Space Talk (c1979) UK GPO Post Office Information Film – Goonhilly Earth Station

Space Talk (c1979) UK GPO Post Office Information Film – Goonhilly Earth Station

conversation. These Post Office earth stations at Goonhilly and Madley are part of one of the most complex machines ever made the world telecommunications network
which enables the whole world to communicate more easily. Their job is to relay calls through space telephone, telex, telegrams data, facsimile, television. It was the Englishman Arthur C Clarke who in
1945 originated the idea of a global network. Three satellites
hovering above the equator at a height of 22,300 miles. Their orbital
speed exactly matching the rotation of the earth. He saw that radio signals could be transmitted from one earth station via satellite to any other
station within the satellite’s beam. On the way to the realization of this
idea there were some disasters – and they’re still are. After months of preparation, the total
destruction in seconds of 25 million pounds’ worth of satellite and launch vehicle. Even the first attempts at
intercontinental communications met with fearsome hazards. Brunel’s Great Eastern laying telegraph cable across the ocean
for messages sent in Morse Code. ‘Mister Watson come here – I want you!’ With Alexander Graham Bell came the first rudimentary telephone system. After Marconi it was only a matter of time before the
human voice was crossing the Atlantic by high-frequency radio, then by undersea cable – now a major part of the telecommunications machine. Cables gave much clearer and more reliable telephone calls and carried many more calls. For
television and high-quality radio calls there had to be a line of sight microwave system. Between America and Britain the Earth’s curvature makes
this impossible. There would have to be a great many relay towers or one in the middle 500 miles high. A little impractical! How was it to be done? With satellites in geostationary orbit. And how to get them up there? Konstantin Tsiolkovsky the Russian
schoolteacher born in the mid-nineteenth century worked out how to launch satellites by
rocket, seeing in them a means to explore space. Rockets developed during the second
world war were the forerunners of the satellite
launch vehicles of today. Cape Canaveral has been the scene of all the rocket launches by NASA for Intelsat – the international
telecommunications satellite organisation. A consortium formed by 11 Nations in 1964 to make Arthur C Clarke’s global network a reality. Intelsat now has over 100 member
nations The first satellites like RELAY and TELSTAR in the 1960s orbited the Earth at low altitude and could be used for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time. At that time there were only 3 earth stations. Andover in the USA and France both had horn
shaped aerial’s with a protective ray dome. These proved expensive and less satisfactory than Goonhilly’s open dish which set
the pattern for all future earth stations. [MUSIC] These experimental beginnings
with the information they supplied led to the first attempts to place a
satellite in geostationary orbit. EARLYBIRD in 1965 was the start of a commercial service. Less than two feet high, it could handle 240 simultaneous phone calls or one television broadcast. INTELSAT 2 in 1967 was bigger but similar in capacity. INTELSAT 3 in 1968: six times as many circuits and nearly twice as big again. The much larger INTELSAT 4 in 1971 had a capacity of 4,000 circuits plus two television channels and was
over seventeen feet high. INTELSAT 4A launched in 1976 handles six thousand simultaneous calls plus 2 television broadcasts and is 22 feet high. By 1979 the
total number of satellites in orbit in the Intelsat system had reached 13. [ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE:] ‘Yeh, she looks great, a real star!’ ‘Yeh, I’ll get on to her agent. Hey, give me Joe in New York.’ ‘Yeh, Trena, fantastic!’ The satellite call goes from office to local exchange to international exchange then either by microwave radio from the
post office tower or coaxial cable to the earth station. It is then transmitted by satellite to
another country. [PHONE RINGS] ‘Hello, yes, oh hello!’ ‘yeah did you get back? How did the job go?’ ‘super, I’ve just been reading about it
actually’ yeah and guess what, can you believe it my agent just called me and I just got a part in a film!’ International phone calls have grown
dramatically. By 1979 some three quarters of a million a
week, two-thirds of them through the satellite network. However distant the country your phoning the call is often as clear as one within
your own town. Advances in technology have helped
in another way too. Most international calls were cheaper in
real terms at the start of 1979 than when early bird
went into orbit fourteen years before. [ANNOUNCER:] ‘This is the Goonhilly Down Radio Station of the British Post Office calling America.’ ‘For us this control room has tonight
made history.’ ‘Tonight this equipment received perfect pictures from Telstar’ ‘Good morning, Charles Booth speaking here’ ‘may I first congratulate you and’ ‘everyone in the United States who have
been concerned with the’ ‘Telstar launch. It is indeed a wonderful
achievement’ ‘and we in the United Kingdom know it
represents’ ‘a major step forward in communication. We
are very proud’ ‘to take a part.’ Goonhilly has had many firsts: First to transmit live television
from Europe to America via satellite. First in telephony tests, first to transmit colour television. It’s one of the busiest earth stations in
the world. To meet future needs the Post Office
started construction of a second earth station, Madley in the mid 1970s. The first aerial was completed in 1978 and capable of handling over a thousand phone calls at a time plus television. It’s working to a
satellite over the Indian Ocean. A near-perfect parabola, a size and shape governed by its function, it focuses radio energy into a beam, like a searchlight. The matt
surface of the dish diffuses the heat of the sun’s rays. The
aerial is steerable and automatically makes imperceptible
adjustments in tracking as it follows a beacon on the satellite. A
wideband microwave radio system is used transmitting and and receiving signals simultaneously via the aerial. The incoming signal is
only a tiny fraction of a watt in power rather like the heat you might receive on Earth from a one bar electric fire on the moon. Travelling from the aerial down the
beam waveguide to the equipment below the incoming signal is amplified many
times. The electrical components of the
amplifier are cooled to -253 degrees C near absolute zero, so the background
noise won’t swamp the incoming signal. The signal is then amplified many more
times and converted to frequencies used in the terrestrial network. These are some of the services that the satellite system helps provide.
Facsimile, Telex. Automatic service to well over 100 countries, telegrams worldwide, data transmitted over ordinary phone lines.
Phone calls dialed direct to over 80 countries by the beginning of 1979. International
phone calls doubling every 4 to 5 years. Manned switchboards and exchanges used to
be necessary for all international calls. By the
beginning of1979, most people in Britain could dial direct
to 85% of the world’s 460 million telephones. Telephone and Telex calls to ships at sea. Television. Many people don’t realise all
intercontinental television comes through an earth station. [TELEVISION SOUND] ‘We are in the Rose Garden of the White
House just outside the president’s home’ ‘In proclaiming him an honorary citizen I only
propose a formal recognition…’ [TV DIRECTOR:] ‘How’s your reception?’ ‘…where his bravery charity and valour
both in war and peace…’ ‘…have been a flame of inspiration in
freedom’s darkest hour.’ ‘…and whereas his life has shown that no adversary can overcome…’ ‘…and no fear can deter free men…’ ‘…and the defense of their freedom, now
therefore I John F Kennedy…’ ‘…President of the United States of
America under the authority contained…’ …in an act of the 88th congress to hearby declare Sir Winston Churchill…’ ‘…an honorary citizen of the United States of America.’ [TV DIRECTOR:] ‘Picture and sound both okay. BBC state clearest..’ ‘…ever seen by a trans-atlantic relay. Sir Winston observed the pictures at his London home and was deeply moved.’ Goonhilly in Cornwall is built on
foundations of hard rock. The space-age shapes of the aerials are features on the stark landscape. At Madley in Herefordshire, there’s rural
beauty of a different kind. [MUSIC] Landscaping and tree planting on
the site blend with the surroundings. Some people would say it’s beautiful in
its own right. Certainly it’s silent, motionless, with no
danger from pollution or radiation. There were a number of reasons for choosing Madely as a site. The station had to be far enough south to see the Indian Ocean
satellite, which is just above the south-east horizon.
It needed to be situated in a natural bowl away from radio interference, such as the UK and French microwave
systems. It needed to be as close as possible to
London to minimize the cost of ground links. Future growth in calls will mean a total of up to 6 aerials on the Madely site and possibly more at Goonhilly as well. Madely and Goonhilly earth stations are owned by the external
telecommunications executive, the arm of the British Post Office whose
job it is to provide the country’s international and maritime links in cooperation with other countries. International cooperation keeps the machine running smoothly. If it failed, the effect would be sudden and crippling. ‘Hello? Hello?’ ‘Hello?’ ‘Hello? Hello?’ ‘Is anybody there?’ The post office along with its
counterparts in other countries has a part to play in making sure this
never happens, and in developing newer, cheaper and more efficient means of
communication. Space Shuttle is an American manned craft that is boosted into space by rocket that lands like a conventional airplane. A new launch vehicle for some satellites in the 1980s. It was test landed after being launched
from the back of a jumbo jet. Later versions of shuttle could make it possible to visit, repair
and retrieve satellites. INTELSAT 5 is the latest type of satellite with 12,000 circuits, plus television. Solar wings extend 52 feet across. At Goonhilly, aerial 4 a 62 ft diameter dish went into service in 1978 sending speech and television signals to a test satellite for a European regional system. The test satellite came after eight
years of study and development and was the prelude to the launching of an operational European satellite. [ROCKET ENGINES] ARIANE, a rocket developed by the
European Space Agency. Quite enough – to keep people talking. [MUSIC] This great and complex machine continues its work. It enables millions of people throughout the world to communicate more easily and to be in touch with events as they’re actually happening. [VOICES OF ASTRONAUTS AND GROUND CONTROL] [MUSIC] * Subtitles by EPHEMERALFILM – July 2015 *

4 thoughts on “Space Talk (c1979) UK GPO Post Office Information Film – Goonhilly Earth Station”

  1. Very interesting film. I first used satellites on the Inmarsat A system back in '86, so this film was prior to any of that was even launched. Apart from the obligatory WT (MF/HF), RT (MF, HF, VHF) and radio telex (@50baud), we had 'high speed' data @64kbps for maritime video conferencing, NGO remote medical assistance etc. !!! All the way from WT morse to 800Gb/s single wavelength fibre transmission rates. I feel priviledged to have experienced the whole spectrum. A lot has happened in a few decades.

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