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News Briefs
December 1960 Radio-Electronics

December 1960 Radio-Electronics

December 1960 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Electronics, published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

When I think of the first space station, what comes to mind is the Russian Salyut 1 (c1971), and then America's Skylab (c1973). This "News Briefs" feature in the December 1960 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine claims there was an earlier space station - the Courier. OK, NASA might have called it a space station, but it wasn't a manned space station like the aforementioned were. It launched in early October of that year. Courier 1B (its full designation) was the world's first active repeater satellite, which could receive a message (text, image, voice, or data), store it, then transmit it later. A few details regarding its operation are provided. Also in the news was research into using "ball lightning" as a weapon. That's right, shoot a ball of searing hot plasma toward the enemy to obliterate it - or at least scare the bejeebers out of it. I'm pretty sure that technology never reached maturity.

News Briefs

Courier Satellite Is World's First Space Station

Courier Satellite Is World's First Space Station - RF Cafe

The satellite is checked for performance under simulated launching conditions.

A genuine radio station in space went into action with the launching of the Courier satellite, Intended to act chiefly as a delayed relay station, storing information sent to it for later release, it can, of course, act as a simultaneous relay as well.

The satellite system was conceived by the Army Signal Research and Development Laboratory at Monmouth, N, J., under direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense in Washington, D. C. The satellite itself was designed and developed in Palo Alto, Cali., at the Western Development Laboratories of Philco Corp., in accordance with specifications by the directing agencies.

The Courier has two complete radio systems. One, operating at vhf, is intended for tracking and locating; the other, in the microwave region, for actual communication.

The vhf transmitter sends a 50-mw signal. When orbiting, the transmitter is on for 1 second, then off for 9. The receiver follows with a 1-second listening period. When the satellite's signal is picked up ground station, a command signal is sent and it goes into continuous action, sending telemetered data as to the condition of the satellite and electrical equipment. At the same time, it turns on the microwave equipment. In all, 35 items are telemetered, ranging from battery voltage and signal strengths to satellite temperature. The telemetry information is sent by a 1.5 -watt transmitter. There are two of these, to assure greater reliability. There are also two 50-mw "acquisition" transmitters.

The satellite has four 5-watt microwave transmitters. Two of them operate at a time, tuned to slightly different frequencies and connected to different antennas. Four receivers operate together. The signals received over the microwave link can be used to modulate the microwave transmitter, relaying the message to a second ground station, or can be stored. The satellite has five tape recorders to handle information from high-speed teletype machines or other sources, The information is transmitted backward on the rewind cycle of the tape, and is reversed again by being recorded and played back by a tape recorder at the ground station.

Power is supplied by the 19,000 solar cells that cover more than 70% of the total area of the sphere, The cells are hooked up in series-parallel to deliver 32 volts to a nickel-cadmium storage battery, Diodes between the batteries and the solar-cell network prevent reverse current. Diodes are also inserted between each 84-cell unit of the solar battery and the common bus, since cells on the dark side of the sphere can dissipate considerable leakage current.

New Compact Cyclotron Is Office-Desk Size

Cyclotron and auxiliary apparatus - RF Cafe

The cyclotron and auxiliary apparatus. The semi-circular chambers or "dees" are in the huge iron-block electromagnet at right. The charged atom-smashing particles strike targets inserted at the right face of the block, not visible in the photograph. Viewers from left to right are - Dr. B. Wilson Lyon, president of Pomona College; Frank Seaver, college trustee who donated the machine, and Dr. Edward M. Fryer, acting chairman of the college's physics department.

A 2,000,000-volt cyclotron no larger than an office desk was presented to Pomona (Calif.) College by trustee Frank Seaver as part of the college's 731'd Founder's Day ceremony, It was built by Hughes Aircraft Co, The cyclotron speeds up charged particles in a pillbox-shaped chamber. The particles travel in circular paths and get two accelerating "kicks" on each revolution.

Technically, a cyclotron is a vacuum chamber containing two semicircular hollow metal accelerating electrodes called dees (one shown in drawing ): Particles of hydrogen gas in the chamber are ionized by a hot filament near the center (at end of. two-wire line). Dees are charged alternately positive and negative by the rf oscillator in the cage at upper left, which feeds dees through a large coax or dee-stem. Ions move toward the dee that is negative at the instant and are given a circular motion by the powerful electromagnetic field generated by the coils of ½-inch busbar above and below the chamber (top coil shown). The voltage and frequency are so chosen that, as the particle leaves one dee and enters the other, it finds a repellent positive charge behind it and an attractive negative one ahead of it. Thus it travels in a spiral and keeps on gaining speed till it reaches the outside wall, where it escapes at atom-smashing velocity through an electronic gate into the target chamber.

This cyclotron can produce protons of 2,000,000 electron-volts or deuterons at 4 mev energy at currents up to 25 μamp, The accelerating voltage is 17.5 kv at 13.8 mc, and the magnetic field 9 kilogauss. Power consumed is 11 kva at 220 volts.


Ball Lightning for Defense?

Electronic fireballs of highly concentrated charged particles (plasma) might be used to destroy missiles, physicists of the Armour Research Foundation believe. The balls would be kept active and be guided by a concentration of radar beams. Data on the subject is being studied by the Air Force, the foundation stated.

The work is based on speculation by Peter Kapitsa, the leading Russian nuclear scientist, who theorizes that a natural lightning ball is a mass of highly ionized plasma fed continuously from outside resonance absorption of intense radio waves. He believes that artificial lightning balls can be created by a powerful source of sustained radio wav focused into a small volume of space. Natural lightning balls are most often from 10 to 20 cm in diameter which would indicate wavelengths between 35 and 70 cm, Dr. Kapitsa stated.

BBB Cites Electronics Complaints

Third place in the national complaints-by-customers marathon went last year to the home electronic devices field, Kenneth B, Wilson of the National Better Business Bureau told the EIA service committee at its recent quarterly meeting. Leader of the pack was the home-improvement field, runner-up the major household appliance industry.

Service technicians will be pleased to hear that the larger number of consumer electronic complaints were directed at the manufacturer, and that many against the technician were based on customer misunderstanding of manufacturers' warranties.

Wilson offered the following suggestions to the manufacturers' service committee:

Ship only pretested products. Educate the public to the nature and limits of warranties.

Limit ad claims to the product's field performance; step up replacement parts availability.

Keep the service industry better informed on products.

Recognize and correct "bugs" promptly.

 

 

Posted July 2, 2024

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