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NASA TRACKING STATIONS

Part 2

The following historical information was taken from area information facts and figures pamphlets given to employees being assigned to tracking stations during the late 60's and various other sources and pertains mainly to the Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) sites during the Apollo Program. Many thanks to George Spencer who furnished the pamphlets and Jim MacDonald who furnished numerous Technical Information Bulletins (TIB's) from the era.


GOLDSTONE COMPLEX - GDS (GGDS)

The following is the sites configuration as it was in the late 60's. To see how this vast complex is currently configured visit their WEB SITE at this URL.

The Apollo-Goldstone MSFN station was located approximately 50 miles north of Barstow, CA. Construction began on the station in the autumn of 1965 and the station became officially operational in January 1967. The station participated in its first Apollo mission November 9, 1967, when it began tracking the unmanned Apollo 4.

The station was used primarily to maintain communications with the Apollo spacecraft during translunar (distances in excess of 10,000 miles) and lunar phases of the Apollo lunar missions; in addition, it supported earth orbital missions.

Goldstone, like Madrid and Honeysuckle Creek, is equipped with an 85 foot diameter antenna. These stations are located 120 degrees apart in longitude to maintain continuous contact between the MSFN and the spacecraft regardless of its position relative to earth.

In addition to the Apollo station, the Goldstone complex included the Space Tracking and Data Aquisition Network (STADAN), operated for Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) by BFEC and the Pioneer, Mars, Echo, and Venus stations of the Deep Space Network (DSN), operated for Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) by BFEC under a contract with NASA.

The complex has a large complement of equipment and is to great to list here.


Late Note from Reid Drummond, August 2009.

"The dismantling of the Goldstone 9-meter antenna started August 21, 2009. As far as I know, it is going to be turned into scrap.

A contractor mentioned a walk-through the 26-meter (DSS-16) antenna, so its dismantling will be at a later date.

Demolition of the Mojave site has also been in progress.

The Microwave Test Facility (MTF) has been gutted and the east walls were mostly down as of yesterday." (August 21, 2009)

Reid Drummond
Goldstone Spectrum and Airspace Coordination Supervisor

Photos of the 9-Meter dismantling can be seen here:
http://www.bfec.us/bfecpho5b.htm



GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND - GBM (GGBM)


A late note from Randy Coffman
19 May 2008


"The Project Mercury Grand Bahama Island Tracking Station was located on the
Atlantic Missile Range station 3. The Atlantic Missile Range station 3 was
located approximately 20 miles East of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island. The
road between the station and Freeport was unpaved and very rutted and pot
holed. Equipment and supplies for the station were brought in by boat and
off loaded at a pier located just outside the station. The Project Mercury
Grand Bahama Island Tracking Station consisted of HF and UHF ground-to-air
communication equipment, telemetry equipment, a transmit antenna and a
receive antenna, acquisition aide consoles for each transmit and receive
antenna, and the necessary communications equipment between the cape and
Grand Bahama and was considered to be a remote extension of the Project
Mercury station located at the cape.
*Capabilities were later added to
support the Gemini and Apollo programs.

The HF and UHF ground-to-air communication receivers and telemetry equipment
were located in a corner of the station 3 receiver building. The HF and UHF
ground-to-air communication transmitters were located in a separate
building. Project Mercury personnel from the cape provided operational
staffing for the Project Mercury equipment located at the Grand Bahama
Island tracking station. Prior to each mission personnel would fly to the
station to operate the equipment."

* The Gemini & Apollo equipment consisted of a typical 9 meter (30 Foot) antenna Unified S-Band (USB) system as near as I can determine. Gary Schulz 5/19/2008

PHOTOS



Kano, Nigeria

Kano was known as a REMOTE site and installation began in 1960. Kano provided UHF and HF relay with the Mercury spacecraft. It also transmitted telemetry parameters to Mission Control at Cape Canaveral by TTY upon LOS via a direct HF communications link with London. It also provided a TTY HF communications link between London and Zanzibar E.A. (The HF communications link was provided by Cable and wireless).
Station telemetry equipment included two Quad Helix antennas separated for space and height diversity. Four telemetry receivers, four IRIG discriminators, a 90/90 and 90/15 PAM decommutator, A Mini Track timing system and a Ampex FR 1400 tape recorder/reproducer.
Spacecraft telemetry parameters along with blood pressure and EKG were displayed and monitored by a Flight Surgeon and spacecraft system specialist during station contact with the spacecraft.


MERRITT ISLAND, FL - MILA (GMIL)

The MSFN Merritt Island Tracking Station is located on Merritt Island, Florida, approximately 2 miles west of the Kennedy Space Center Headquarters and on the south side of NASA Parkway, 7 miles east of US Route 1. The NASA Parkway is approximately 6 miles south of Titusville on US Route 1.

The stations proximity to the launch complexes necessitated a multipurpose roll. The station supported pre-launch (PAD) tests, computer software validation tests, flight controller / software compatibility tests, and normal MSFN functions during mission and non-mission periods.

Major systems included: Unified S-Band, Acquisition Aid, VHF Telemetry receiving, UHF transmitting, Air-to-ground Comm, PCM telemetry Univac 642B & 1218 computers, Apollo Displays, Ground Voice and teletype, and Facilities Control.

The Merritt Island Station is fully operational to date (January 2000) and in support of the Space Shuttle and many other programs. Check their WEB PAGE at this URL for MILA's current configuration.

Merritt Island Station to close permamently on September 1, 2011. Read the article HERE.


Ponce De Leon (PDL)

The Ponce De Leon (PDL) Tracking Station occupies 1.4 acres on U.S. Coast Guard property south of the Ponce De Leon Inlet at New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and is part of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network. The Station is located to provide communications with the Shuttle Orbiter during Launch assent when the Solid Rocket Motor plume blocks radio signals to the MILA Tracking Station at Kennedy Space Center. The operation and maintenance of PDL and MILA are contracted to AlliedSignal Technical Services under Goddard Space Flight Center's Consolidated Network Mission Operations Support contract. Check their web site HERE.


GUAM - GWM (PGWM)

Installation of the MSFN station at Guam commenced in 1965 and joined the network in 1967. The station was located 16 miles southeast of Agana. The area the station occupied is known as DanDan, which in the Chammorro language means "to knock at the door".

Guam utilizing the Unified S-Band System with it's 30 foot (9 meter) antenna, was the first Project Apollo station. The primary mission of Guam was linking the spacecraft with Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas, during the near-earth orbital phase and injection into space.

Principal systems installed at Guam were USB, A/G, PCM, telemetry, accquisition aid, computers, and a microwave system from DanDan to Agana.

There were approximately 70 BFEC employees at the site.


GUAYMAS, MEXICO - GYM (GGYM)

The MSFN station was located approximately six miles east of Empalme, Sonora, adjacent to Mexican Federal Highway No. 15. All personnel resided in or near Guaymas which was approximately 12 miles west of the station.

Originally built in 1960-1961 as a Mercury station, Guaymas was modified for the successive stages of the United States space program through Apollo. Major equipment was the 30 foot antenna USB system, VHF telemetry, data processing and recording equipment. The station was closed November 30, 1970.



KAUAI, HAWAII - HAW (PHAW)

The Kauai station became operational in June 1961 for Project Mercury support and supported this project through May 1963. The station was re-configured for Gemini support after this and supported the first Gemini flight in April 1964 and continued support of Gemini for the entire program. Construction for the Apollo program started in 1965, and by the end of 1966, the station was ready for Apollo. Equipment included the USB system with the 30 foot antenna, VHF system with associated equipment.


HONEYSUCKLE CREEK, AUSTRALIA - HSK (AHSK)

85 foot Dual USB System. See the "Australia" (PART 4) page for other details.


MADRID, SPAIN - MAD (LMAD)

The Madrid site located west of Madrid, Spain consisted of a Deep Space Instrumentation Facility with it's 85 foot antenna's and a MSFN 30 foot USB and 85 foot antenna system.

Zanzibar, E.A.

The mission and configuration of the Zanzibar station was the same as that of the Kano station, except for the HF ground communications which was between Kano and the IOS (Indian Ocean Ship).
Both Kano and Zanzibar had twenty two Bendix personnel assigned to each station.

If more information becomes available on the old MSFN Apollo stations it will be posted here. We invite any additions and (or) corrections to this material.
Gary Schulz


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