1958 Radio Electronics Article
was put into orbit on August 12, 1960. This article was written
2½ years earlier in 1958 by Radio-Electronics editor Hugo Gernsback.
A technology visionary and prolific inventor and writer, Mr. Gernsback
astutely outlined the vast number of advantages that had already
been and would in the future be afforded the science community by
virtue of a satellite's perspective from space. Two of the Soviet
satellites (the third launched in August of 1958) had revealed the
surprisingly irregular shape and gravitational influence of the
Earth, information about the upper atmosphere, and aspects of space
environment effects on radio communications. America was scrambling
to catch up. Gernsback and others postulated the configuration of
active relay transceivers powered by solar cells and storage batteries,
satellite-based television and radio, navigation, and more. Interestingly,
at least in this installment no mention was made of weather observation
or military uses. Gernsback's many electronics magazines and books
performed a significant service to the space communications field
in addition to his contributions to commercial and amateur radio
and electronics. Trivia: The 100-foot diameter inflatable metallic-film
passive Echo 1 satellite was manufactured by breakfast cereal
maker General Mills.
March 1958 Radio-Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published 1929 - 1948. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
See all available
vintage Radio-Electronics articles.
Hugo Gernsback, Editor
... Electronics, the Essence of Satellites
Since the advent of the Soviet man-made satellites,
on Oct. 4, 1957, we have begun to realize the great importance of
these small moons. It is quite certain that they are here to stay
and that in the future the sky will be populated by a multitude
of them in every conceivable size and various shapes. These miniature
worlds are but he stepping stones to outer space and will be the
direct means of enriching our scientific knowledge in every direction.
We have already learned more about the exact shape of the
earth from information given us by the satellites than from all
previous study. Gravitation, cosmic and other radiation, meteorites
and their density in space, meteorology - -to name only a few, will
all give up many of their secrets thanks to present and future sputniks.
And most of these invaluable answers will come by electronic means.
Electronic telemetering from these satellites will be the
chief method of unlocking a vast array of new knowledge, To mention
only one recent important scientific conclusion, let us consider
Since 1911, the present writer has maintained,
along with other scientists, that the state of weightlessness had
no adverse effect on man and was not deleterious to him. Others
were vociferous in their directly opposite beliefs. As it is impossible
on earth to create a state of human weightlessness - except for
a few seconds - no conclusions could be reached until very recently.
The answer then came via telemetering from Sputnik 2. The official
Russian magazine Soviet Aviation stated that weightlessness in space
had no effect on the dog passenger and that in fact satellite No.2
had solved the problem of the puzzle of the effect of weightlessness
in space on living entities. Said the magazine:
of the dog's pulse, blood pressure and respiration led to the extremely
important conclusion that no harm comes to a living organism in
a condition of weightlessness."
As newer, larger and better-equipped
satellites are launched, the answers will come at an ever-faster
tempo. For one thing, most future satellites will not go dead and
stop transmitting in a few weeks, as did Sputniks 1 and 2. They
are certain not to be equipped again with primary batteries, which
are soon exhausted. We will have light-weight storage batteries
coupled to solar cells which will charge them continuously when
the satellite is in the sun. Half the time, when the moonlet is
in the shadow of the earth, the storage batteries take over. The
arrangement will be such that the solar cells will always provide
more energy than is used up. To keep the accumulators from overcharging,
an automatic cutout is provided. Thus the satellite will always
have electrical power, 24 hours a day, for the years-long life of
the storage batteries. Even after the latter wear out, the satellite
will still be able to transmit when in full sunlight, i.e., roughly
50% of the time. Solar cells are ideally suited for powering satellite
transmitters. Indeed, as we pointed out in our January, 1958, issue,
solar cells work far better out in space than on earth. With no
atmosphere to contend with, 30% to 35% more solar radiation can
be utilized. Furthermore, the voltage of the solar cells increases
considerably in below-zero temperature.
and radio broadcasts via satellites seem assured for the future,
in the interest of world peace and better understanding between
the peoples of the world. All that is needed are four or more small
6- to 10-foot satellites circling several thousand miles above the
earth. They revolve equidistantly, in such a manner that one
satellite can always "see" the one ahead and the one behind. Let
us assume that via a transmitter at Washington D.C., the United
Stares wished to send radio and TV programs to cover the entire
world continuously. The Washington station beams the signals to
satellite A, when it is in sight. Satellite A then relays them to
satellite B in space. B relays to satellite C and C to D. B, C and
D in turn beam the relays to earth, thus covering the entire planet
(see diagram on "page 125). In the meanwhile, satellite a moves
on and soon "sets" over Washington. At the same time, moon D "rises"
and Washington will beam its signals to D, until D sets. Thus the
four satellites will insure continuous world-wide broadcasts. The
quality will be good, too, because there will always be a moonlet
"in sight" on earth. We are fully aware that in an undertaking of
this type a few engineering points would have to be solved, such
as the Doppler effect of the speeding satellite transmitters, zero-beat
heterodyning between the transmitters, and a few other problems.
We believe, however, that these problems offer no great difficulties
Rocket experts will also question the feasibility
of placing four satellites in the same orbit, equidistant from each
other. In itself this would be a formidable feat - even for the
Russians, considering present-day rocket science technique. But
it is strictly feasible with the help of electronics. Our four satellites
(and this goes for other future ones) must themselves be equipped
with small "correcting" rockets, Then, if a satellite is off orbit
or off course, the correcting rocket is fired from earth by electronic
impulse. Thus the satellite can be maneuvered until it is where
it should be. Its speed can also be increased or decreased.
Unpleasantly enough, future satellites can also be formidable weapons.
Warheads, with which they could be equipped, could be fired electronically
from earth. This is not a simple feat today for many reasons. Because
the satellite is speeding at more than 5 miles a second, the aiming,
the exact angle, the time of firing all must be extremely and fantastically
accurate. Thus a tenth of a second early or late will place the
bomb hundreds of miles off target. This is also true of the aiming
angle. A tenth of a degree off will miss the target by hundreds
While talking of satellites, radio amateurs will
welcome the news that since Jan. 14, 1958, the Army Signal Corps
has been bouncing radio waves off the moon on even-numbered nights
when the moon is up. The signals are on the frequency that will
be used by our satellites - 108 megacycles. This will be of great
help to all official satellite tracking stations and those who wish
to track our future moonlets and to get used to listening in on
that frequency. -H.G.
The above two diagrams refer to Hugo Gernsback's editorial on
page 33. The top diagram shows how signals originating from earth
are transmitted to a system of four earth satellites orbiting equidistance
from each other. In such a system, television programs originating
from a point in the US can be seen simultaneously at practically
any point on earth 24 hours a day. The upper illustration shows
a plan view looking down on the earth from space. The bottom view,
a perspective of the four satellites as they gravitate around the
earth about 1,000 miles up.
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