‘Early Bird’ spreads its wings 

6 December 2018 tbs.pm/67965

RUPERT BUTLER writes about Sunday’s historic transatlantic broadcast via ‘Early Bird’ the first commercial communications satellite

From Look Westward for 2-8 May 1965

WHAT WILL next Sunday be like in North America? How will the day be spent in Mexico, Italy, Germany and Sweden?

High above the earth — some 22,500 miles away — is an intriguing piece of ironmongery which will supply the answers to these questions.

It can bring us television pictures of events in various parts of the world as they take place.

The official name of this scientific piece of equipment is “Public Satellite No. 1”, known less alarmingly as Early Bird.

This spacecraft, shaped rather like a hat box, will be in full operation this Sunday when Post Master General Anthony Wedgwood Benn introduces a special Early Bird showcase programme called Out of This World.

Transmissions will be “live” and two-way between the continents of Europe and North America.

Broadly speaking, cameras will be going out in the open air for their material. Britain will be taking a look at amongst other things, the band of the Grenedier Guards and the bustling Information Room at Scotland Yard.

In addition to music, sport and variety spectaculars from all of the specially chosen centres, there will be constant news bulletins — a significant advance in the history of factual television.

Viewers may quite reasonably ask: But haven’t we already seen this sort of thing via Telstar? This is very true. But the Important thing about Early Bird is that It is the first permanent link between North America and Europe.

Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn, the Post-Master General, will introduce the broadcast from Bristol

Unlike Telstar and similar satellites, Early Bird stays in a fixed position over the Atlantic. Transmissions are no longer restricted to times when a satellite is passing between the two continents.

The 85 lb. Early Bird is already in position for Sunday’s transmissions. It has enough power to carry TV pictures among all the countries on both sides of the Atlantic.

Picture quality is said to be even better than Telstar. In time, it is hoped to launch another two similar satellites which will then give world coverage.

If there’s time during the transmission of Out of This World, there will be demonstrations of the variety of ways in which Early Bird can be used.

Its electronic equipment, for example, will pick up radiotelephone signals from earth, amplify them and transmit them back to earth far beyond their normal range.

On Sunday, there’ll be an opportunity to see just how perfected “Public Satellite No. 1” really is. There’ll also be a unique chance to view one of the most exciting breakthroughs in TV history.

Inside ‘Early Bird’

(1) Receiving antenna reflector.
(2) Communications antenna.
(3) Travelling wave tube ferrite switch.
(4) Thermal shields sealing electronics from space environment after solar panels are mounted.
(5) One of four hydrogen peroxide tanks used for Jet control system.
(6) Radial peroxide jet.
(7) Transponder-receiver.
(6) Nickel-cadmium batteries.
(9) Apogee motor nozzle.
(10) Telemetry antennae.
(11) Separation interface for Delta rocket.
(12) Encoder-decoder.
(13) Sun sensors.
(14) Axial peroxide jet.

Path in space

In numerical sequence this is how Early Bird reached its orbit:

(1) Lift-off from Cape Kennedy.
(2) Second stage burnout orbit.
(3) Injection into transfer orbit near Equator after third stage burn.
(4) Transfer orbit path.
(5) Six hours, 10 minutes after lift-off satellite reached first apogee.
(6) Second perigee above Equator.
(7) Second apogee above South America.
(6) Third perigee over Africa.
(9) Third apogee above Equator over Indonesia.
(10) Fourth perigee over Equator in mid-Pacific.
(11) Fourth and final apogee over South America at 60 degrees west longitude, apogee motor ignited and satellite injected into nominal drift orbit.
(12) Spacecraft is reoriented and propelled with on-board gas jet system to final position at 27½ degrees west longitude.

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