Muchea Tracking Station

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Muchea Tracking Station
Part of Manned Space Flight Network
Muchea, Western Australia
Muchea Tracking Station is located in Western Australia
Muchea Tracking Station
Muchea Tracking Station
Location of Muchea Tracking Station
Coordinates 31°36′12.24″S 115°55′49.8″E / 31.6034000°S 115.930500°E / -31.6034000; 115.930500
Type Tracking station
Site information
Controlled by Weapons Research Establishment, Australian Department of Supply
Site history
In use March 1961 – February 1964

Muchea Tracking Station was tracking station located close to Muchea in the Shire of Chittering, about 60 km (37 mi) north of Perth, Western Australia, built specifically for NASA's Project Mercury.

History[edit]

Muchea was established in 1960, and became operational in March 1961. It was Station No. 8 of the 14 Manned Space Flight Network sites around the world used throughout the project. The only other Australian site was Station No. 9, the Island Lagoon Tracking Station at Woomera, South Australia. These stations were managed and operated by the Weapons Research Establishment of the Australian Department of Supply on behalf of NASA.[1]

Muchea was equipped with a "VERy LOng Range Tracking" (VERLORT) S band radar operating between 2700 to 2900 MHz. This was an upgraded version of the SCR-584, with its range increased from 650 km (400 mi) to 4,000 km (2,500 mi), and the diameter of the dish increased from 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) to 3 m (9.8 ft).[2] It was also equipped with acquisition aid tracking systems, telemetry reception, and air-to-ground voice communications facilities. Because of its position, close to the antipodes of Cape Canaveral, it was also selected to have a command facility. Information about the range, bearing and elevation of the spacecraft was automatically relayed to the Goddard Space Flight Center by teleprinter.[1]

During each mission a NASA team consisting of two flight controllers and a flight surgeon were sent to Muchea. The Senior Flight Controller, usually another astronaut, acted as capsule communicator (CAPCOM).[1]

Muchea Communications Technician Gerry O'Connor became the first Australian to speak with an astronaut on 20 February 1962, when he contacted John Glenn aboard Friendship 7 on his first pass over the West Australian coast. A small plaque has been installed on the spot occupied by the Communications Technician's console which reads: "This plaque is to mark the spot where an Australian first spoke to a space traveller".[3]

Muchea was closed in February 1964, after the end of the Mercury Project. It was replaced by the Carnarvon Tracking Station for the Gemini and Apollo projects. Although the Muchea Tracking Station no longer exists, the Shire of Chittering has erected a small display about its history.

Missions[edit]

The following missions were supported by the Muchea Station:[1][4]

Date Mission Crew Orbits Senior Flight Controller
13 September 1961 MA4 Unmanned 1 Scott Carpenter
29 November 1961 MA5 Enos 2 Wally Schirra
20 February 1962 MA6 John Glenn 3 Gordon Cooper
24 May 1962 MA7 Scott Carpenter 3 Deke Slayton
3 October 1962 MA8 Wally Schirra 6 Eugene Duret
15–16 May 1963 MA9 Gordon Cooper 22 Chuck Lewis

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Muchea tracking station for Project Mercury. Weapons Research Establishment, Department of Supply, Australian Defence Scientific Service. 1962. 
  2. ^ Dench, Paul (2011). "VERLORT Radar". carnarvonspace.com. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 
  3. ^ "Tracking Stations Down Under". Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Mackellar, Colin (2013). "Muchea Tracking Station". honeysucklecreek.net. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 

External links[edit]