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The Kettering Group

Tyneside, UK
2024 Jun 15
Saturday, Day 167

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Chris In Fiji

I was employed by the telecommication branch of the UK Post Office (later to become British Telecom and now simply 'BT'). In 1966 I was seconded to Fijian Posts & Telegraphs to take responsibility for the training of local Technicians. For many years I had a personal interest in electronics and radio communications which originated from my days of converting war surplus air radar receivers to simple televisions.

Weather satellites

The interest in satellites started when I met two New Zealanders who had attempted to receive pictures from early weather satellites and it prompted me to build my own receiving system.

This was when calculators were mechanical and personal computers did not exist! The biggest problem was finding a suitable display. I overcame it by using an oscilloscope with a long persistance screen and home made 0.25 second X and 2 minute Y theme bases. It turns out that Derek Slater was doing similar things over in Kettering.

Despite the use of a long persistence screen it was neccessary to use a long exposure photograph and results were poor by modern standards.

Cosmos Recoveries

In 1967 Geoff Perry, a distant relative, wanted confirmation that recoverable Cosmos satellites only transmitted in the southern hemisphere during their last revolution before being recovered in Russia. Geoff knew that I was working in Fiji and wrote on the off chance that I might check the theory. The first attempt was successful and Geoff wrote back "Congratulations on being successful at at your first attempt to receive Cosmos signals. I think you have been more successful than you think".

This was the start of the Fiji branch of the Kettering Group.

Speedy comunications between Filji and the UK was initially an issue until we discovered that low cost international telegrams could have a minimum of 5 words each of 5 characters and be both letters and numbers. Thus a coded comunications system was created that allowed the satellite name, expected AOS, frequency etc to be transmitted. The system continued to be developed and used until I returned to the UK in 1973.

Navigation Satellites

On returning to the UK I was reluctant to duplicate the short wave monitoring that was being undertaken by the Kettering Group in Europe. A paper analysis by Geoff Perry had already identified that the Russians might have a satellite navigation system and asked if I could find their transmission frequencies. This was done and Geoff then asked if it was possible to decode the modulated signals. By 1980 most the data had been decoded and a paper was presented at the Royal Society in a satellite navigaion meeting1. A more comprehensive document was presented at the Group reunion at Kettering in February 2002 2.

1 - Phil.Trans.R.Soc.Lond.A 294, 307-315 (1980)
2 - Russian Navigation Satellites in Low Earth Orbit - The first 30 Years
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