Communications Technology Satellite
The Communications Technology Satellite, also known as Hermes was an experimental high-power direct broadcast communications satellite. It was a joint effort of Canada's Department of Communications, who designed and managed it, NASA who launched it and provided a traveling wave guide, the European Space Agency or ESA who provided the 1200 watt solar panels and other devices. The three agencies shared the satellite and the data from the experiments.
It was launched on January 17 1976 from Cape Canaveral, or Cape Kennedy in Florida by a Delta rocket. Designed for a two-year mission it was the basis of experiments past its intended lifetime until November 1979 when a system failure broke all contacts with it. Unlike most communications satellites of the period, which had spin stabilized bodies covered with solar cells, the Hermes CTS was three-axis stabilized and had its solar panels spread out on two huge "wings".
The satellite was meant to test the practical aspects of a high powered satellite using large antennas beaming television signals directly to homes equipped with small antennas, and two-way communications with mobile stations. When it was launched it was the most powerful communications satellite in existence.
Several communities in the Canadian wilderness participated in a series of realistic tests of its capacities. Experiments in telemedicine for Emergency medical service, teleconferencing and community TV were conducted. The satellite was also used to televise Stanley Cup hockey playoffs to Canadian diplomats in Peru to demonstrate its international capacity. It covered about 40% of the Earth's surface, from its geostationary orbit. In Canada alone 37 tests were done using a family of 27 ground terminals. The experiments led to the creation of the hybrid Anik B satellite which was both a standard Anik model and a platform for pilot projects of direct broadcast TV.
In 1987 Canada's Department of Communications and NASA received an Emmy award for developing direct broadcast TV satellite technology with the Hermes CTS program.
The CTS satellite also made history as being the first communications satellite used for video art, by artist Keith Sonnier in 1977 for his 2-part piece titled "Send/Receive Satellite Network", in which video and character generator text & graphics were fed over the satellite between the East and West Coasts of the United States. This marked the first time that satellite communication technology was used for video art. NASA cooperated with Sonnier's project, and provided a satellite uplink truck for access to the CTS satellite. The piece was produced in two parts, "Phase I", which was a critique of satellite technology and whether it would become accessible to the public rather than the commercial & military purposes for the technology at that time, using feeds sent over the satellite by the artist and other participants, and "Phase II", which featured excerpts of the feeds sent.
- Article explaining the development of the satellite.
- Article from The Spokane Daily Chronicle dated 1/15/1979 about doctors using the satellite for telemedical videoconferencing
- VIdeo Data Bank's entry for "Send/Receive Satellite Network"
- Articles regarding Keith Sonnier's "Send/Receive Satellite Network"
- NSSDC/COSPAR ID: 1976-004A
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