Early Bird 2, the UK and Global TV

OTC’s Jim Robertson explains

Intelsat I was nicknamed “Early Bird” for the proverb “The early bird catches the worm”. Early Bird 1 was the world’s first commercial communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit. It was positioned over the Atlantic Ocean and launched on 6 April 1965. The Early Bird series was built by the Space and Communications Group of Hughes Aircraft Company (later Hughes Space and Communications Company, and now Boeing Satellite Systems) for COMSAT. It was based on the Syncom satellite that Hughes had built for NASA to demonstrate that communications via synchronous-orbit satellite were feasible.

Early Bird 2 was actually known as Blue Bird and was designated Intelsat II F-1. It was to be placed over the Pacific. Unfortunately, the satellite’s orbit ended up in an elliptical orbit varying from 2,000 miles and 20,000 miles above the early and it was certainly not geosynchronous. It was caused by the engines tasked with the geostationary insertion burn, ending prematurely.

In this video OTC’s Jim Robertson explains the situation.

Re the above video, this detail was provided:
“The historic first satellite telecast between Australia and England took place on Friday, November 25th, 1966.

The ABC had a hook up with the BBC, whilst TVW Channel 7 hooked up with the UK commercial station ITN. This opportunity was part design and part accident as when the world’s second planned commercial communication satellite Intelsat II F-1 was launched October 26, 1966, it was planned to go into a geosynchronous orbit, but the rocket engine employed to achieve this failed to do so. Its thrust terminated approximately 4 seconds after ignition, rather than the needed 16 seconds.

The world’s first commercial communication satellite, called Intelsat I (nicknamed Early Bird), was launched into geosynchronous orbit above the Atlantic Ocean by a Delta D rocket on April 6, 1965, and was transmitting successful between America and England.

Intelsat II (Early Bird 2) was designed to stay over the Pacific, which was hoped would give communications between Australia and North America. If plans had succeeded, the link with Britain could have been completed across America and via the Atlantic satellite. But as the second satellite went into an elliptical orbit of 2,000 miles and 20,000 miles at the other end, shifting orbit every few hours, it changed the area of communications accordingly.

Despite its non-synchronous orbit, the satellite was used briefly to transmit live television and other communications traffic.

Before the satellite was out of range, an agreement was secured by Australia to allow our television stations to use the doomed satellite for a direct broadcast to Britain, before it drifting away over the Indian Ocean.”

Our World – 1967

Our World was the first live, international, satellite television production, which was broadcast on 25 June 1967. 14 countries participated in the production that was transmitted to 24 countries with an estimated audience between 400 to 700 million people. The program was coordinated by the BBC in London. The Soviet Union and several other Eastern bloc countries pulled out a few days before the broadcast to protest the west’s support for the Six-Day War.

The signal is carried by four satellites 23,000 miles above the earth, the Intelsat I (Early Bird) and The Intelsat III (Canary Bird) satellites over the Atlantic Ocean and NASA’s ATS-1 and The Intelsat II (Lani Bird) satellites over the Pacific.

The program begins by looking at some of the earliest arrivals on our planet with babies born around the world starting with Japan at 4:04am, then Denmark one hour before sunset at 8:06pm, next its 1:06pm in Mexico City, then 3,000 miles to the north at Edmonton in Canada where a Cree Indian baby is born, only four of some 1,800 born in the short time since the program began.

Its a summer evening in Paris, a winter morning in Melbourne, just before lunch in Vancouver, and the middle of the afternoon in New York as we see what our neighbours are doing across the world.

Participating broadcasting organisations included:
-Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC)
-Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF)
-British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC1)
-Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
-NHK (Japan)
-National Educational Television (NET) (USA)
-Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF) (France)
-Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI)(Italy)
-Televisión Española (TVE) (Spain)

Some of the locations included:
-Abbey Road Studios, London, UK (Beatles’ segment)
-Glassboro, New Jersey, USA
-Parkes, New South Wales, Australia
-Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
-Tokyo, Japan
-Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Owing to language issues for Australians, interpreters translated the foreign commentaries for Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) announcers to provide an English voice-over where necessary. The ABC announcing team consisted of James Dibble, Margaret Throsby, John West and David Hawkes.

The program takes us from country to country including a pass through Italy where Franco Zeffirelli is on location for Romeo and Juliet, to the Abbey Road Studios in London and the Beatles making their recording of ‘All You Need Is Love’, to close the broadcast.

Here is the first 30 minute and the last 6 minutes of this historic and pioneering two hour television event.

Its worth noting that David Hawkes had a big impact on broadcasting training in Western Australia.

Though David began his broadcasting career in Queensland, he later became well known to WA viewers and listeners. David took over the 6WF (720) breakfast program from John Juan in 1974, presented concerts with the WA Symphony Orchestra, recitals for ABC Classic FM, hosted the program “Jazz on the Terrace” and provided commentary for countless outside broadcasts: Royal visits, Anzac Day, and other special occasions.

For ABC television in WA, David read the news, fronted the games show “Fair Go!”, co-hosted the cooking program “Two for the Pot”, presented concert telecasts from the Perth Concert Hall, was anchor for the current affairs show “State Wide”, and link for many election night Tally room specials.

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