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  Early spacecraft tracking ships and systems (Page 2)

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Author Topic:   Early spacecraft tracking ships and systems
MerleWagner
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posted 05-03-2007 05:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for MerleWagner   Click Here to Email MerleWagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just ran across this thread while searching for USNS Mercury info. I worked on the USNS Mercury from 1966 through 1969. I left the ship while it was stationed in Australia.

I would be VERY interested in any info/pictures you have collected.

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-04-2007 08:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I believe that I have a lot of good photos of the Mercury that I located in the NASA HQ history archives and have scanned. My next week I will be on travel, but after that I can send them to you.

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-04-2007 08:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By the way, of the three Apollo tracking ships, Mercury, Redstone and Vanguard, the Mercury was retired early, around 1970 if I remember correctly (it's in my notes). Both Mercury and Redstone were turned over to USAF, which retired and sold Mercury. She was sold to a cargo shipping company, but I do not know what happened to her after that.

It seems rather odd that she was sold to a shipping company, because what would they do with her? She was completely unsuited for carrying cargo or anything else. Either they bought her to scrap her (odd for a company that ships cargo, but they might have also had a scrapping company), or they bought her for parts and then sold her for scrapping.

The modifications made to these ships were extensive. They started out as tankers and were converted. Several naval reference books I have incorrectly state that they were lengthened by 76 feet. The reality is that the bow and stern were cut off, the mid-section thrown away and replaced by a completely new mid-section, and then all three hull sections were attached. So instead of being lengthened, it would be more accurate to say that a substantial amount of the hull (I have not calculated what percentage by length) was entirely new.

MerleWagner
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posted 05-04-2007 09:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MerleWagner   Click Here to Email MerleWagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the reply Dwayne. I will look for any old photos I still have.

If you have any questions I can try to answer but my memory is really on the fritz...

I worked as communications supervisor while the ship was being finalized and then switched over to computer maintenance (Univac 642B) for the tracking and telemetry/S Band computers. We also had a bunch of Univac 1218 (?) computers that ran all the consoles. We had one section of the ship outfitted with a duplicate of the consoles you saw at Houston. We could have acted as mission control if anything ever went wrong in Houston. We had satellite comm which was our link to the mainland. All data was downloaded from the spacecraft, and then relayed via satellite back to Goddard and then to Houston.

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-04-2007 12:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MerleWagner:
We had one section of the ship outfitted with a duplicate of the consoles you saw at Houston. We could have acted as mission control if anything ever went wrong in Houston. We had satellite comm which was our link to the mainland. All data was downloaded from the spacecraft, and then relayed via satellite back to Goddard and then to Houston.

Yes, the control consoles were really a leftover idea from Mercury and Gemini, when NASA was concerned that they needed the ability to provide a mission control anywhere around the world. Even by the end of Gemini this appeared to be unnecessary, and the control rooms were removed from two of the ships before the ships were withdrawn.

The satellite relay capability was added after the ships were initially configured (i.e. after the tankers were converted into tracking ships). If you look at photos of the tracking ships after their launch and then a few years later you can see a real difference. The ships initially only had a small deckhouse forward. This was later replaced with a much larger deckhouse and the satellite communications dish. I've got schematics that show the difference as well. The terminals were apparently initially developed on the Kingsport, which had a large dome on her stern. Kingsport was apparently initially supposed to support the Army's ADVENT geosynchronous comsat. It was later adapted to support the Syncom satellite for tests.

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-04-2007 12:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By the way, you can see the large forward superstructure in this photo of the Mercury.

And if you look at this picture of the Vanguard, you will note that there is only a small forward superstructure when the ships were first converted.

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-04-2007 01:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My article on the tracking ship American Mariner will appear on Monday.

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-04-2007 01:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll just add that there is a video up on YouTube showing the transport of the tracking ship USNS Vanguard.

The ship was towed to a shipyard for hazardous material removal prior to her being sunk as an artificial reef/diving attraction.

MerleWagner
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posted 05-06-2007 07:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for MerleWagner   Click Here to Email MerleWagner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I found a couple of photos that I scanned. I have a bunch of photos that are slides (have to get converted) of going through the Panama canal when we transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-08-2007 05:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The following was received from Vince Terenzio:
If you want information and a lot of pictures re: NASA Tracking Stations, aircraft, and tracking ships, go here

Bendix operated the Tracking Stations for NASA for Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

I was at Antigua and Madrid in the USB section, during Apollo. If you are looking for specific information, just e-mail me and I will try to answer.

Joe Frasketi
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posted 05-21-2007 11:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Regarding ship locations, I've been doing a bit of searching for ship information pertaining to this theme and an acquaintance, Jed Clear, has sent me some info that might be helpful: "As of 31 Mar 2007, the Vanguard was in the James River Reserve Fleet in VA. However her status is now "disposal". The Range Sentinal is also there and the status is "Historic Review". You can confirm this by going to the MARAD (U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Maritime Administration) web site and finding their current inventory.

Or go to wikipedia and look up "Haskall class."

Dwayne Day
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posted 05-21-2007 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dwayne Day   Click Here to Email Dwayne Day     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for that. I looked at Google Earth and I may have found the Vanguard in the northeastern most grouping of ships. She lost the tracking dishes decades ago when she was converted to a submarine navigation ship, but she was white and had both a forward deckhouse and the stern bridgehouse and that ship may be the one I spotted. Unfortunately, the resolution for that area is poor.

Finding the other ship would be more difficult because I'd have to look for pictures of her from overhead and then try to pick her out of the lineup. So many of the tracking ships were converted Victory ships or similar merchant hulls that it is difficult picking them out of a lineup of other merchant ships, especially at low resolution.

Joe Frasketi
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posted 09-28-2007 03:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Found out the USNS Mercury was scrapped at Kaohsiung in Taiwan in 1984.

Joe Frasketi
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posted 01-27-2008 03:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Latest update on the sinking of the Mercury Tracking ship USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg...

The Miami Herald Newspaper had a short piece on Jan. 27, 2008 that the ship is planned to be sunk off Key West as an artificial reef on May 15.

How appropriate if this date holds true, as May 15, 2008 is the 45th anniversary of the Mercury space flight of Gordon Cooper.

Joe Frasketi
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posted 01-28-2008 04:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Mac" Monroe who used to work on the USNS Vandenberg sent me this email to me today:
It's official. The Sink Day for the Vandenberg has been set for Thursday 15 May 2008. At this point, the ship is still in Virginia, and I do not have a time period yet for the movement of the ship to Key West. That will be provided later.

I have talked to Joe Weatherby and he informs me that work on developing a schedule of activities for sink week has just started. They hope to have a number of events, including get-togethers for the different groups, press conferences, individual interviews to provide inputs to the history project for the planned Vandy museum/science center, and various social activities. They have just begun to think about blocking groups of rooms (and seeking favorable rates) for those of us who want to attend the sinking. I don't have any info yet about boat charters to take folks out to watch the actual sinking, but I am sure that they will be thinking about that problem too.

Weatherby says please keep an eye on this website as updates will be coming more frequently from now on.

Please pass this info on to anyone else that you know that might be interested.

Joe Frasketi
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posted 05-24-2009 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The sinking of the missile and satellite tracking ship USNS Vandenberg as an artificial reef off of Key West FL has been finalized after many many months of uncertainty.

A 'nominal' sink time of 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 has been set.

While there are links to this event if you Google the USNS Vandenberg, I think you will find my reports on the events leading up to the sink day of interest by going to my Range Rat Information Page about Eastern Test Range (ETR) Tracking Ships.

There are also links to other related web pages such where to watch the actual sinking in streaming live video if you are not going to Key West.

Michael Ritter
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posted 05-27-2009 04:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Michael Ritter   Click Here to Email Michael Ritter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Video of the Vandenberg going down.

Lou Chinal
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posted 05-27-2009 07:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Lou Chinal   Click Here to Email Lou Chinal     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A truly sad sight.

Joe Frasketi
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posted 05-27-2009 09:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks Michael for the video link on the actual sinking.

Unfortunately the live broadcast at the Sink the Vandenberg website, listed on my webpage, experienced difficulty, and this was their comment: "we regret that many viewers were unable to experience our historic live webcast of the sinking of the Vandenberg on May 27th. While our web hosting company assured us they could handle the traffic, the response was so overwhelming that the server experienced a CPU failure which ultimately blocked access to the website.

I have since updated my webpage.

quote:
Originally posted by Lou Chinal:
A truly sad sight.
While it may be a sad site to sink it, but now it becomes the world's 2nd largest artificial reef to be be enjoyed by countless scuba divers and can also be viewed from a glass bottomed boat as much of the superstructure will be just 40-50 feet below the surface.

gregory scallon
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posted 06-21-2009 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gregory scallon   Click Here to Email gregory scallon     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MerleWagner:
I worked on the USNS Mercury from 1966 through 1969. I left the ship while it was stationed in Australia.
I was also based on the Mercury during '69 in Sydney. Have you kept in touch with any members of the FEC team?

Joe Frasketi
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posted 10-15-2009 10:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The latest news about two more space tracking ships: USNS Vanguard and USNS Range Sentinel...

I recently heard from one crew member of the Lighthouse Tender USCS Lilac, which is being restored, who just returned from the James River Reserve Fleet in Virginia. They were aboard the USNS Vanguard scavenging for parts. The maritime admin. allows restoration projects to get parts from ships ready to be scrapped.

The Range Sentinel has been sent out to bid, when they were on it, it looked like the crew had just walked off. The USNS Vanguard had a lot of parts on board they needed and she is next to be let out to bid for scrap.

Any ship rats/range rats who served aboard the space tracking ships are invited to visit my webpage: Eastern Test Range (ETR) Tracking Ships and sign the Range Rat - Sign In book.

Joe Frasketi, Jr.
Ship Rat from the FS Ship Golf

KentAngell
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posted 02-09-2011 09:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KentAngell   Click Here to Email KentAngell     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MerleWagner:
I just ran across this thread while searching for USNS Mercury info. I worked on the USNS Mercury from 1966 through 1969.
This is Kent Angell who was the Telemetry manager on the USNS Mercury from Quincy to mid-1969. I was just surfing and happened to see your postings so thought I would let you know I am alive and well here in Utah.

I had the good fortune to meet up with Bill Ochs (ships manager) and Paul Alford in Santa Maria last summer. Also there was Ed Walsh - he and his wife were here on vacation from Australia. We had a good time and a good meal and I stay in touch with Paul via ham radio usually on Saturday mornings.

So, hope you see this and maybe I can catch up on some of our other shipmates.

Headshot
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posted 05-18-2012 05:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Can someone tell me why the USNS Rose Knot is also referred to as the Rose Knot Victor? The same goes for the USNS Coastal Sentry, which was also called the Coastal Sentry Quebec?

Joe Frasketi
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posted 05-20-2012 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Joe Frasketi   Click Here to Email Joe Frasketi     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I asked your question to one of the early range rats friends today, who was the RCA-MTP's Ships Instrumentation Manager during the 1960's and he was responsible for eight ships, with the USNS Coastal Sentry and The Rose Knot being two of the eight. His reply was:
As I recall, the suffixes Victor and Quebec, which are phonetic alphabet aids, were added to the Rose Knot and Coastal Sentry names by agreement between the Air Force and NASA when the ships began supporting manned space flight programs, around 1960-61. NASA then referred to the ships as the "RKV" and "CSQ" to fit in with the way they referred to the land-based stations in their Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN), i.e., three-character
designators and call signs.

Headshot
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posted 05-23-2012 07:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Headshot   Click Here to Email Headshot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Joe. That makes sense in a very NASA-like way.

David Lillicot
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posted 06-04-2013 10:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for David Lillicot   Click Here to Email David Lillicot     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I uploaded to YouTube: "Mad Mel 1969 2SM Live From USNS Mercury Apollo Tracking Ship." This is the full radio show without the music.

Over one million listeners tuned in to AM Station 2SM to hear "Mad Mel" chatting to crew. I hope you enjoy it, and pass on video.

Glint
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posted 06-04-2013 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by David Lillicot:
This is the full radio show without the music.

Is there a version avaliable either with or without the music, but with the dozens of annoying "monster foam machine" and other Lincoln Toy Co. commercials edited out?


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