Seeing my First Rocket Launch

ULS Delta V Launch - small 2016-06-24by Robert Brand

ULA Atlas V Launch – June 24th 2016

Now, I’m not talking about the little stuff that gets to a couple of kilometres. I’m talking about launches to orbit. I missed the largest modern launch earlier in June, but I was at Spacefest – the biggest and best every – and I aimed for later in June – an Atlas V with fewer boosters. I was not disappointed.

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Apollo 11 Interview in Full

Robert Brand at a recent London Space Conference

Robert Brand at a recent London Space Conference

Apollo 11 Interview – Spaceflight Magazine

by Robert Brand

As you all know, I am heavily involved in the space sector and you may have already read that I was Interviewed in Spaceflight magazine. First, let met say again that I did NOT put the title on the page “Saving Apollo 11” Nor did I say anything so over the top. It seems the editor thought that a nice touch. It was in UK Spaceflight magazine and headlines sell magazines.

You can read the entire Apollo 11 story on-line on the link below.

My words are very tame in the interview in that regard. My friend Nick Howes from the UK also thinks I am being humble when I tell him I didn’t do much other than standard wiring. It was in the NASA Apollo 11 Sydney switching centre for the mission – switching the Honeysuckle Creek feed and the Parkes feed. As I said. editors want to sell magazines. They embellish the facts where there is an opening.

This piece was the lead story of 3 more Apollo stories – the next 3 issues will each have an interview by Nick Howes. Two of them are with astronauts Rusty Schweickart and Jack R. Lousma and the last one is with Sy Liebergot, the Comms guy for mission control during the Apollo 13 crisis. I am pleased that they thought my story was interesting enough to include it in the Apollo series. Other than the title, the interview is very accurate from my perspective.

Spaceflight-Cover-2014-12(Widget)Read the Full Story by clicking below.

http://www.bis-space.com/2014/11/06/13775/saving-apollo-11

 

Apollo 11 Interview in Spaceflight Magazine

Spaceflight-Cover-2014-12(Widget)From Apollo 11 to ThunderStruck

by Robert Brand

It seems that an interview on my life in the space sector has been published. My good friend Nick Howes from the UK did the interview. It concentrates on my Apollo 11 work at the age of 17. No big deal, but it was pivotal in my life I guess and set the scene for what followed and ultimately the ThunderStruck spacecraft

Spaceflight Vol 56 No 12 – December 2014

The teaser for the interview says:

Nick Howes tells the intriguing story of a boy gripped by space and who went on to play an important part in the Apollo 11 story.

I’m afraid that you will have to buy the magazine to see the story of my contribution to Apollo 11, the entire NASA progam from Apollo 11 to the Shuttle and Voyager encounters and even a major ESA contribution for the Halleys Comet interceptor, Giotto.

A little exchange from Facebook.

  • Robert Brand Seems that this is me:
    Nick Howes tells the intriguing story of a boy gripped by space and who went on to play an important part in the Apollo 11 story.
  • Nick Howes Proud to call you a friend, proud to know you… as you should be proud of all you have done… thanks buddy!
  • Robert Brand … and now building his own spacecraft easily capable of circumnavigating the moon and returning to land on earth. A funny and unexpected ending, given that 3 years ago I had no intention of doing anything like this!
  • Nick Howes As I said “pivotal” in so many ways…
  1. admin says:

    Nick also said:

    “The first of my 4 Spacefest Apollo articles is now out. An interview with Robert Brand who had a pivotal and largely untold role in the Apollo story from Australia. Over the next 4 months, my articles with Rusty Schweickart Jack Jack R. Lousma and Sy Liebergot will also come out, pure golddust was the exact phrase of the magazine editor… as they have all been very wonderful with their take and tales on work they did both on Apollo and since”.

    So get your copy of Spaceflight and read all of Nick’s stories over the next 4 issues – I am just thankful that I did not have to follow any of these powerhouses from the Apollo days. They were at the pointy end of the stick. The only think that I can take comfort in is that of the four of us interviewed, I am the only one building a space craft.

    Just below this story on this page there should be a couple of links to “similar stories” about NASA’s Apollo 11 switching centre in Sydney. My fellow co-workers and I had a lot to do with getting that working and you can catch up a bit of the story there. By he way I met with them for a reunion lunch just a few days ago. It was sweet to see them – mind you most were rather scary when I was doing work experience at the age of 17 when I worked on NASA’s Apollo 11 gear.

Apollo Heritage – A GLXP Hangout

Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout - Apollo Heritage and the GLXPApollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout – Apollo Heritage and the GLXP.

Well the Apollo Heritage Hangout event is over and I had a lot of fun with the interview or should I say “armchair chat”. It was a very comfortable discussion. I am excited to tell you that there is a video of the event. It was recorded and the link is below. I must say that I am very taken with Dr. Pamela L. Gay (the host) and her interview style. I was never left with a feeling of “what will happen next”.

I was on the Apollo Heritage Hangout with Derick Webber, one of the GLXP judges and an easy to get along with type of guy who was also around during the Apollo era. He is also Director, SpacePort Associates. Author of “The Wright Stuff: the Century of Effort Behind your Ticket to Space” and much more.

So without any more chatter, click on the link below and settle in with a drink and enjoy the fun.

Please connect with out team – Team Stellar: http://teamstellar.org/

About Robert Brand:

Works for; and shareholder in a Communications and Aerospace company called PlusComms:

http://pluscomms.com/

Head of the Communications, Tracking and Data Division in Team Stellar.

Worked in Communications support for about 100 NASA and US military space mission and several ESA mission. Stationed at the Parkes Radio Telescope in comms support for the NASA Voyager flyby of Uranus and Neptune and ESA’s Giotto mission to Halleys Comet.

Robert regularly launches stratospheric balloons for both commercial work and scientific research. Some of the commercial flights are supporting space research for universities and private companies. The work is done through his company, PlusComms. He has launched 18 flights and recovered all 18 payloads. He will soon be building drones with supersonic capability (gravity assist).

 

Apollo 11, 45th Anniversary Memories

As mentioned in the last post, I was a 17 year old trainee technician when I had the opportunity to wire up some of the NASA Apollo 11 comms gear here in Sydney. I interviewed Richard Holl for the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. He was on of the NASA staff that manned the centre during the landing and moon walk. Below is a story that will surprise a few people, but it did happen and it almost crippled the Apollo 11 mission.

An Explosion in the Scan-converter.

by Robert Brand

A few weeks before the launch of Apollo 11, the scan-converter at OTC Paddington in Sydney exploded when it was switched on by NASA‘s Richard Holl following a test. The explosion occurred because the scan-converter was wrongly rewired one evening. Weeks of frantic work by Richard Holl and his team resulted in the scan-converter being completely rebuilt. It wasn’t until a few days into the mission that their work was completed in time for the historic broadcast. Richard Holl explains:

“The scan-converter used three phase power. It was the only piece of equipment in the room that did. All the other equipment was running on a 110 volt panel that was well labelled. Black is hot and green is ground in the USA, but in Australia black is neutral. It had originally been hooked up correctly to the US standard as we had just completed a full blown simulation the day before. The unit was fused for 240 volts as it had a three phase power supply, but it was the out of phase power that caused the massive current that did all the damage. Apparently an OTC technician working on other circuits thought the black wire was wrongly connected and changed it. When the scan-converter was switched on the next day it blew up. I got a meter out and checked the incoming power and found the mistake. “I repaired or replaced the slow scan monitor, NTSC monitor, camera, disc recorder, power supplies, and Grass Valley video equipment. The camera in the scan-converter was totally fried. The new camera did not have the inversion modification in it. I couldn’t take the hardware out of the bad one to modify the new one, so I had to buy all the components in Sydney. I couldn’t get the exact relays, so I had to specially design the one for Sydney. It was different to the others. Ted Knotts and Elmer Fredd came over from the USA to help with the repairs. Ted did all the logistics like getting Hewlett Packard in Sydney to fix the waveform monitor and Tektronix to fix the oscilloscope, and getting us the spare parts and tools we needed. Elmer and I would never have gotten it all done without Ted taking care of our needs. I had to perform a lot of magic, but nothing compared to the magic Elmer performed when he started working on the converter logic. I bet we replaced over a hundred transistors (all discrete components) and we were still replacing them while the boys were on their way to the Moon. We made it and so did they”.

I believe that it was around this time (minus 40 years) that the scan converter repairs were completed. Not mentioned in the text above (courtesy of my good associate John Sarkissian and CSIRO) was the fact that a motor/generator set was needed and was arranged and secured to a plank of wood in the basement of the Paddington terminal. It worked!

Photo by Richard Holl (L-R) Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes Scanconverter at OTC Paddington following the mission.

Apollo 11 45th Interview – GLXP

Hangout 006 GLXP Apollo 11 45thRobert Brand is a Special Guest for Apollo 11 GLXP Hangout.

Not much to say, but to follow the link below and be part of the Apollo 11 special event for the Google Lunar X Prize Team Hangout. I am part of Team Stellar – one of the GLXP teams

Many of you will not know that I was one of the many OTC employees that worked on the Apollo 11 comms here in Sydney. I was 17 years old at the time doing work experience. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the regular staff needed help. OTC was Australia’s government run international carrier. It was merged with our national carrier when the country deregulated the telco sector in 1992.

I will be discussing my experiences wiring up the Apollo 11 gear in Sydney – not that this was an amazing event, but since I am part of a group building a mission to go to the moon with a Rover, it appears that I am about the only person in the GLXP with a connection to the Apollo 11 event. I have learned a lot from others in the old company where I worked and from personal research. Hopefully I will do an adequate job. I was 17 years old back on the day of the landing.

http://www.googlelunarxprize.org/blog/connect-explorers-watch-google-lunar-xprize-team-hangouts

Note that although the poster states the time as 6PM PST, the time is actually daylight saving time 6PM PDT – That is 11am Sydney time.

I bumped into Buzz Aldrin 2 months ago when I was presenting a talk at Spacefest in Pasadena. I have learned a lot about the missions by talking with these guys.

Buzz Aldrin at Spacefest 2014

Buzz Aldrin at Spacefest 2014

Sydney video scan converter. Photo by Richard Holl left yo right: Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes scan converter at OTC Paddington following the mission

Sydney video scan converter. Photo by Richard Holl left to right: Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes scan converter at OTC Paddington following the mission

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt1

13th ASSC Uni NSWSpace Education

by Robert Brand

I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here:  Click to Download

Download (PDF, 3.5MB)

Collins Armstrong and Aldrin pass by waving

Apollo 11 visits Sydney

Collins Armstrong and Aldrin pass by wavingMy photos of the Apollo 11 Crew.

Nov 1st, 1969

by Robert Brand

If you read my post about my involvement in Apollo 11 communications in Sydney, then you’d know that I could not miss the opportunity to see the crew of Apollo 11 in the flesh.

The crew toured Sydney on November 1st 1969 – just 3.5 months after their flight. The streets of Sydney were crowded and all I had in my camera was black and white film.

The site of my pictures is close to St James train station in the heart of Sydney. They cruised up up Kings Street from the west with security and a police escort.

I was very proud to have been a small cog in the massive gears of the Apollo mission. I was still 17 years old and just a kid that could not even vote, but it was an amazing experience. Below are my photos on Facebook and a copy of one of the newspapers.

 

“I was 17 and although I wired up a lot of Apollo comms gear at OTC Paddington in Sydney, I had to take my place on a Sydney street to snap a few seconds on the Apollo Astronauts driving by.”

From Apollo 11 tour Sydney Nov 1 1969. Posted by Robert Brand on 12/21/2011 (8 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


NASA Canberra DSN road signs.

NASA Canberra Celebrations

NASA Canberra DSN road signs.NASA’s Canberra 70m Dish Celebrates 40 Years

NASA Canberra has a great celebration last April 13th 2013. Jason and I went down to help in the celebrations and it was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the big dishes. We also got to meet a lot of great people and some of the NASA DSN’s top managers from the US.

We also meet with long time Facebook friend and now a full space friend Peter Aylward seen in the picture above right. It was a great weekend full of space fun and a special visit to the site that brought us Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – Honeysuckle Creek.

There is a great piece of moon rock in the visitors centre as well as lots of real objects from the early space missions. A real “must visit” for those interested in space and NASA.

The photos below are from my Facebook pages:


“My son Jason and I visited this complex on the 40th anniversary of the 70m Dish.”

From Canberra Deep Space Communications Complex 2013-04-13. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (32 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Robert Band at Spacefest IV 2012 (Archives)

Australia’s Space History at Spacefest IV

by Robert Brand.

As many of you know that I have recently moved into the Space sector, but I am not talking about just comms. I am talking about designing and engineering a space mission.

Because of this I was asked to speak at Spacefest IV. It was held at Tucson Arizona in the US. My talk was on a bit of the past and the future. In fact it was this talk detailing my experiments at 20-30km that got me the space mission job.

After 18 hours from waking to arriving at Las Angeles with no sleep, I drove the 10 hours to Tucson.Quite a trip and I did try to sleep and rest along the way, but managed to get there safely. It was an amazing resort (J. W. Marriott Starr Pass Resort) with a facilities you can only dream about like the massive circulation pool and water slide. This picture was taken close to my room.

I was in interesting territory. This all started just over 3 years ago when I was contacted to do an amateur radio moon bounce event to celebrate the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. Since then things have grown and I was drawn into amateur rocketry and amateur satellites. My balloon experiments at 20km and 30km got noticed as did my current attempt at purchasing the  Jamesburg Earth Station. I ended up on the speakers’ list at Spacefest IV and I was amongst some formidable speakers. I was amongst Apollo astronauts and moon-walkers, mission controllers and planetary geologists. I certainly had to given them their money’s worth (they were paying). Until my talk I was enjoying the visual feast of the area and the people. There were about 18 astronauts and mostly Apollo astronauts.

All the astronauts are pictured here – That’s Al Worden with his shoes off. He was getting annoyed at the long time it took to shoot the photos and got a little fidgety:

Above: There is a crew member from every manned Apollo flight represented in this photo. Apollo 7: Cunningham, Apollo 8: Gordon, Apollo 9: Scott, Apollo 10: Cernan, Apollo 11: Aldrin, Apollo 12: Bean, Apollo 13: Haise, Apollo 14: Mitchell, Apollo 15: Scott & Worden, Apollo 16: Duke, Apollo 17: Cernan, Skylab 2: Weitz, Skylab 3: Bean & Lousma, Skylab 4: Gibson, ASTP: Brand.

I even got to meet the elusive Buzz Above: Aldrin, but he does not let his guard down easily and unless you are signing a $400 autograph it is hard to speak with him..

My talk went over very well. I told the story of Carnavon, Paddington and Moree’s contribution to Apollo 11 and other missions such as ESA’s Giotto probe to Halleys Comet. It was a fantastic opportunity to remind the US that they did not do this all by themselves. Well they pretty much did, but I certainly reminded them that Australia was important in the actual mission as the earth turned!

Above: Even my namesake Vance Brand, command pilot of the Apollo Soyuz mission was on hand and we got along famously just because I had the same name as his brother! That is us below:

The talk covered the Paddington site, manned by NASA staff:

Above: In the lead up to talking about NASA and OTC’s Carnarvon site I mentioned this story that I published here a few months ago – in fact it is a cut and past from the exOTC website:

 

Above: I went on to talk about the current high altitude experiments and the future of Do-It-Yourself Space – experiments that I am doing with my 10 year old son Jason who has his amateur radio license

 

I am looking forward to next year’s Spacefest where I expect to be in late May 2013. Here is a video of a few parts of my talk. The photographer accidentally interprets the bit about  the Giotto mission as tracking rogue asteroids, but he only filmed fragments and put some words together. Thanks to my good friend John Sullivan for the video.

High Altitude Balloon Experiments

Here is a picture taken at 26km from a recent weather balloon flight from Rankin Springs in central NSW:

You can click and click again to enlarge the image. Use the “Back” button to return here.

Below is a little image to show how amazing the results are even at 26 km. my photos are unaltered and taken from the above image:

The Sydney Morning Herald did a story on one of the flights. Here is the video:

http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/sydneys-very-own-space-agency-brand-and-son-20120116-1q26j.html

After Spacefest I traveled to Jamesburg and I have already written about that in an earlier post.

 

 

Australia Enters the Space Age – History

wresatAustralia’s WRESAT 1967 – History

Weapons Research Establishment Project: WRESAT

Not WotzUp, but a good bit of Australian History. Some Australian Space history for those interested.

On 29 November 1967, Australia became only the fourth country – after the USA, Soviet Union and France – to launch its own satellite from its own territory.

The battery-powered WRESAT weighed about 45 kilograms and was designed in the form of a cone. Three cones (two test and one actual) were constructed in the development phase, and a range of tests were carried out to ensure the satellite’s durability. As well as the durability tests, the final experiment tested the ejection of the protective plate covering the instrumentation during flight. In the early days of rocket and satellite work, countless experiments were lost due to the failure of covers to eject.

The scientific instrumentation carried by WRESAT followed on from previous upper atmospheric research that had been conducted at Woomera using sounding rockets. Among other things, WRESAT’s sensors and detectors measured solar radiation and its effects on temperature and composition of the upper atmosphere. The satellite was able to collect atmospheric information covering the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere and the mid-latitudes of the southern hemisphere – areas where measurements hadn’t previously been taken.

wresatHaving arrived at Woomera from Orroral Valley, and after some final checking and testing of experiment instrumentation, the satellite was transported to its launch vehicle. Reportedly the American team was horrified at the sight of WRESAT bumping around in the back of an open truck. The Australians argued that if it couldn’t withstand the short ride, it was not likely to withstand a lift-off. By launch stage, the rocket had been painted white for ease of tracking.

This sequence of the film is actually a bit misleading. The launch was originally intended for 28 November 1967. The six-hour countdown commenced on time, but was aborted 30 seconds from zero due to the failure of a heating-cooler unit to eject. So although the launch, which took place successfully the following day, was historically very significant, very few dignitaries were there to witness it. During WRESAT’s orbiting life of 42 days, it went around the world 642 times and transmitted scientific data on 73 of them, until its batteries were exhausted.

Stellar Launch Rocket

WotzUp Update (Archives)

Stellar Launch RocketWotzUp Update

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Published March 25th 2013

Team Stellar

It is full steam ahead with a range of activities. The biggest one of all is the risk assessment of the navigation systems and choosing the system that best fits the mission. As for that activity, usually a risk assessment is done of a mission plan, we are changing that to be the other way around – developing a mission plan after we chose the navigation systems. Having said that we would like to land somewhere historic to be able to visit some amazing leftover systems like Apollo sites or other landers.

We do have one favoured site where man walked on the moon, but we are yet to see if the navigation capability supports the mission. NASA have a “No Go” zone around some of these sites and also do not want rocket exhaust too close to their site so it will be a long haul for our little rover if we do visit.

As well as the everyday navigation available to anyone, I am looking at developing my own ideas about a novel system to give precise distance to our landing site and an exact speed. This will enable us to be very efficient with fuel. It will be interesting to see if we can construct a system to achieve this and thus need a very good secondary system. More later…

Some of my radio broadcast have focused on Team Stellar. Stay tuned.

kicksatKickSat

Seems that our KickSat will be launched later this year. Some good news on that front and I have a prototype of what will fly – lots of updates soon.

Better still I have been taking pictures from the ISS with EarthKAM – WOW. Lots of photos of Australia and if you students in high school can get your science teacher across this, you too can take your very own ISS photos. Read more below.

EarthKAM

ISS EarthKam Coopers CreekDid you know that there is a 12 MegaPixel camera on the ISS that students can control and snap photos from space? All you need to do is get your science teacher to sign up to the site and get an allocation of photos for students to take pictures of almost anywhere on Earth. More in a future article, but to get you going, here is a photo taken by my good friend David Galea (a Melbourne Science teacher) of the Exmouth area in Australia.

Note I have not checked whether these photos are north up or North down and sorry, but I don’t have the time.

and below another one of David’s photos of the Kakadu Area

Like around New Orleans in the US, you can see how sediment from this river has extended the river mouth out to sea.
In the News

Linda mottramLinda Mottram Sydney ABC 702 Mornings

It seems that Australia’s new space policy about to be tabled may not suit everyone and especially entrepreneurs like me. I personally want to see more funds for space and to make sure our brilliant minds graduating from university have somewhere in this country to actually work and not be lost to other countries.

Because of that I have engaged with several groups and I am hoping that we can develop a common narrative so that the general public and the media will know our desires and capabilities in the space sector.

I have been on many programs, but two in particular in Australia – One in Melbourne with a panel to discuss the issues and one on ABC radio in Sydney where I discuss the issues and also Team Stellar. Links to those broadcasts shortly.

http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2013/02/21/3695429.htm

On another note I made it into a Croatian TV show all about Team Stellar!! My piece was videoed in Abu Dhabi during the first Team get-together in December last year.

Public Speaking

I start professional Public Speaking gigs soon and it will be all about SPACE! For the moment I will be with Ovations exclusively, but they have been slow to kick off. I will still do free talks for universities and other deserving groups for free, but I am now in an interesting area.

I have a long history supporting space missions starting at the age of 17 when I wired up some of the Apollo 11 video and switching equipment in Sydney Australia back in June 1969. I supported most NASA missions from then to 1986 and that included communications support for NASA’s Apollo, Shuttle, Voyager and other missions. Also ESA’s Giotto Mission to Halleys Comet.

But the real interesting stuff is that I am involved in current space missions. Team Stellar’s lunar mission within the next 2 years and the UK’s Median experiment scheduled to touch down on Mars in 2020 (lots of green lights to get past) plus all the other great space stuff like EarthKAm and KickSat

If you want to get me to speak at your event go over here and you can book me:

http://www.ovations.com.au/speakers/robert-brand.html

I can promise you lots of great photos, the odd video and an amazing tale of being at the heart of so many incredible projects. I am also very animated. Don’t expect me to stay still when I get so excited about the subject. I also have a great tale about changing careers from Telecommunications to Aerospace!
UpLift Videos

I have completed a number of UpLift flights that were commercial. Since our first flight in December 2012, we completed 14 flights and 13 were commercial. We recovered all 14 payloads for 100% success rate. We are also available for commercial payloads with prices starting at $5,000.

Here is one video for a frozen Yoghurt company – we froze the yoghurt in the clouds!!

HAB / Weather Balloons

We sold the 20 x 350g weather balloons that I bought in November last year. They sold out within a month! I have tried to get more balloons, but no luck.

Andrea Guzmán

Just got a Skype message from Andrea Guzmán from Columbia. I encouraged her to not only follow here dreams but to take action. I interviewed her recently and she had done so well. Now she seems to have even done better and so fast. This interview from June 2011.

Andrea Guzmán: Hey Robert. Long time no talk to you. Hope you’re Okay. Let me tell you I’ve done very interesting stuff so lately. I earned an internship in Mexico, I was there a whole month working at the 1meter Telescope.
Robert Brand: Wow – great work!
Andrea Guzmán: Now, im working with the second colombian satellite and well, everything is going just great
Robert Brand: Living the dream !!!
Andrea Guzmán: just wanted to let you know, as you have been also my mentor 🙂
Robert Brand: It is one thing to Dream, it is another to make it happen! One day we will meet!
Andrea Guzmán: I was actually applying for a workshop in satellites in Australia. Let’s wait and I’m sure we will meet someday.
Robert Brand: That will be fun. Lots to see if you are here!
Andrea Guzmán: sooo… thanks a lot to have confidence in me, without even knowing who I was
Robert Brand: It is easy to see who will make and who will not!
Andrea Guzmán: Thanks Robert 🙂

Wow! Things seem to be going great for Andrea and I want to remind everyone that you HAVE TO TAKE ACTION and not just dream. I encouraged Andrea to follow her dreams with action and she would have done this without my help, I am sure! It is, none the less, a great example of success through hard work.

Jamesburg Visit (Archives)

Visiting Jamesburg Earth Station (USA)

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

AT&T’s Jamesburg Dish Visit – by Robert Brand

Jamesburg Visit

In early June 2012 I visited the Jamesburg site with the intention of surveying the site and turning it into a data centre. The site was abandoned by AT&T in 2002 following the attacks on the NY World Trade Center buildings. It was thought by AT&T that Jamesburg was too vulnerable to aircraft attack of a similar nature. I recently set up a company that is now looking to buy the site. The 2 day Jamesburg visit was like a trip back in time as many of the site’s offices and systems were still fully intact.

The picture above shows that the dish is still able to move as it was taken out of stow for a movie being made on site at the time of my visit. The large vertical appendage on the left of the structure is a covered stairway giving access to the upper rooms. Although the tracking system is still installed, the owner was using a manual controller. The tracking system is shown below (Note you can click on the images to enlarge them):

The halls are still filled with pictures of the Intelsat family that was worked by Jamesburg and the battery room still filled with batteries:

The power switchboard is also 100% active and capable of switching half a megawatt.

Below is the current owner (Jeff Bullis – r) with his nephew (Scotty – l) in the lunchroom as it was when it was vacated – fully operational and well appointed. I am in the picture on the right with the rather interesting map with 2 Australias. One showing the pacific Intelsat coverage and the other showing the Indian Ocean Intelsat coverage.

The site had a room filled with filling cabinets with every bit of AT&T correspondence. A Jamesburg fax cover sheet is seen below (left). The waveguide below the dish is able to swivel and transition from the vertical to the horizontal in the photo to the right.

I certainly remember working with Jamesburg regularly on day shift as the morning US TV news feed was sent to Paddington from Moree. It is amazing to think that this site was so completely abandoned 10 years ago. It is like using a time machine to go back to when it was operational. An amazing experience   More on Jamesburg in a future post.

A Visit to Honeysuckle Creek

hsk_1971_tnMy Return to Honeysuckle Creek

It had been 42 years since I visited Honeysuckle Creek. I was still a teenager at the time – 19 years old. I had just been working on comms for Apollo missions and had completed a lot of work wiring up comms for Apollo 11 gear at OTC Paddington. I had been on a pilgrimage to know ground zero zero for the reception of Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon – Honeysuckle Creek. Many may have been mislead by the movie “The Dish” that indicated that Parkes had been the site that brought us those first steps. It was Honeysuckle Creek. Parkes did bring us the majority of the moonwalk, just not Armstrong’s first steps. The dish was about 30m and now resides at the NASA Deep Space Centre in Tidbinbilla near Canberra.

I had come to Canberra with my son Jason who had just turned 11. It was a massive space weekend. We came down for the 40th anniversary of NASA’s 70m dish at Tidbinbilla. We visited Mt Stromlo, Had dinner with the Honeysuckle Creek staff and wives, we were live on Canberra’s Fuzzy Logic science show with Robert Brand, Jennie and Len Limpus at Honeysuckle Creek in 1971Rod Taylor (2XX) for a whole hour and then we went to visit the Honeysuckle Creek site. Only foundations and storyboards are left at the site, but we had our own tour guides and what guides they were! Some of the original staff that brought those moon pictures back to earth. This picture (above) is of a young Colin Mackellar who has created a fabulous history of the Honeysuckle Creek site and even the role that my government department (I worked for OTC(A)) played in the the Apollo missions.

I too have a photo from my visit in 1971. I went there with some friends and my new bright red Toyota Corolla. Honeysuckle Creek was out on Apollo Road in the mountains south west of Canberra and south of Tharwa.

Our trip to the site was very pleasant and easy to drive since the entire road was sealed when the NASA site was established in the 60s. It is a campground now and an absolutely beautiful place to visit. The open areas are still grass. John Saxon (Honeysuckle Creek staff) and Hamish Lindsay (Honeysuckle Creek staff) gave us a really great tour of the site, explaining the operations and what the staff had to do. Jason loved rubbing shoulders with those history makers and enjoyed the drive, tour and the entire weekend.

John Saxon and Hamish Lindsay ex Honeysuckle Creek staff

John Saxon and Hamish Lindsay – ex Honeysuckle Creek staff

To visit the Honeysuckle Creek site website: CLICK HERE

Below are some photos from our visit.


“This was the site of the dish that brought the world Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the Moon..”

From Honeysuckle Creek ACT. Moon Central. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (12 items)

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Queensland Spaceport on Brisbane Radio

Spenser_Howson on ABC RadioRobert on Radio 2 re: Queensland Spaceport

The last couple of days have been spent talking to people about the possibility of a Queensland Spaceport. This has come from some someone outside my company and it is about space recreational activities. The media seems hopeful to discuss the possibility of a Queensland Spaceport. Previously Queensland was discussed as a possible launch site for more traditional rockets. I was contacted by Spencer Howson of Australia’s ABC radio network to talk about this. I try to keep my distance from the recreational side of space and concentrate on the benefits of having a spaceport in this country. Spencer broadcasts the breakfast show on Brisbane local Radio.

There is plenty of discussion about Team Stellar and what Australia is doing to land a private mission on the Moon.

P.S. I forgot to mention Team Stellar’s name! Please mentally insert into the broadcast.

The audio file (edited)  is here: Click here to play (PC users can “Right Click” to save)

You can also use our flash player below:

Fuzzy Logic Science Show

Jason and Robert Brand on Canberra Radio

In April 2013, Jason and Robert Brand joined with Rod Taylor, the host of Canberra’s science show, Fuzzy Logic, for an hour of chat about space and what we are doing here in Australia. Jason got to talk about his involvement with high altitude balloon flights. He even got to back announce one the musical interludes. He had just turned 11 a few days earlier.

I discussed everything from my early days supporting space missions like Apollo 11 and right through to my work with Team Stellar.

You can listen to the show by clicking here

You can also use our flash player below:


“Canberra 2013-4-14 Interview about Space on the Fuzzy Logic Science program”

From Radio Interview Fuzzy Logic 2XX. Posted by Robert Brand on 4/15/2013 (6 items)

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Apollo 11 (Archives)

Robert Brand at Sydney ABC StudiosMy Apollo 11 History

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Many of you may have realised that I have had some historic connection to space. It certainly was not anything to do with the space sector, just the terrestrial (ground) sector. It never resulted in getting into the space sector, although back in 1999 I did come close to working for a US company for Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad – United Space Networks. Unfortunately Pete Conrad lost his life that year in a tragic motorbike accident. I did not think of working in the space sector again. Until now.

I worked in support of many Apollo missions and Many Shuttle missions and ESA’s Giotto Mission to Halleys comet where I was sent to fix major problems with the terrestrial systems and eventually found ESA’s equipment to be at fault. They had been rattling the diplomatic chain to get the bad links fixed and it turned out to be their own problem! I was also at Parkes for NASA’s Voyager spacecraft and its encounters with Uranus and Neptune. It all sounds impressive and I even have an award for support of the STS-1 first shuttle launch. It was personally presented to me back in 1981. The fact is that it was always the regular circuits I was looking after and I was good at it. I was the guy that they sent to Parkes when things got “touchy” with the terrestrial sector.

So some 43 years ago at the age of 17, I was asked to do some interesting wiring.

You can listen to me here to the ABC science Show from recorded on 11-7-2009:

Click Here To Listen

or here to listen to Radio Australia’s Breakfast show from 26-6-2009:

Click Here To Listen

On a sad note, Neil Armstrong died this month making me want to again celebrate his achievements by publishing this story. There will be more like Neil, but he eptomises the spirit of a true space explorer.

This article was published by me (Robert Brand) as part of the Apollo 11 40th anniversary celebrations some years ago I worked at the time for Australia’s Overseas Telecommunications Commission – A government organisation that looked after Australia’s international telecommunications services before deregulation of the market place in 1992.

Apollo 11 40th anniversary Celebrations

This story was published 40 year after Apollo 11 took off and it was 57 hours into the relived flight:

Apollo 11 right now (minus 40 years) and 57+ hours into the mission

40 years ago ApolloSkip back 40 years to the minute with Apollo 11

Right now (minus 40 years) and 57+ hours into the mission – Neil and Buzz have just finished checking out the Lunar Module. They are about to enter the area where the moon has the greatest influence and mission control will switch to moon reference as the spacecraft begins to accelerate towards the moon.

I was just listening to the audio feed minus 40 years and heard them ask the Apollo 11 astronauts to “stir up the cryos”. It would have been a different story if they had gotten the tank that ended up on Apollo 13!

OTC PaddingtonThis takes me back to my personal involvement in the Apollo missions. I like many of my counterparts working at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) – OTC – 40 years ago listen to the astronauts’ channel all day on my shifts. Not much else to do as it was “hands off” during the missions. Listening to the pops and crosstalk in the quiet periods I can tell that it was all carried on cable – narrow bandwidth compared to satellite channels (3.1kHz compared to 3.4kHz). During the quiet times I can also hear the noise and crosstalk. Occasionally a string of faint tones can be heard in the background. This was the CCITT No5 signalling that was predominant in international telephony at the time.Like the tones on modern telephones, but sent in a tight string by the switching equipment.

Send me your stories of what you were doing at the time and we will publish as many as we can. robert.brand@echoesofapollo.com

My involvement with Apollo 11 was mainly wiring up the Voice, data and video wiring for the mission at the Sydney terminal in Australia. Not a big job, but I was doing field training during my term breaks from college at the grand age of 17 years old. Fellow trainee Paul Davies and I were asked to wire some some NASA equipment and although I initially messed up the colour code, I got further work doing more wiring. I was working under Wayne Ozarko who was the only technician in the area that had TV experience. It must be remembered that international TV was pretty new and the Moree earth station had been built especially to suit the time-frame of Apollo missions. Moree was 6 hours drive north from Sydney and located in a radio free area in a shallow valley with farmland all around.

By the way, thanks to the CSIRO and the Honeysuckle Creek group for their photos and stories

At Paddington we had the NASA gear that controlled the switching for the mission. It was pretty much state of the art and there was no way that the communications work had seen modems capable of switching the massive bandwidth needed for the mission. Speeds that a standard dial-up modem exceeds today.

Without too many boring details, here are some pictures of the setup at our Paddington terminal in Sydney

Wayne Ozarko at Sydney Video Apollo 11 OTC Paddington

dick_holl_sydney_video_sm1

sydney_video_console-300x213

sydney_video_scanconv-300x2041

itoc_at_paddington_with_bob_goodman2

The last photo (above) was taken with the media present for the moon walk. The NASA video and switching gear is located inside the glass-off room. I watched the moon walk from back in my technical college with about 100 others on a small TV. I was a little bit more excited than the others knowing my small part.

For those that want more technical info please explore the CSIRO and Honeysuckle Creek sites:

http://www.parkes.atnf.csiro.au/news_events/apollo11/

http://www.honeysucklecreek.net/msfn_missions/index.html

Also remember that one of our sponsors is the OTVA (OTC and other international comms veterans). You can find more at:

http://www.otva.com

Now for some more technical details for the telecommunications geeks like me:

apollo 11 tv relay path

intelsat iii

Apollo 11 nasacom map

The images from Parkes were amazingly better and the world is searching for the lost data tapes. To give you some idea, here are a couple of Polaroid snaps from the TV screen at Parkes:

 parkes_apollo11_tv_commercial_iconparkes_apollo11_tv_sstv_polaroid_icon

Ignore the color differences – they were all black and white for Apollo 11. These comments directly from the CSIRO website:

Above are two images received by the Parkes Radio Telescope and taken at approximately the same time on 21 July 1969 (AEST). The image on the left is a Polaroid taken directly off the Parkes SSTV monitor, and the image on the right was the broadcast image taken at approximately the same time. The left Polaroid picture is an image of what was actually received by the Parkes Radio Telescope and the right image is after it was scan-converted to commercial TV standards and broadcast to the world.

Compare Armstrong’s reflection in Aldrin’s visor; the SSTV image clearly shows Armstrong whereas in the scan-converted image his reflection is barely recognisable. Compare also, the creases in the gold foil on the LM ladder leg. It is clear from these comparisons, that the pre scan-converted SSTV images were of a higher resolution and definition and contained much more detail than was actually broadcast to the world.

These images were provided courtesy of Bob Goodman, the OTC International Co-ordinator for all the transmissions between Australia and the USA. Bob was in charge of the International Telecommunications Operating Centre (ITOC) located at the OTC Paddington Terminal, Sydney in July 1969. The images were scanned by his son, Rob Goodman, in February and March 2004.

It should be noted that these pictures were taken before satellite transmission and media conversion for other standards such as the North American NTSC system. What other countries saw was far more degraded than what was seen locally in Australia. Most of the moon walk originated from transmissions received here in Australia – initially from the Honeysuckle Creek dish and then from the Parkes dish.

The images below are Honeysuckle Creek (left) and Parkes (right). Note that Parkes has been strengthened and modified for reception of higher frequencies and the dish has a near solid surface these days. Also the Honeysuckle Creek dish was relocated to NASA Tidbinbilla (nearby) and is possibly to be retired in August. We are awaiting the outcome of discussions about its future.

hsk_1971_tn  parkes_tn

North America and Europe saw initial coverage from the US Goldstone Dish below with Walter Cronkite in the photo. Echoes of Apollo was saddened to hear of his passing. Most of the world watched his coverage of the lunar landing.

C-59-5-2

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite (left), with Apollo station Bendix Manager Tom Turnbull in front of the Goldstone MSFN 85 foot antenna. 4th July 1969

This story was published 19th July 2009 on the Echoes of Apollo Website

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I guess from interesting beginnings, I always had the space bug, but it has only been the last 1-2 years that I have pushed hard into the space sector and made significant ground. If I can do this at the age of 60, then anyone can. My background is radio and electronics. Plenty of people have these skills and plenty have more. Some have other skills that would be fantastic for the space sector. Medicine, biology, geology to name a couple. It all depends on your focus and your desire to “make it so” if I can steal a few words from “Captain Picard”