MA-6, Friendship 7 as heard at Red Lake (Woomera)


 

In the early hours (Central Australian Time) of February 21 1962, Mercury Space Tracking Network Station Number 9 at Red Lake (call sign Woomera) participated in one of the great early achievements of the Space Age.

John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, in his Mercury capsule, Friendship 7.

 

Red Lake

The Australian portion of the groundtrack of Friendship 7’s three orbits – travelling from left to right.

The circles represent the nominal 700 nautical mile range of the tracking stations.

“IOS” is the Indian Ocean Ship, the CSQ.

 

Bill Miller (pictured below) was in charge of the audio recorders at Red Lake and kept a tape of key parts of the mission.

The recording is of the Goddard loop – i.e. the audio loop from the Cape, via the NASCOM global switching centre at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to the various tracking sites, as it was heard at Red Lake.

The circuit from Red Lake to The Cape travelled via a line from Woomera to the Australian NASCOM switch in Adelaide, and then to Sydney. From Sydney to Hawaii, the link was by HF radio, and from Hawaii to California, via undersea cable. Communications within the US was via leased and dedicated landlines to Goddard and then to the Cape.

The Muchea circuit also ran through the Adelaide switch.

While good recordings exist of the mission made at the Cape, and also by Friendship 7’s onboard tape recorder, this Woomera recording has not been previously published. It gives a good feel for the complexity of the global network in 1962, and the difficulties of tracking the first American manned orbital flight.

Note, also, that the timeline is compressed at various points during the passes – you will be able to hear when the Pause button on the recorder has been depressed and released.

The mp3 files below contain chapter markers and anotations which your audio software may read.

Alternatively, the tables below list the events from the start of the file / tape. Or you can download the tables as a PDF file.

The audio was digitised by Campbell Miller, and anotated and encoded by Colin Mackellar (in April 2016).

There are two audio files – one for each side of the tape. You may prefer to download them by right/Control clicking on the links.

Special thanks to Bill Miller for this recording.


audio File 1 – Side 1 of tape

Audio file – 46 minutes, 22.3MB


From start Event
 
Orbit 1
00:00 Liftoff
03:09 Bermuda (John Hodge) reports good UHF contact
03:47 Bermuda VERLORT valid track
03:56 Bermuda FPS-16 valid track
05:42 Bermuda carrier on
06:30 Bermuda closest Radar approach
07:52 Bermuda UHF fading, switching to HF
08:10 Bermuda lost track
08:40 Cape Flight (Chris Kraft) calls Canary Capcom
10:25 Cape Procedures (Gene Kranz) Comm check to Muchea and Woomera
11:32 Canary Capcom (John Llewellyn) calls, 1st orbit
12:58 Canary Air / Ground
17:37 Cape Flight to Canary post pass
18:51 Cape Flight to Muchea Capcom (Gordon Cooper)
21:20 Cape Procedures comm check to Muchea and Woomera, then Cape Flight calls Muchea
25:03 Muchea Command carrier on, 1st orbit
25:36 Muchea 1st orbit, Muchea Comm Tech (Gerry O’Connor) calls Friendship 7
28:33 Muchea – looking for the lights of Perth
30:39 Muchea – lights in sight on the ground
31:29 Woomera, 1st orbit. (Capcom is Fred Volpe.)
37:50 Woomera, end of pass
39:03 Cape Flight to Muchea and Woomera post pass then Guaymas
41:14 Woomera, then A/G through Guaymas. ‘Fireflies’ still present.
 

 

audio File 2 – Side 2 of tape

Audio file – 46 minutes 15 seconds, 23MB


From start Event
Orbit 2
00:05 Bermuda, 2nd Orbit
02:52 Cape Flight calls Muchea prior to AOS, 2nd Orbit
05:32 Muchea Comm Tech calls
08:09 Cooper – Is Landing Bag switch in the Off position?
09:33 Woomera AOS, 2nd Orbit
15:51 Woomera LOS, Cape Flight calls
18:56 Cape Flight calls Hawaii Capcom
20:14 Hawaii, 2nd Orbit
21:07 Cape Flight calls California
22:00 A/G through California
23:55 Bermuda to Cape Flight
26:21 Report – Astro working Canary on HF
 
Orbit 3
26:27 Woomera comm check to Cape Flight
26:37 Cape Flight comm check to Muchea
27:59 IOS (Indian Ocean Ship) contact time reported, 3rd orbit
28:06 Muchea Command carrier on, 3rd orbit
28:32 Muchea Air / Ground online; Muchea Comm Tech calls
30:11 Glenn: Request send message to Commandant US Marine Corps
30:58 Leave switch for Landing Bag in Off position
33:59 Muchea VERLORT LOS
34:13 Woomera Systems
35:54 Cape Flight calls Muchea Capcom
37:15 Cape Flight calls Hawaii Capcom re Landing Bag
40:34 Hawaii Command carrier on
40:40 Cape Flight to Hawaii – put switch in Auto position
41:50 MA-6 over Hawaii
42:40 Comment on ACS attitudes through Hawaii
44:25 5 minutes to Retrograde burn
44:48 Hawaii LOS 3rd orbit
45:49 Cape Flight calls California Capcom
 

Red Lake

Bill Miller and one of the Clearance signs at Red Lake.

Bill worked in the Telemetry section at Red Lake through Project Mercury. See his photos at Red Lake.

Groundtrack graphic: Colin Mackellar.