Honeysuckle Creek Location



The site for the Australian Apollo station was a 14 acre radio-quiet location surrounded by granite peaks in the Australian Alps, 32km SSW of Canberra, Australia’s national capital.

The area is now part of the Namadgi National Park.

Location map

Honeysuckle Creek Location Map

Click the image to download an 80kb PDF.

 

Searching for a site for the Apollo station

Dick Collins photo

The DSS-42 Tidbinbilla dish is under construction in August 1964 when a Royal Australian Air Force Bell Huey stops by.

Two Hueys were used to scout out a site for the Apollo station which was built at Honeysuckle Creek.

Photo: Dick Collins.



WRE’s Dick Collins explains how the helicopter survey flights came about:

“Purely by chance, Hugh Fletcher our NASA rep. had a personal friend, a pilot in the US Air Force, who was on detached duty with the RAAF at Fairbairn – the airfield which served both civil & military personnel.

Hugh mentioned the quest to his friend, who in turn apparently mentioned this to the CO [Commanding Officer]. He kindly laid on this formation exercise. We were picked up, as you can see in the Tidbinbilla Valley, where the dish was under construction.

Prior to that flight, we did drive to Captains Flat to investigate a valley nearby selected as a suitable Apollo site from topographical maps, but this was overruled.” (e-mail, 17 September 2012.)

 

Dick Collins photo

Two Hueys head out from Tidbinbilla over the Brindabellas, in the direction of Honeysuckle Creek.

Dick Collins (WRE) and his boss Lance Sharp (WRE) with NASA rep. Hugh Fletcher were passengers in the chopper from which this photo was taken.

Photo: Dick Collins.


Dick Collins photo

Here’s another photo, apparently from the same flight,
14th August 1964.

Photo via Mike Dinn. Scan, Colin Mackellar.

 

The site for the Apollo station was selected by a joint WRE/NASA team in 1965. The land was acquired from Mr Richards in September 1965 as notified in Gazette No. 80, 7 October 1965. (Source: R.E. Leslie, Space Tracking Stations, Engineering Australia.)


Canberra Tracking Station map 1965

This October 1965 WRE map shows the locations of the three NASA tracking sites in the Australian Capital Territory.

It was produced for WRE by Richard (Dick) Collins, who participated in the site survey for Honeysuckle Creek, and early work on planning the station.

Orroral Valley is marked as DAF – i.e. Data Acquisition Facility.

Also marked are 41 Jardine Street, Kingston, which was a Department of Supply Office, and Endeavour House, on the corner of Canberra Avenue and Captain Cook Crescent, Manuka (the main Dept of Supply office).

Red text added to this small preview. Large, Larger.

With thanks to Dick Collins. Scan by his daughter, Jo Allen.


Before

Before the Tracking Station – the peace and quiet of the Australian bush.

This photo, by an unknown photographer, may have been taken during initial surveying of the site. The picture is looking at an azimuth bearing of 226 degrees 24 minutes as it is looking almost exactly at the location of the Coll Tower from the antenna.

Photo scanned by and info from Hamish Lindsay.


Before

This photo, looking a little to the left of the one above, is dated 23 June 1965, and taken from the future location of the Powerhouse car park.

Preserved by Hamish Lindsay, scanned by Colin Mackellar.


The location of the centre of the station antenna – using the Geocentric Datum GDA94 (or WGS84) reference is –

Latitude 35°34' 59.4593" South

Longitude 148° 58' 40.0483" East

Height above mean sea level is 1117.9 metres.

(Data provided to Hamish Lindsay by the Geodesy Unit of Geoscience Australia.)



(The original survey figures were – Latitude 35° 35' 05.0566" South, Longitude 148° 58' 35.6815" East based on the AGD66 datum which was changed to the GDA94 datum on 1 January 2000, and ‘moved’ the station 200 metres to the north east.)

See this Google Earth placemark®– which also has the plan of the station and the Ops building as an overlay. (It’s a 950kb file – with thanks to Harald Kucharek – and requires Google Earth to be installed on your computer).

The site was close enough to Canberra for staff to commute and isolated enough to be shielded from man-made radio noise. Being surrounded by bushland and native fauna, Honeysuckle was arguably the most peaceful setting for any NASA tracking station.



Australian Alps from Canberra

This photo, taken from the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain in Canberra, gives an idea of both the proximity of Honeysuckle to the city and also the ruggedness of the terrain of the Australian Alps.

Suburban Woden is in the left foreground. Mount Taylor is the hill between Woden and the distant mountains. The devastating bushfires of January 2003 affected a huge area of the Alps, including Mt. Tennent and the Honeysuckle site – and even came over Mount Taylor into suburban Canberra.

Photo: Colin Mackellar, October 2003.

 

Honeysuckle Creek was just a mountain ridge away from the Orroral Valley Tracking Station – built as a STADAN (Satellite Tracking and Data Network) site – which later played an important role in the Apollo-Soyuz mission. It supported the Apollo Program through its work with scientific payloads, notably the ALSEP equipment left in the Moon.

 

from the south west

The Honeysuckle site looking north-east before the road to the station had been sealed and landscaping finished.

The sealed road, when it was built, entered from the left. Photo appears to have been taken from the Coll Tower ridge, at a spot about 1300m NW of the Coll Tower.

Photo: Hamish Lindsay.


The Creek

Honeysuckle Creek – the creek after which the station was named.

Photo taken by Rhelma Lawrence in January 1978. Scan by Nevil Eyre.