Paddington HAM Radio Repeater

OTC_Paddington_smby Robert Brand

I was interested to learn that the HAM VHF radio repeater that Laurie MacIlree built in Guam and a few of us installed at OTC Paddington is still going, but of course it has brand new equipment, a slightly different frequency and Laurie is still involved. VK2ROT is still the call sign and it is managed by the local HAM radio club, Waverley Amateur Radio Society. This from their website
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Ceduna Drop In 1987

Ceduna, on the Way to the Nullabor

John Oxley, Robert Brand, Julie Thomas (friend) and Jeff Hinwood

by Robert Brand

Three OTC staff and a friend were off to the Nullabor for a 2 week caving adventure and as I did 2 years earlier, I dropped by with the team one sunny day to say hello and to see the station up close.

It was hot, a stinker, and we were glad to actually get into a nice cool air conditioned building. My 4WD did not have air conditioning so it was a simply fantastic to have an hour in the cool of the Ceduna building in the middle of the day.

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Univac 418 – Paddington

Univac 418Computer Message Switching.

by Robert Brand

In February 1969, OTC’s automatic message relay system became operational at the Paddington terminal. I was sent there for Field Training in 1971 so it was a very new venture and the first to compete in a global competitive environment. I published this photo on Facebook years ago and got a lot of responses. The comments form part of this story.

As a Trainee, I got to have a play with the offline system – there were two – the production system and the standby system. They sat side by side. They were switching messages around the world, but I had access to the offline system and learned how to program in machine language. Kieth McCredden was in charge at the time.
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Nullabor Photography Nailed by OTC Cavers

Abrakurrie Cave

by Robert Brand

Nullabor Plains - Knee high bush

Nullabor Plains – Knee high bush

In 1987, the OTC Caving and Canyoning Club put on a trip to Kangaroo Island and the Nullabor Plains. Initially only John Oxley and myself and a group from Sydney University Speleological Society (SUSS) went on the Kangaroo Island trip and later John and I had arranged to meet Jeff Hinwood at noon on a certain day at the Police Station at Port Pirie in SA. There were no mobile phones back then and we had driven from Adelaide and arrive to the second at the police station to see Jeff pulling up as well. A magnificent start to the trip.

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Mobile GPS 1987 Nullabor Plains

Geof Hinwood with the AWA GPS on my Toyota HiLuxJeff Hinwood Working Our “Portable” GPS

by Robert Brand

In 1987, Jeff Hinwood, John Oxley and myself set out on an OTC Caving and Canyoning club caving expedition to the Nullabor Plains. It was not an easy Sunday drive, but had fun visiting our friends at Ceduna for part of the trip. It was week three and we were in a super remote part of the world. There was a small possibility that we were at least 160km from the nearest person  Possibly we were the most isolated group on land in the world, a thought that often crossed our minds on this trip. The Nullabor plains is the largest piece of limestone in the world and is riddled with caves, some close to the surface and filled with unusual salt crystal formations rather than limestone formations and deeper down, caves of immense proportions. Some filled with water and a huge challenge for divers. The clarity of the undisturbed water is at least 100m, maybe 150m if your light can penetrate.

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Cable Enterprise Visit mid 70s

Cable Enterprise 1975-ishThe Cable Enterprise was docked in Sydney for a few days for some reason and many of the Paddington staff paid the ship a visit. It did not have any cable in the tanks to lay, although I believe it carried some repair cable and that was about all. The ship had a lot of control and thrusters. The deck was covered in cable feeding rollers and a lot of things that only the experienced crew would know about.

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Bondi Beach Cable Entry Room 1972

Bondi Beach Cable RoomBondi was the landing point for Compac and at the end of our Cable Course in 1972, Percy Day took us on a tour of the cable path through Centennial Park and the streets of Bondi. Percy toured the Compac Cable path every Monday to make sure that there was no construction work that would put the security of the cable at risk.

We visited the cable entry room and noted that there was more than just the Compac Cable in the room. In fact there were many old telegraph cables terminated in the room and one of the universities was graphing the voltage / current generated on the cables by the earths changing magnetic field. Percy had to check the paper recorders and mark the dates.

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Social Club Thredbo Trip 1970

by Robert Brand

1971 Social and Sports Club Head OfficeI was on Field Training in July 1970 in Head Office in Martin Place and I was approached to join a Ski Trip to Thredbo with the OTC Social and Sports club. I had never been skiing before and I was assured that there were a lot of girls going. Well, I just had to join the trip. I had never tried skiing before and that was my only reason for going – not.

The bus did not have a toilet in those days and stops were always annoying. I remember that we stopped at the park in the centre of town (and toilets) in Goulburn NSW and it was time to stretch our legs. Dinner was at Canberra, so someone organised a race around the park in Goulburn piggy back style to ward off the hunger pains. Continue reading

Andy Nguyen Balloon Record

Balloon TrackAndy Nguyen from Melbourne broke a few records earlier this year. He managed to get one of his foil party balloons around the world nearly 3 times. I’m sure that there are hundreds circling the earth every day, but Andy’s magic is adding a HF transmitter, a VHF transmitter with Frequency change ability by longitude (for different countries) a smart controller, solar charging and batteries and they all weighed only some 11 grams.

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Apollo 11 Tour 1969

Collins Armstrong and Aldrin pass by wavingNovember 1st 1969 Sydney Australia

by Robert Brand

I just came across these photos from the Apollo 11 crew that toured Sydney following the moon landing. I think that they were taken on a Kodak Box Brownie that I just happened to have. I remember that I was not planning on taking photos and then just decided it was too historic.

I was 17 and I, along with many others, wired up some of the Apollo 11 comms gear at OTC Paddington in Sydney. The tour had a special significance because of the little bit of work that we all did at Paddo. I had to take my place on a Sydney street along with everyone else to snap a few seconds on the Apollo 11 Astronauts driving by at a rather fast pace. I was on the Corner of King St and Elizabeth Street in the heart of Sydney. Continue reading

Carnarvon by Jim Crockett

Space and Technology Museum at Carnarvon

Space and Technology Museum at Carnarvon 3

10 July 2015

Jim Crockett posted this on our ex-OTC Facebook Page:I just came back from trip on the Norwest coast of Western Australia on my way to the 31st bi-annual conference of the Australian Speleological Federation that was held at Exmouth. On the way we stopped for a visit to the Space and Technology Museum at Carnarvon at the old OTC Satellite station [and NASA Centre].
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Project ThunderStruck

Project ThunderStruck set to Break Barriers ThunderStruck vertical

by Robert Brand

Here is a story of what my son is about to do and I will of course mentor him. If anyone is interested at any level, please contact me. 0448881101. The launch site looks like it will be at Longreach Queensland in early April 2015

The piece below was written for another group, but it tells the story. We are after sponsors, so if you can help nail down a sponsor we will pay 10% commission. That is standard in the industry.

Imagine a time when a 12 year student could build a supersonic glider 2.5m / 8ft long, attach it to a huge helium or hydrogen balloon and take it to the edge of space, release it, fly it into a dive back to earth that will reach Mach 1.5 / 1,800kph / 1,120mph and land it. Well that time is now and the student is Jason Brand from Sydney Secondary College / Balmain Campus. He is in year 7 and has already broken plenty of records. Breaking the sound barrier will be another cool record. His flight will break a lot of other records too. Continue reading

Saving Apollo 11 – erh – no!

Spaceflight-Cover-2014-12Spaceflight Interview.

As most of my old ex-otc mates know, I am heavily involved in the space sector and even bump into Bill Barrett occasionally. I recently had this interview published in Spaceflight magazine. Note that I did NOT put the title on the page “Saving Apollo 11”, nor did I say anything so stupid – seems the editor thought that a nice touch. It was in a prestigious UK space magazine: “Spaceflight”

My words are very tame in the interview in that regard. My friend Nick Howes (the interviewer) from the UK also thinks I am being humble when I tell him I didn’t do much other than wiring. I was asked by Wayne Ozarko to lend a hand along with fellow trainee Paul Davies (never heard from Paul since he went to the UK around 1970). Editors want to sell magazines. They embellish the facts. Continue reading

Apollo Heritage Interview

Hangout-Ad006Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout – Apollo Heritage and the GLXP.

by Robert Brand

Well the Apollo Heritage event is over and I had a lot of fun with the interview or should I say “armchair chat”. It was a very comfortable discussion. I am excited to tell you that there is a video of the event. It was recorded and the link is below. I must say that I am very taken with Dr. Pamela L. Gay (the host) and her interview style. I was never left with a feeling of “what will happen next”. Continue reading

Apollo 11 45th Interview

Hangout 006 GLXP Apollo 11 45thRobert Brand is a Special Guest for Apollo 11 GLXP Hangout

Not much to say, but to follow the link below and be part of the Apollo 11 special event for the Google Lunar X Prize Team Hangout.

I will be discussing my experiences wiring up the Apollo 11 gear in Sydney – not that this was an amazing event, but since I am part of a group building a mission to go to the moon with a Rover, it appears that I am about the only person in the GLXP with a connection to the Apollo 11 event. Continue reading

Apollo 11, 45th Anniversary Memories

Photo by Richard Holl (L-R) Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes Scanconverter at OTC Paddington following the mission.

Photo by Richard Holl (L-R) Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes Scanconverter at OTC Paddington following the mission

An Explosion in the Scan-converter.

by Robert Brand

A few weeks before the launch of Apollo 11, the scan-converter at OTC Paddington in Sydney exploded when it was switched on by NASA‘s Richard Holl following a test. The explosion occurred because the scan-converter was wrongly rewired one evening. Continue reading

Personal Spacecraft in Orbit

kicksatKickSat Mothership Achieves Orbit.

by Robert Brand

Remember the small prototype of a KickSat (photo right)? I wrote about it in an earlier post. In mid April, 2014 it was tucked inside its mothership and that was inside the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that blasted into orbit with the ISS resupply cargo module.

Wikipedia says:This was the SpaceX CRS-3, a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, contracted to NASA, which was launched on 18 April 2014. It was the 5th flight for SpaceX’s uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft and the third SpaceX operational mission contracted to NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services contract.” Continue reading

Andy’s Pico Balloon Update

Andy Balloon altitude over AustraliaPico Balloon Departs Australia

by Robert Brand

Andy Nguyen’s Pico Balloon Update: It has now passed over the bottom of Fraser Island in SE Queensland late today and out to sea.

Pico simply means very small balloon and payload.

Andy is hoping that the next stop may be South America in a week’s time. We do not expect to hear from the balloon until then, but it may pass over New Zealand or Tonga. Continue reading