Minitrack, Island Lagoon – Photos

Photos taken by Bruce Window

Bruce Window
worked at Minitrack, Island Lagoon, Woomera between June 1962 and August 1964.

He took these photos (mostly in 1963) and provided the descriptions.

Ned Kelly

Ed (Ned) Kelly at the Mod1 Minitrack Console at Island Lagoon in 1962.

Bruce writes: “Ned would have been one of four or five of the earliest Australian trackers of NASA spacecraft with the original 108MHz Minitrack.”

Hear this Interview with Ned, recorded in late 2014.

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Island Lagoon

Bruce Window at Island Lagoon Minitrack, 1963.


This shows the roadway to the Ops building with warning sign “Minitrack Antenna Field: No Vehicle to leave roadway without permission”, Log Periodic Antenna for receiving time code sync signals from WWVH, and also for listening to Russian Cosmonauts when in flight. The ‘flying saucer’ to the right is actually the water tank for the Ops building.

Ned Kelly

Here’s a higher resolution scan of the above photo – you can read the sign clearly.

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Minitrack-9Yagi.jpg The DSS-41 Coll tower steerable yagi receiving antenna Operations Building DSS-41 dish calibration antenna for the 9 yagi

This photo looks North East and shows the Ops Building, and also the steerable 9 boom Yagi Telemetry receiving antenna, the calibration antenna for the 9 Yagi, DSS41 ANT in background, DSS41 Col Tower on ridge, and pools of water in foreground after a period of rain (most unusual that stuff).

(Hover your mouse over each feature to see it identified – and click on the image for a larger version.)


This looks North West to Ops Building and shows the steerable 16Yagi Telemetry receiving antenna, and Minitrack ANT (South Fine).


The Minitrack 16-element Yagi at dawn.


This photo looks South East from Ops Building and shows the steerable Telemetry receiving antenna comprised of 16 booms of yagi antennas.


The Minitrack stationary North-South antenna of coarse resolution.


The Minitrack stationary antennas for determining when a satellite crossed the latitude and longtitude coordinates of the antenna field.

These are the North-South Fine resolution antennas.


The steerable Command uplink Yagis (2 frequencies of uplink).

The Baker-Nunn Camera building can be seen on the ridge in the distance.

Island Lagoon

Ed Mitchell at the Minitrack Telemetry console, 1963.
Photo: Bruce Window.


The Minitrack console, looking towards the south west.


The Minitrack console, looking towards the south east.

Island Lagoon

Bruce Window at the Island Lagoon Minitrack console, 1963.

Island Lagoon

Bruce Window with his old friend, the Minitrack console (which was later moved to Orroral Valley) at the National Museum of Australia, July 2019.


A night-time shot of the Minitrack console.


The Minitrack Telemetry section in foreground with the Tracking section at end of room.

The Minitrack Optical Tracking System


The MOTS (Minitrack Optical Tracking System) Camera was an astrographic camera which took full plate glass film of –

(1) satellites bright enough to capture, e.g. Echo-1 and Echo-2, and

(2) calibration aircraft beacon flashes.

[MOTS had a 40" focal length with an 8" aperture and used 8" x 10" photographic plates.]

Island Lagoon

Bruce Window writes:

“On one of the many passes of Echo 2 that I photographed on the MOTS, I attached my 35mm Pentax camera to the MOTS telescope body (which was moving at sidereal rate) and took a slide image of Echo 2.

If it had been a MOTS image, the bright streak across the sky would have been bumped to insert the Serial Decimal time code. My camera was held steady on the MOTS camera body and thus the track of Echo2 is smooth and continuous but the stars are (technically) just spots of light due to the sidereal rate drive.”

Echo 2 had a designation of 1964-004A and was launched on 25th January 1964.

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Island Lagoon

This 1963 photo of the MOTS setup at Island Lagoon is courtesy of Ed (Ned) Kelly – copy via Bruce Window. Photographer unknown. Image restoration by Colin Mackellar.

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Island Lagoon

This 1963 photo of the MOTS Telescope and Camera at Island Lagoon is courtesy of Bruce Window. Photographer unknown.

Island Lagoon

Minitrack and the MOTS Hut, looking North East, 1963.
Photo: Bruce Window.