded ground complex demonstrated the feasibility of extensive multiple accessing of a single satellite transponder by a group of operational ground terminals.

When the wideband Intelsat III satellites were placed into operation, it was necessary to introduce a third generation of earth stations to the system in order to take full advantage of the expanded capabilities of the space subsystem. These terminals employed newly developed 500-MHz bandwidth cooled parametric amplifiers, as well as 500-MHz bandwidth high power traveling-wave tube transmitters, capable of over 6 kW of multi-carrier power.

The more recent Intelsat IV spacecraft have contributed to satellite communications technology by demonstrating fixed narrow beamwidth (i. e., 4.5°) antennas mounted on a mechanically despun platform and a highly channelized satellite repeater (i. e., 12 inde- pendent transponders). The narrow-beam antennas provide coverage to a fixed, relatively restricted area of the earth but the high antenna gain available significantly increases satellite EIRP. The large number of transponders, each having a 36-MHz bandwidth, allows users with substantially different communication requirements to operate independently of each other in separate satellite channels (e. g., television distribution in one channel, high-capacity telephone trunks in another, and low-duty cycle individual voicelinks in still another). Additionally, a fully variable, demand-access, satellite system will be demonstrated for the first time during the period when the Intelsat IV satellites are being placed into operational service. Comsat has developed a single-carrier-per-voice channel PCM-PSK-FDMA demand-access system nicknamed SPADE that will be employed.

Hughes Aircraft History 1932-1986 Transcribed by Faith MacPherson

Editor’s note: Recently I was contacted by Jon Wilkman and asked to provide some background information on Hughes Aircraft. His company, Wilkman Productions, has been tasked by an advertising agency to write a book about Hughes to publicize the old Hughes Culver City site to prospective tenants.   In my search for something to give him I found a brochure entitled “at the forefront of technology” produced by Corporate Human Resources in 1986 probably for the benefit of General Motors. I gave this to Jon, but I also thought, even though it isn’t solely concerned with Hughes space activities, that I should post it on our website. Jack Fisher

Hughes Aircraft Company was established in 1932 under the umbrella of the Hughes Tool Company to support Howard Hughes’ interest in aviation. His early success with the H-1 racer brought respect to the handful of designers and craftsmen who worked for the Company. In 1936 and 1937 Hughes Aircraft Company entered the competition for the design of an Army Air Corps interceptor and won. Since Hughes Aircraft Company had no production facilities, the production contract was ultimately awarded to Lockheed Aircraft Company.

During 1937 and ’38 the radio department of Hughes Aircraft Company was working on the equipment for Mr. Hughes’ around-the-world flight. This department, under the direction of Dave Evans, was the seed of the Company as it is now. However, at that time and for the next dozen years, Hughes Aircraft Company anticipated becoming a competing airframe manufacturer. In 1939, design started on an advanced fighter bomber made principally of plywood. Prototype versions were flown in 1943, which led to a contract to build 100 photo reconnaissance planes for the Army Air Corps – the XF-11. When the war ended two years later, the contract was cancelled and Hughes was to complete only the two experimental planes under construction.

In 1941, the Company moved from Glendale to Culver City, where it had purchased a tract of land eventually to total 1,300 acres. At that time there were about 500 employees, 100 of whom were engineers.

During World War II, a Hughes engineer developed a flexible feed chute to speed the operations of machine guns on B-17 bombers. The Company also made electric booster drives, making machine guns less likely to jam, and manufactured wing panels and other part for military planes from Duramold – the patented wood substitute for metal.

In 1942, Hughes and shipping magnate Henry Kaiser won a contract to produce three “flying boats,” the HK-1 cargo plane. Due to the wartime shortage of aluminum and steel, the flying boat was to be built with wood, using the Duramold process. The contract was reduced to one prototype for $18 million. Its gross weight was 200 tons, three times heavier than any plane then in existence. The propellers were seventeen feet in diameter, the hull thirty feet high, and the tail as tall as a five story building. It had a wingspan twenty feet longer than a football field.

A Congressional subcommittee investigation on the operations of defense contractors during World War II was conducted in 1947 and Howard Hughes was the chief target of Committee Chairman Senator Owen Brewster. The investigation focused on the HK-1. With his reputation on the line and $7 million of his own money invested in it, Hughes vowed that if it wouldn’t fly, he would leave the country and never return. Within weeks, he flew the HK-1 for one mile in Long Beach Harbor at an altitude of seventy feet. It was never flown again.

After World War II, Hughes brought in two retired Air Force Generals – Ira Eaker was made a Vice President of the Hughes Tool Company and Liaison with Hughes Aircraft Company, and Harold George as Vice President and General Manager of Hughes Aircraft Company. C.B. Thornton, a retired Air Force colonel and former executive from Ford Motor Company, was hired as Assistant to Mr. George.

In 1945, Hughes Aircraft Company was awarded an Air Force contract for guided missile development. This project soon came under the direction of Dave Evans in the Radio Department. Evans then brought in Dr. Simon Ramo, a Cal Tech graduate and manager of General Electric Company’s Research Laboratory, and Dr. Dean Wooldridge, another Cal Tech graduate who was a Vice-President at Bell Telephone Laboratories. They quickly adopted the objective of building up a Research and Development organization more competent than any other in the electronics industry, and began looking for projects thath only that level of competence could handle. They began to concentrate on electronics, or what soon became known as AVIONICS (AVIation electrONICS).

The Radio Department became the Electronics Department in 1947 and was working on studies of active and passive seekers. In 1948 Hughes Aircraft Company won an $8 million contract to build and install 200 radar units for the Lockheed F-94. Successful accomplishment of that task led to a long succession of radars and radar-based weapon control systems for interceptor aircraft. Hughes also developed the Falcon air-to-air missile, the smallest of the world’s early guided missiles. Six feet in length and weighing 130 pounds, it was part of the weapon system for numerous interceptor aircraft, culminating in the F-102 and F-1-6 supersonic interceptors.

All missile activity was incorporated into the Electronics and Guided Missile Department in 1949. Dr. Allen Puckett came to Hughes that year. In 1950, this Department became the Research and Development Laboratories. Ramo and Wooldridge were appointed Directors of the Laboratories. The following year, 1951, the Guided Missile Department became a Laboratory and the sections became departments. Ramo was appointed Director of Operations. The first guided missiles were tested that year and additional missiles were built at the newly established Manufacturing Division in Tucson in preparation for large-scale production of tactical missiles.

In 1952 Hughes Aircraft Company had 15,000 employees, with 1,000 scientists. Profits after taxes were $5.3 million, its revenues surpassing the Tool Company. At that time the Company was organized into the Aeronautical Division, which included armaments, the Flying Boat and Aeronautics; the Research and Development Laboratories, which had labs for radar, missiles, advanced electronics, electron tubes, and field engineering; Electronics Manufacturing; and the Tucson missile plant.

In 1953 the Company’s sales to the military were $180 million between Culver City and its new missile manufacturing plant in Tucson. Nonetheless, 1953 was a critical year for Hughes Aircraft Company. In the Fall of that year, Ramo and Wooldridge left the Company to form the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation (later to become TRW). General George joined them and Thornton and Ash also left, soon to start Litton Industries. All of these men cited difficulties in working with Mr. Hughes as a major factor in their decision to leave. The disruption that these top-level departures might be expected to cause was a source of great concern to the Air Force. The Korean War was still going on and Hughes Aircraft Company was the sole supplier of Air Force all weather interceptor fire-control systems.

The Secretary of the Air Force, Harold Talbott, issued an ultimatum – Mr. Hughes had ninety days to reorganize the Company in such a way that he, personally, would not be actively involved in its management, or the Air Force would cancel all its contracts. On the 90th day of that period Mr. Hughes announced the establishment of the electronics portion of Hughes Aircraft Company as a separate corporation (taking with it the name Hughes Aircraft Company) and gave sole ownership of that corporation to the newly founded Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Mr. Hughes had, since his youth, intended to leave the bulk of his estate to medical research; he carried out that intention as a way of satisfying the Air Force ultimatum. The new Medical Institute was to become the most heavily endowed institution of its kind in the world. Following 1953, Howard Hughes essentially divorced himself from the operation of the Hughes Aircraft Company. By the end of 1953, Hughes Aircraft Company ranked 22nd on the DoD contract dollar list.

The aeronautics and armament activities of the Tool Company’s Aircraft Division remained as a subsidiary of the Hughes Tool Company when the new Hughes Aircraft Company was incorporated. In 1955 a two-seat helicopter was designed, put into production in 1960, and received an Army contract in 1964. From 1964 to 1969 Hughes Helicopters delivered 793 such aircraft for use in the Vietnam War.

Lawrence A. (Pat) Hyland from Bendix was appointed Vice President and General Manager of Hughes Aircraft Company in 1954. During the previous twenty-five years Mr. Hyland had established a reputation as a well respected scientist and technical manager. He remained General Manager of Hughes Aircraft Company for the next twenty-two years. He became President of Hughes Aircraft Company after Mr. Hughes died, and then became the CEO.

Mr. Hyland decided to follow the business approach that had been successful for the Company in the past – emphasize the development of integrated avionics for jet interceptors, build an ever-increasing backlog of sales, increase the number of employees and facilities, and increase profits.

One of Mr. Hyland’s major contributions to Hughes Aircraft Company was to decentralize its operations and make those in charge of those operations totally responsible – including responsibility for their own operating budget. They reported to a corporate organization that Mr. Hyland deliberately kept small. He wanted maximum decentralization so that product decisions could be made at level of management as close to the operating level as possible. He also emphasized synergy among the Groups, whereby research developments from one organization would find application in other organizations and product lines.

By 1958, the R&D Labs had split into Research Laboratories and three operating groups, Airborne Systems Group; the largest, consisted of several operating divisions: flight test, field service and support, communications, the Tucson (missiles) and El Segundo (electronics) manufacturing plants, and system development (headed by Dr. Puckett). The second major Group (the first to be designated a “Group”) was Ground Systems (GSG), located in Fullerton. The third operating group was Hughes Products, a component-oriented outgrowth of the Research Laboratories. Santa Barbara Research Center, which had been started by Dave Evans when he left Hughes Aircraft, had been acquired two years earlier as a subsidiary. In 1959, Hughes International was established.

By 1959, HAC had become the eleventh largest defense contractor, had contracts for $350 million and employed over 20,000 people. The Company occupied one million square feet of plant space. That was the year that the world’s first operating laser was build at the Research Labs at Malibu and the 30,000th Falcon missile was delivered to the Air Force.

At this time in our nation’s defense, a large effort was being invested in the development of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). In 1959 the Air Force suddenly cancelled its requirement for the new F-108 long-range interceptor, which would have incorporated the Hughes ASG-18 fire-control system and GAR-9 missile. It was a major blow for the Company. Production runs of the MG-13 and MA-1 systems also came to an end in 1962 and the Company had to lay off about 20% of its employees. That was a particularly painful experience for an organization that had always taken pride in looking out for its employees.   Of all the large aerospace contractors, Hughes Aircraft has, to this day, enjoyed the reputation of being the most stable employer.

Times were hard for the next six years. Mr. Hyland vowed never again to allow the Company to become overly dependent on a single product line. Despite the reduced sales level, he sharply increased the independent research and development budget. He pushed the Company to develop exclusive expertise in a number of exotic, but important areas of defense electronics with long range potential for the future. This resulted in the broad diversification of products for which Hughes is now famous. In 1986, no single program accounts for more tha 6 percent of the Company’s business and the ten largest programs account for about 40 percent.

The next two decades were an exciting period in the history of the Company: the world’s first synchronous orbit satellite was launched; the TOW antitank missile was developed; the Surveyor soft landed on the moon; the ATS III transmitted the first color photographs of Earth; the Maverick TV-guided air-to-ground missile was built; the laser was developed for use in range-finders for tanks, in airborne fire-control systems, and as an industrial cutting tool.

In 1961, Airborne Systems Group became the Aerospace Group, and Hughes Products Group became Hughes Components Group. Allen Puckett and John Richardson (formerly Vice President of Marketing) joined Roy Wendahl as Vice President and Assistant Group Executives of the Aerospace Group. In 1965, Allen Puckett was made an Executive Vice President of Hughes Aircraft Company and in 1969, he was pointed Assistant General Manager to Pat Hyland. That same year, Hughes Components Group became the Industrial Electronics Group (IEG).

In 1971, those who had been working on satellites and communications systems were spilt off from Aerospace to form the Space and Communications Group (SCG). Soon the Aerospace Group became Aerospace Groups consisting of Electro-Optical and Data Systems Group (EDSG), Missile Systems Group (MSG). Radar Avionics—soon to become Radar Systems Group (RSG), and Supports Systems. In 1978, Missile Systems Group was established independent of Aerospace Groups. By 1981 Radar Systems and Electro-Optical and Data Systems became independent Groups.

The current organization consists of the six operating groups—Electro-Optical and Data Systems, Industrial Electronics, Missile Systems, Radar Systems, and Space and Communications. Support Systems provides field engineering support to the latter three operating Groups. The Research Laboratories, as it has for the past four decades, develops new technological areas and as these find applications in product line, those scientists and that technology move into one or more of the operating Groups. Santa Barbara Research Center is a major subsidiary. Hughes International markets Hughes products throughout the free world. By the time Mr. Hughes died in 1976, there were 32 subsidiaries and 12 affiliates throughout the country and the world. Hughes Communications Inc. markets most of the satellites purchased by large companies and other countries for their communications networks.

The Department of Defense (DoD) also changed with the times. Whereas a DoD contractor was previously paid for the cost of efforts or products plus a profit calculated as a percentage of the originally estimated cost, DoD now demanded fixed price contracts. At one time, a contractor that designed a product could expect to be the manufacturer. Now, the design could be given to separate contractors. The design of a product tends to be more costly to the company, while the profit is in production. So competitors who can’t out-design Hughes Aircraft Company, can underbid us on the manufacturing contracts and using Hughes drawings, take away the more profitable end of Hughes business.

Therefore, the management team of Pat Hyland (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer), Allen Puckett (President) and John Richardson (Executive Vice President) decided to modernize our manufacturing facilities to enhance their productivity and competitiveness. In 1977 they embarked upon a five-year $1 billion building program to give the company new facilities and equipment’ in which products could be designed and manufactured more cost effectively.

In 1979 Mr. Hyland retired from the Chairmanship of Hughes. Dr. Allen Puckett, a graduate of Caltech and a Hughes employee for thirty years, became the new Chairman and CEO. John Richardson was appointed as President. Subsequent to Mr. Richardson’s death, Donald White was named to that position.

The defense procurement marketplace had changed drastically and required a new direction in leadership. Dr. Puckett was prepared for the challenge. The Department of Defense (DoD) had tightened up the performance specifications in their contracts, insisting on much greater emphasis on system reliability and demanding vigorous compliance with an ever-increasing volume of detailed contract requirements. High performance. Low cost, schedule deadlines, and detailed compliance had to be met simultaneously. In-plant inspections, random teardown and detailed inspection of hardware, as well as field audits were increased to ensure consistency between written procedures and work practices.

Dr. Puckett’s response was a formal commitment to Total Quality—to create and provide affordable products of superior quality, reliability, and performance, and to allow no operating decision to impact negatively on the quality of our products and operations.

From 1980 to 1986 employment grew from 56,000 to 80,000, one third of whom were scientists and engineers. Floor space totaled a staggering 22 million square feet, more than twice the amount just six years previously. Sales reached the $6.2 billion, with a backlog of $10.7 billion. Almost half a billion dollars was spent on capital expenditures in 1985 alone. At the same time the Company’s long term debt was reduced to under $100 million. The challenges had been met and the commitment to excellence continued. Since 1980, Hughes Aircraft Company has been one of the top tne defense contractors in the country and the leading electronics Contractor. It is California’s largest manufacturing employer.

After Howard Hughes died in 1976 the state of Delaware, in which both the Hughes Aircraft Company and its sole owner, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), were incorporated, contested the trusteeship of the Institute. The bylaws contained no provision for naming trustees to succeed Mr. Hughes.

The court charged that the Howard Hughes Medical Institute was not effectively discharging its fiduciary responsibility by owning only one asset, Hughes Aircraft Company, which paid a relatively small dividend, considering the valuable assets and sales of the Company. By selling the Company, HHMI could invest in a broader portfolio producing more income for medical research.

In June 1985 HHMI accepted an offer to sell Hughes Aircraft Company to General Motors for $5.2 billion. The GM-Hughes Electronics Corporation was established as a wholly owned subsidiary of GM and itself has two subsidiaries: Hughes Aircraft Company and Delco Electronics Corporation. With this acquisition General Motors became the largest corporation in the world. The basic mission of General Motors-Hughes Electronics is to accelerate the use of advanced electronics in GM products and production environments and, at the same time, to maintain our leadership in the arenas of defense and space.

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.


GM and Systems Engineering-Jack Fisher

In 1985 General Motors purchased the Hughes Aircraft Company from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for $5.2 billion. GM created a new company, GM Hughes Electronics, by merging Hughes with Delco. This company went into operation on December 31, 1985 with its own GM class H stock listed on the New York Stock exchange. GM had high expectations that Hughes technical know how would help them build the “car of the future.” This included application of the discipline of systems engineering to the development of automobiles.

Through the efforts of Hughes executive, Mal Currie, Hughes engineers developed a systems engineering educational program for GM executives. The program was first presented to the GM board of directors on November 24, 1986. This development of this program was managed by Dick Cheng with the assistance of Jack Fisher. The agenda as presented was:

  1. Introduction-Mal Currie
  2. Agenda-Howard Wilson (RSG)
  3. Systems Engineering and the Aerospace Program-Mal Meredith
  4. The Role of Systems Engineering-Jack Fisher
  5. Building a Systems Engineering Capability-Steve Iglehart (RSG)
  6. System Engineering the Antilock Brake System-Dick Cheng
  7. Concluding Remarks-Mal Currie

The presentation was made in the boardroom of the GM building in downtown Detroit. Roger Smith, CEO at the time, was not there. I remember being told that the cushions on the chairs around the board table were of varying thicknesses so that all the board members would appear to be of the same height.

The preparation of the material took a great deal of effort by all involved. I remember specifically dry runs for Mal Currie and Don Atwood and many meetings with the preparation team. The presentation was made on the Monday of Thanksgiving week. The team flew back to Detroit on the company jet leaving from Van Nuys on Sunday afternoon and returning the next day. The presentation was to take about 3 hours plus additional time for discussion and questions. I can’t remember whether the presentation was made in the morning or afternoon—I assume it was in the morning.

We traveled back to Detroit several more times to give the same presentation to lower level GM executives. Also on April 24, 1987 we gave a discussion of “Aerospace Design Reviews” to the Saginaw Division of GM. The Saginaw Division located in Saginaw, Michigan produced automobile steering components as well as front and rear wheel drive axles. Presenters were Jack Fisher, Lenny Mell, and Bob Drean.

We also traveled to Germany in May, 1988 to give a full-day systems engineering pitch to GM’s Opel division. Travelers to Germany were Dick Cheng, Jack Fisher, John Velman, Art Gardiner, Bernie Bienstock, and Chuck Edelsohn. Mal Currie was shown on the agenda that I have but I don’t remember him being there. We flew into Frankfurt and picked up an Opel Senator, the top-of-the-line Opel car, lent to us for our stay in Germany and drove to our hotel in Wiesbaden.  The Opel factory is in Russelsheim across the Rhine River from Wiesbaden.  We were given a tour of the factory during our stay.

I never heard whether GM adopted any of our approaches to systems engineering. However, I recently discovered a page in the GM Heritage Center entitled *1986-1996, GM Systems Engineering—Working to Achieve a Common Cross-Functional Development Process.” This source states that in 1986 a GM Systems Engineering Center was established and working in collaboration with Hughes a systems engineering based vehicle engineering process was developed. The process looks as if it were based upon the material that we shared with GM. The impact of this process on the design and development of GM automobiles is not known.

I would like to see Mal Currie’s recollections of our efforts and the impact on GM engineering. If anyone can get in touch with Mal it would be great to add his comments to this post.