Construction of Chilbolton Observatory started in 1963. It was built partially on the site of RAF Chilbolton, which was decommissioned in 1946. Several sites around the south-east of England were considered for the construction. The site at Chilbolton, on the edge of Salisbury Plain, was chosen in part because of excellent visibility of the horizon and its relative remoteness from major roads whose cars could cause interference.
The facility was opened in April, 1967. However, within several months of being commissioned the azimuth bearing of the antenna suffered a catastrophic failure. GEC were contracted to repair the bearing and devised a system to replace the failed part while leaving the 400 tonne dish ostensibly in-place.