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A Collectible Book preserving the history of Orroral Valley Space Tracking Station and the end of manned Spaceflight tracking
A Collectible Book preserving the history of Orroral Valley Space Tracking Station and the end of manned Spaceflight tracking
31 backers pledged AU$ 5,826 to help bring this project to life.

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Save Space Flight Tracking History - The Final Orbit Book

AU$ 5,826

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Video filmed and Edited by Ryan Schade of ImageFlex Productions

Before we get into telling you about this project, let me ask you one question:–  

What would you do, if you discovered that you held the only archive of a really significant moment in human history?

I hope that you’d want to preserve it – but how?

That’s exactly the question that Philip Clark faced, not so long ago. This project is about his choice, faced with that decision – it’s about leaving a legacy for all mankind, and preserving something precious.

Read on to discover exactly what we need to preserve, and how we plan to go about it. (And how you can be a part of it.)

What is this project about?

This project aims to fund the editing, proofreading, image preparation, layout and other pre-press work on the book ‘The Final Orbit – Apollo and Space Shuttle: Australia’s Orroral Valley Space Tracking Station and the End of Ground-Based Manned Spaceflight Tracking’ and then to fund the publishing, printing and promotion of the book.

The book will be produced in digital, paperback, hardcover, and limited-edition collectors’ hardcover editions. Intended publication date is between late September and late November 2018.

We want this to be the most amazing book about the history of human space exploration that you have ever held in your hands.

Not only are there the stories of the people and the dramatic moments of tracking the Space Shuttle, but we have floor plans, equipment diagrams, recordings and transcripts of historic Shuttle transits, and more. Imagine immersing yourself in all of that, imagine sharing, with your children, what incredible things were achieved with such basic technology! This will be a book to treasure.

If you were fascinated by Space as a child, if you always wished that you could be an astronaut, if you watched the Space Shuttle launches every time, then this is a book that you must own!

Funds raised, over and above the initial goal, will fund things like a reissue edition of Philip’s first book ‘Acquisition’, which is also about Spaceflight tracking, and preservation of the many original documents in Philip’s collection.

Why should we preserve this history? Why Us?

You’re probably thinking ‘Isn’t that what NASA does?’ Well yes, they do – some of the space exploration history – but they don’t have all of it – and they definitely don’t have a huge proportion of what we are dealing with here (after all, for them to collect everything would be an almost impossible task!). So, we want to make certain that this critical piece of the history of human space exploration isn’t lost.

Orroral Valley Space Tracking Station is gone – it’s now bare concrete pads and nothing more. The grassed areas are picnic spots and kangaroo grazing grounds – little sign remains of what was there, and the momentous events in human history that were affected by that place. The only way that we can preserve it is by the pictures, the documents, and recording the memories of those who were there.

Philip wants to ensure that future generations have access to this history, can see just what was achieved. His legacy will be preserving this for all mankind.

A Brief History of Orroral Valley Space Tracking Station:

This will give you a concept of the scope of information to be preserved, and why this will be a very large book!

1963 - Survey and site works begin

1964 - Building construction begins

1965 - Equipment installation starts while building construction is completed. Limited tracking operations started while equipment installation completed

1966 - Official opening ceremony (Feb).

  • Full tracking operations underway. Orroral has 3 transmitting antennas and 4 receiving antennas. It has 4 telemetry receiving and tracking systems.
  • Minitrack system moved from Woomera to Orroral. Minitrack begins tracking from Orroral in late 1966. Orroral now has 3 transmitting systems and 5 receiving/tracking systems.
  • Full tracking operations with between 30 and sometimes up to more than 70 tracks (passes) per day. The first fully versatile digital computer is installed for support of the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory project.

1967 - During 1967 Orroral tracks Australia’s first satellite. WRESAT is launched from Woomera in South Australia.

1968 - The access roads to Orroral are flooded on several occasions but tracking operations continue without interruption

1974 - The access roads to Orroral are again flooded on several occasions, but tracking operations continue without interruption. In August there is one occasion of very severe flooding. After the station had been isolated for about 3 days supplies are running out. Relief is arranged by the use of RAAF helicopters. New staff and supplies are flown in and the staff are flown out. Orroral continued tracking throughout the flood period. Orroral staff levels reach over 200. Orroral is the largest tracking station outside of the United States. Construction of extensions to the operations building to support manned space flight. Another antenna is added to Orroral – a 9 metre dish for both transmitting and receiving. Orroral now has 4 transmitting systems and 6 receiving/tracking systems.

1975 - Orroral tracks to Apollo-Soyuz joint USSR-Unites States mission. A laser tracking system is constructed near the Minitrack site. Orroral can now track up to 7 spacecraft at once. Orroral has taken over tracking of manned spacecraft from Honeysuckle Creek tracking station.

1976 - A major upgrade is made to Orroral’s 26 Metre antenna. It can now additionally receive the S-Band radio frequencies and track manned spacecraft. Orroral takes over tracking the scientific packages left on the Moon (ALSEP)

1977 - The operations room is remodelled and new equipment installed for the Digital Data Processing System (DDPS) to improve tracking operations and data flow back to control centres in the United States. On 30 Sept. Orroral switches off the experiment packages left on the Moon (ALSEP). Two antennas are installed to track radio signals from the planet Jupiter.

1981 - Orroral tracks the first orbital flight of the Space Shuttle. John Young and Bob Crippen are on board the ‘Columbia’. Later in the year the astronauts visit Orroral and present awards. Another antenna is installed – a 6 metre dish S-Band command antenna. Orroral can now command up to 5 spacecraft and track up to 7 spacecraft at once.

1982 - Orroral is surrounded by bushfires/ Firefighting helicopters and trucks use the station as a base. Tracking staff travel to the station on specially protected roads.

1983 - Staff from Orroral carry out the first official amateur radio experiment with the space shuttle during the STS-9 flight. They connect the space shuttle back to Houston with using any NASA systems.

1984 - Orroral’s last space shuttle track is STS-14 launched 8 November. Orroral’s last tracking operation is on 21 December.

1985 - 31 January the station is officially closed. There is no ceremony, saddened staff simply walk away. Equipment dismantling and removal is done.

1986 - Although there had been proposals to preserve some of the site and equipment, nothing is done to preserve anything.

1987 - The Canberra Times newspaper documents severe vandalism at Orroral.

1992 - The damage from vandalism is so severe that the site is bulldozed. Only some foundations are left to mark the places of the buildings and structures of what was once the largest tracking station in the world outside of the United States.

The only part of the station which survives is the dish, which was moved to Tasmania for University use.

If it’s gone, why does it matter?

The history of human space exploration inspired the last few generations, and continues to inspire today, as this generation become aware of how much was done with technology that was, compared to today, unbelievably primitive.

The aim of this book is to preserve that history, to make it accessible to millions, to honour all those who were involved in those events.

 So here are a few reasons why we think this should be preserved, and collected in a book to ensure that future generations can know about this amazing part of our history.

  • Australia was once a world leader in space exploration. It was the third nation, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to successfully launch its own spacecraft from its own territory. (WRESAT, November 1967)
  • WRESAT was tracked by Orroral Valley
  • Australia had the most Space Tracking Stations of any country except the United States.
  • Australia had the biggest Tracking Station outside of the United States - Orroral Valley in the ACT.
  • Orroral Valley was part of the largest Space Tracking network in the world, STADAN (Space Tracking And Data Acquisition Network, later STDN), but very little was / is known about this very important network and its stations.
  • Australian tracking stations had a reputation for being the best in the network.
  • Much less is known about manned spaceflight tracking after the flights to the Moon ended in 1972.
  • Almost none of the history of the STADAN (STDN) network or Orroral Valley Tracking Station was preserved by NASA or the Australian Government when the network was closed.
  • The author has information, much of which it is believed is not held by NASA, which is unique – if it is not preserved, there is no other copy, anywhere.
  • This book is to record some of the Australian history of manned space flight tracking after the closure of the Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) in 1972.
  •  This will also preserve information about the historic first flights of the Space Shuttle, especially the role of the Orroral Valley Tracking Station.

Orroral Space Tracking Station’s Impact on Manned Space Exploration.

  • Because there were no NASA personnel at Orroral, staff were less constrained by NASA regulations and were more innovative than other stations in the network.
  • Many innovations and fixes came from Orroral.
  • Orroral was recognised by NASA as a centre of space tracking excellence.
  • Because Orroral was recognised as being very good at satellite tracking it was usually scheduled for a heavy workload.
  • It was scheduled for 30, and sometimes up to 100, tracks per day.
  • It could independently track up to 7 spacecraft at once.
  • Orroral was very highly regarded by the astronauts flying the first Space Shuttle missions.
  • Orroral tracked all manned spaceflights after the closure of the MSFN (in 1972) until Orroral closed in 1985.
  • Staff from Orroral carried out the first official NASA authorised amateur radio experiment with the space shuttle during the 1983 STS-9 flight.
  • When spacecraft emergencies occurred, Orroral often was often able to respond faster than any other station

How will the money raised by this campaign be used? 

For preparation (editing, image preparation, layout, design, formatting, proofreading), then publishing and promotion of the book. 

If more is raised than is needed to publish and distribute this book, the extra will go towards the preparation and release of a new edition of Philip’s first book and towards the preservation of the collection of original documents from the Station. 

Goals and Stretch Goals Planned: 

Initial Goal - $5,000 

Stretch goal 1 - $10,000 

Stretch goal 2 - $15,000 

For stretch goals, some extra rewards will be offered – such as posters, DVDs and CDs with images and video from the era 

Should we hit the second stretch goal, a new edition of Philip’s first book ‘Acquisition!’ will be prepared and released, in companion style and formatting. 

We also aim to ensure that all of the original documents in Philip’s possession are preserved appropriately. 

 

Risks and challenges

Preparation of a high-quality book of this nature, which is very intensively pictorial, is time consuming and labour intensive – and very hard to predict the exact time required. There is always a risk that the timing will slip.

Shipping is hard to estimate, as we wish to honour supporters no matter where they are in the world, by delivering physical books and other items to them. This means that, for some locations, an extra amount may need to be added to your pledge to cover shipping, above and beyond the expected approx. $20 standard shipping (large physical books are heavy….).

Capturing high quality digital images from documents and newspaper clippings which are anything up to nearly 50 years old can be challenging, if we want the result to be clear and readable when printed, but still retain the look of the original – and the feel for the era which that indicates. This requires the use of very high-quality equipment, and considerable skilled labour to get the best result. That can be expensive.

So - our challenges are all production related, and our biggest risk is time slippage.

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    Pledge AU$ 2 or more About US$ 1.44

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    Space Compulsive

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    • A printable certificate of appreciation
    • Postcard set of significant images from the book
    • Supporter coffee mug
    • Signed limited (max 10) premium hardcover edition of the book
    • your logo + website link with sponsor listing in websites & book
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    • Collectors set of replica memorabilia from the space program
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    Pledge AU$ 5,000 or more About $3,589

    I always wanted to be an Astronaut.

    We will list your name on the supporters list on http://www.thefinalorbit.com and on the publishers website at http://www.dreamstonepublishing.com
    Plus items as listed below

    Includes:
    • A Digital copy of the final book
    • A printable certificate of appreciation
    • Postcard set of significant images from the book
    • Supporter coffee mug
    • Signed limited (max 10) premium hardcover edition of the book
    • your logo + website link with sponsor listing in websites & book
    • T-shirt featuring the cover art of the book
    • Collectors set of replica memorabilia from the space program
    • Your name as a platinum sponsor on the websites and in the book
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Funding period

- (45 days)