Recovery of Telstar Satellite
Description of Role
Getting around failed transistor
A Typical Day On This Project
What I Liked About This Project
One of the many projects of my career was rather unusual and came about suddenly in the life of the Telstar satellite, launched in 1962. Ground control could no longer turn on the orbiting repeater that was the first direct television link between Europe and the US. I was not on the satellite design team, but the key engineer for the command decoder (Henry) was sent to the design team from my department. When he told me of the problem and that the source was probably radiation damage to the transistors, I suggested maybe we could design a special code that would tolerate a limited failure.
So we studied the impact of each type of failure for each component and what we could do, if anything to get around that that type of failure. We came up with several options. One of the engineers in my department (Hans) volunteered to build a flexible Code Generator so we could program flexible code arrangements. We made a magnetic tape of the more promising options. Henry took the tape to ground control. The first code did nothing, but the second turned the satellite repeater on. This success got a lot of publicity and to this day I occasionally hear of the 400-mile-long screwdriver.
How many years of relevant experience did you have when you worked on this project?
5 to 10 years years
Who would you like to thank or acknowledge for their work on this project?
It was a great team effort, including Henry Mann(designer), Hans Henning(flexible code generator) Bob Shennum(satellite design), Gene O’Neill(Telstar Project Leader