The Prince Albert Radar Laboratory
A satellite is any smaller object traveling around a larger one. This means that the moon is a satellite to the Earth. However, the term satellite often refers to a human-made spacecraft placed in space to orbit another body.
The first "communicatons satellite" was the moon. The USA started using the moon for communications trials in the early 1950's. Signals beamed towards the moon were reflected and received back on Earth. It was a very inefficient means of communication requiring high power and large antennas to produce a detectable system. In addition, communication was only possible while the moon was above the horizon.
DRTE staff participated in the trials starting in 1959 using a large radar station at the newly-built Prince Albert Radar Laboratory (PARL) in Saskatchewan. The first demonstration was given when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker inaugurated the station on June 6, 1959. Here are some of the inauguration. from President Eisenhower was transmitted from a station at Millstone Hill near Boston and received by the PARL station. Each station was equipped with a 26-m dish antenna. Diefenbaker used the occasion to announce that Canada would initiate its own satellite program. is part of Mr. Diefenbaker's speech.
On August 12, 1960, NASA launched Echo 1, a pioneering communications satellite. It was a 30-m balloon of aluminum-coated mylar orbiting at 1600 km. Like the moon, it was a simple passive reflector of radio waves. It was the first artificial satellite to support two-way voice communications.
DRTE used the Prince Albert station to participate in trials using Echo to communicate with the Millstone Hill station. High transmitting power and large antennas were required at each of the Earth stations. The system was not practical for commercial use and soon active satellites were developed that could receive a signal, amplify it and retransmit it to another Earth station. They are known as relay satellites. Nevertheless, the trials with the moon and Echo provided DRTE staff with important experience with satellite ground stations and satellite tracking. Here is a (172 kb)* of communications from Millstone Hill.
*Tape recordings of communications via the moon and Echo, preserved at the as artifact number 940017.5, were kindly provided by Dr. Randall C. Brooks.
National Museum of Science and Technology. Canada in Space: Destination Earth. Ottawa; NMST, 1993.
Jelly, D. Canada: 25 Years in Space. Ottawa; NMST, 1988.
NASA Web Page: http://pao.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/service/gallery/fact_sheets/general/satsum.htm
Doris Jelly, Friends of CRC
Text written by Doris Jelly
Page created on August 15, 1997 by Cynthia Boyko
Last updated on February 5, 2001 by Stu McCormick
Copyright © Friends of CRC, 1997