Muchea Tracking Station, Western Australia


 

Eastablished in 1960, Muchea (pronounced “Mew-shay”) Tracking Station, 60km north of Perth in Western Australia, was a key station for the Mercury Project.

It was Project Mercury tracking Station No 8, and was one of two Australian stations in the Mercury network. The second station, No 9, was located at Red Lake, north of Woomera, South Australia.

Both stations were managed and operated by the Weapons Research Establishment of the Department of Supply for NASA.

The Muchea station was a typical installation with radar and acquisition aid tracking systems, telemetry reception and air-to-ground voice communication facilities. Because of its geographical position, being situated almost 180° in Longitude from the launch site, it was selected to have a command facility as well as normal tracking, telemetry and voice capabilities. In fact, it was the only Mercury Command station outside the United States.

Muchea used a Teltrac system to acquire and communicate with the Mercury spacecraft, and VERLORT (Very Long Range Tracking) radar equipment to provide accurate ranging data.

The station was offically opened on Friday, March 24th 1961.

Muchea Communications Technician Gerry O’Connor became the first Australian to hail a space traveller on 20th February 1962, when he called John Glenn in Friendship 7 on his first pass over the West Australian coast. (56kb mp3 file) (More on the Friendship 7 page.)

After a brief but distinguished career, Muchea closed in February 1964. The development of the Carnarvon Tracking Station for Gemini and Apollo meant that Muchea, after its pioneering work, was no longer needed. The staff scattered – some returning to alternate employment in Perth, others went to Carnarvon and others to Canberra.

 

Location

Muchea’s location was 31° 35' 41.566" Latitude, 115° 56' 04.589" Longitude. Height AMSL: 94.612 metres (data: Hamish Lindsay), adjacent to the Pearce bombing range – and about 11km NW of the Pearce RAAF Base.

The tracking station was about 4km WSW of the rural township of Muchea. (In 2005, the population of the township was estimated to be 350.)

Follow this link to see Muchea on Google Earth.

Location of Muchea, Woomera and Carnarvon

Muchea and Woomera (Red Lake) tracking stations were established to support the Mercury Project. After Mercury, the Carnarvon station was built to support Gemini and Apollo.


Muchea and Carnarvon

This 1963 NASA sketch shows demonstrates how Carnarvon was better placed to track the low-earth-orbiting Gemini spacecraft.


Dept of Supply booklet

Department of Supply Booklet

This Australian Department of Supply booklet explains the purpose of Muchea. It’s an 11MB PDF file. With thanks to Jack Duperouzel. Scan by Colin Mackellar.

 

For more on Muchea and Project Mercury, see also: Tracking Apollo to the Moon, by Hamish Lindsay, pages 38 – 89.



Back to the main Muchea page.