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 Union's
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
of Contents]These articles are scanned and OCRed from old editions of the Radio & Television News magazine.
Here is a list of the Radio-Electronics articles I have already
posted. All copyrights (if any)
are 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 weightlessness.
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:
"The analysis 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.
World-wide television 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 today.
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.