Australia’s Space Policy – Interview

 Space Show Southern FMRobert Brand Interviewed on Australia’s Space Policy

This interview was with a group to discuss Australia’s upcoming Space Policy. Australia’s Space Show originates in Melbourne. It is broadcast on Wednesdays between 7pm and 8pm on 88.3 Southern FM

INTERVIEW: by Andrew Rennie – February 6th 2013.

Space activities in Australia. Discussion on the soon-to-be released Australian National Space Policy. Featuring:

David Reneke
Astronomy lecturer and teacher
NSWRobert Brand
Director of Spacecraft Communications
Team Stellar
Sydney, Vic

Lachlan Thompson
Associate Professor
Aerospace Design
RMIT University
Melbourne, Vic

Len Halprin
Space Association
East Brighton, Vic

Click here to Listen or Download

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Queensland Spaceport on Radio

Rebecca McLaren ABC RadioRobert on Radio 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 Rebecca McLaren 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. Rebecca broadcasts over regional Queensland.

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

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

You can also use our flash player below:

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

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sydney_video_console-300x213

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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.

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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”

Team Stellar in Dubai (Archives)

Robert in DubaiTeam Stellar’s First Meeting

I was sent to Dubai to meet with the Team Stellar core group in December 2012. Here are a few photos from that trip. Yes, we had fun at a GoKart track with Stellar’s good friend Martina.

We had plenty of meetings and prepared for visits to potential funding groups / sponsors.

Dubai was a mix of very smart technology and very poor planning. Not much of a sewerage system, but the tallest building in the world.

We also traveled to Abu Dhabi across the desert. We visited EIAST Mission Control in Dubai as it had a pass of one of its satellites. Very timely.


“Our first meeting of the key players in the team – some could not make it.”

From Team Stellar first Meeting Dubai. Posted by Robert Brand on 1/01/2013 (29 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2


Team Stellar Appointment (Archives)

PlusComms Square LogoRobert Brand Joins a Reformed Team Stellar

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Get the background on Team Stellar

Team Stellar is a Google Lunar X Prize contestant. This week I accepted the position of Director of Spacecraft Communications, Navigation and Data. My company PlusComms has accepted a partnering role in providing the communications for the Team Stellar moon mission. That is our new logo pictured above. PlusComms is involved in buying old Satellite Earth Stations and finding new roles for them. We expect that we will be doing this for Team Stellar.

PlusComms has a significant investment in new technology and it is fitting that the older technology also be used in the most modern of moon missions. Of course only the mechanics of the dish are suitable. The electronics, especially on the space communications side, all need to be upgraded. Many dishes are good for almost 100 years of operation if well kept.

MissionTrax CoverageMissionTrax is PlusComms Global Deep Space Network product and it should be providing 24 hour a day global coverage of the sky and space missions using both “S” band and “X” band communications with dishes that are approximately 30m in diameter.

We expect our US west coast site to be available for bookings in the next 6 months.

The diagram to the left is indicative only, but if well placed we will be even able to tack continuously in mid orbit out to Geostationary and past that to the planets.

Our US dish candidate can also track at 1 degree per second making communications with low earth orbit vehicles a reality.

Our US dish will have both Receive and Transmit capabilities. We expect it to support smaller dishes on site and a large data centre. Why am I talking about a company and its abilities in this page? Simply because it is a company built around my person push into the space sector. This website is about my personal interests and activities in space (and near space ballooning) and bringing you along for the ride. I love Do-It-Yourself space (DIY Space) and if I can do this, anyone can if they are motivated enough.

More on PlusComms here: http://pluscomms.com/space-comms/124-2/

Team Stellar

Team Stellar was an old entrant for the Google Lunar X Prize and it has slowed in its efforts to reach the moon. Recently an offer was made and the new Team Stellar arose from the ashes. This only happened ion the last couple of months. With good management and funding, it was easy to accept their offer of being involved in what will be an exciting mission.

Below is their video announcement from July this year detailing an outline of the team structure.

 

A more recent video explains the team makeup in more detail, but it was made a week ago before I had accepted the position with them.

I am pretty excited by all the potential of this team and what it has already accomplished. I will be keeping you all updated with a mission scheduled for 2 years time.

A bit more detail here: http://www.teamstellar.org

PlusComms MissionTrax (Archives)

MissionTrax Coverage*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Building a Global Space Network

This is a project that I am involved in and although it is not a personal project at this time, it is none the less a project that I have instigated. It is a project that is being handled under my Company PlusComms – I am a major shareholder. Press Release below:

Date: Thursday 22nd September 2011

Sydney, Australia

PlusComms Pty Limited based in Sydney, Australia has announced that it is building a Global Deep Space Network (DSN) subject to financing. The project involves 3 x 30m dishes in key locations around the world. The Project, called MissionTrax could be operational by first quarter 2014.

The driver for the project has been to locate large dishes with a 30 year or more lifetime and bring them back to full service. Not only is this a very environmentally friendly approach, but it also has the added benefit of costing 1/10th the price of building a new service with the same specifications. The first dish is located in California on the east coast of the USA. The site will be purchased and refurbished to operational standards, but it will be no longer used as a satellite “Earth station”. It will soon be part of a global network able to continuously track almost anything around the equatorial plane + or – 40 degrees. Although the coverage has yet to be tested at a range of frequencies, it is expected that missions as far away as Mars will have continuous coverage from Earth (excluding the rotation of Mars). The distance to Mars at the at the furthest point from Earth is 401 million km / 250 million miles – that is just under 3 Astronomical Units – or just under 3 times the distance from the earth to the sun. The three sites need to be on longitude that is 120 degrees from each other.

CTO of PlusComms, Robert Brand said “The extent of the coverage of course depends on the frequency being used and the power of the spacecraft. It is expected that communications with spacecraft near outer planets will also be part of the GSN’s capabilities but further testing will be done to confirm the overall performance of each dish and the complete network”.

“Modern satellite technology now allows dishes to be small and able to be placed in city locations. These older 30m dishes were built big to gather the weak signals and were located in “radio signal” quiet areas because the signals were hard to process. This makes these original workhorses redundant for tracking communications satellites, but perfect for building a DSN. Each GSN site will provide overlapping coverage of the previous site at a distance around 30,000 to 35,000km from the Earth’s surface (the blue circle in the attached diagram. These dishes were also built to a high tolerance and have specifications to over 15GHz. They are also Beam Wave Guide (BWG) dishes and thus the signal is beamed in a big tube right to the control room. This allows us to build a railway track to quickly disconnect and shunt in new equipment for different bands and capabilities. It is expected that it will take 45mins to connect and align a unit and 15 minutes to disconnect, allowing a one hour booking for a quick link with a spacecraft or rover / experiment on Mars or the Moon. The site will also provide full TT&C capability to fire engines and control satellites

In addition to the GSN capability, the US site will also be equipped as a large hosting centre for servers and other systems, with the ability to have individual partitions for companies. These sites were built to withstand a nearby blast from a nuclear bomb. With massive concrete walls the US site has amazing security and the ability to act as redundant site for most applications and secure the continued data operations of companies. The site already has fiber connectivity and plenty of room for more dishes. It is expected that this site will have multi-tenant uses.

“We would also like to return something to the global community and stimulate students by allowing automated access for basic Radio Telescope work when not booked for space tracking. We will employ automated systems via the Internet to explore the sky. The large dish may also be used for special events by other not for profit groups” Brand said. “The service will be headquartered in Sydney Australia. With the number of private space missions predicted to climb rapidly and a focus on the Moon and Mars, we expect a real growth in business over the next few years.”

Potential users of the facility should contact:

Robert Brand

robert.brand@pluscomms.com

The Space Show (Archives)

David Livingston*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Robert Brand – Guest on The Space Show

Robert Brand was a guest of Dr David Livingston on the Nov 1st 2011 edition of The Space Show. The program disussed Do-It-Yourself Space and was well received by all that heard it. The WotzUp website and the various missions were discussed at length during the broadcast.

The program can be hear by Click Here to Listen 

The Space Show page for the show archive can be viewed by Clicking Here to View

The page details are as follows:

Guest: Robert Brand.

Topics: Australian space history, Save Our Space Systems, old style radio dish antennas, space education outreach in Australia. You are invited to comment, ask questions, and discuss the Space Show program/guest(s) on the Space Show blog, http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com. Comments, questions, and any discussion must be relevant and applicable to Space Show programming. Transcripts of Space Show programs are not permitted without prior written consent from The Space Show (even if for personal use) & are a violation of the Space Show copyright. We welcomed Robert Brand as our guest to discuss space advocacy, space interests, education, and projects in Australia. I suggest you visit and have available the following websites while listening to this program: 1) http://wotzup.com. This site has the tabs and pages for many of the programs discussed by our guest. 2). http://echoesofapollo.com. 3) http://pluscomms.com. Click on the Space-Comms tab. In our first segment, Mr. Brand began by talking about the Global Space Network he was creating by utilizing outdated equipment such as 30 meter dishes that have been abandoned. He described his concept in detail, including costs and the likely customer base. Later in this segment, we took several calls from listeners such as the one by Roger that commented on the outstanding space education outreach projects undertaken by Mr. Brand so we moved along to the topic of kids and space education. Robert talked about 3D lunar photography from Apollo and some of his Middle School outreach projects. Later, Monroe called in to mention Team Prometheus and their satellite project as well as the N-Prize. You can learn more about Team Prometheus at www.teamprometheus.org. Kimberly emailed in requesting Robert share his vision for 21st century space awareness. Robert replied saying “making space everyday for everyday people.” Trent called from Australia to ask Robert what he thought were the greatest space needs for Australia. Robert talked about the need for disaster recovery information, data, facilities, etc. using real time space resources. In the second long segment, Robert directed us to his various websites listed at the start of this summary. We talked about Moon Bounce and Space-Quest, amateur radio , the UpLift project with balloon launches, and more. Robert went through the other programs on www.wotzup.com site including SugarShot, MissionTrax, Kidz-In-Space, and we talked about cubesat swarms and owning your own personal satellite. Later, he told us about his building a satellite tracker in his basement, he talked about holding workshops in his area to promote space education and personally owning a satellite, plus getting kids to take ownership of the technology, research, and data which inspires them with the projects, all of which is part of Do-It-Yourself-Space. Later, we talked about Australian space interests, the Australian space program, and space awareness in Australia. During the last few minutes of our two hour discussion, we talked space history, the Apollo program, the Parkes Radio Telescope, Honeysuckle Creek, the Challenger disaster, Robert’s leaving the industry and then his return to promote space education among kids. You can email Robert Brand at Robert.Brand@pluscomms.com

After you have listened, please post a comment on the following blog for The Space Show:

http://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/robert-brand-tuesday-11-1-11/