Muchea Tracking Station
|Part of Manned Space Flight Network|
|Muchea, Western Australia|
|In use||March 1961 – February 1964|
|Controlled by||Weapons Research Establishment, Australian Department of Supply|
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.
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). 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.
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).
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".
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.
|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|
- Muchea tracking station for Project Mercury. Weapons Research Establishment, Department of Supply, Australian Defence Scientific Service. 1962.
- Dench, Paul (2011). "VERLORT Radar". carnarvonspace.com. Retrieved 23 August 2013.
- "Tracking Stations Down Under". Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Mackellar, Colin (2013). "Muchea Tracking Station". honeysucklecreek.net. Retrieved 24 August 2013.