Orroral Valley Tracking Station, ACT

A story from Clive Broomfield –

Over the eleven years I was at Orroral tracking station, I had many challenging experiences; one was being called out at 10pm on a dark and wild windy night.

The rain was so bad that by the time we arrived at the half way point to Orroral I had the chief engineer walk in front of the car to see were the road was.

When we arrived at the station I was told the transmitters did not work.

A mini tornado had gone down the valley knocking down countless trees and when I opened the door to the transmitter building I was confronted by utter devastation.

The transmitter antenna had sustained a direct hit by lightning and looking at the transmitters every meter on all the gauges were on max with no power and absolutely nothing was working.

So my first question was when was the next pass? The supervisor said in twenty minutes and can we support it, I said no.

With the able assistance of the chief engineer standing by at the electronic store, I finally cobbled together enough parts from all the transmitters to make one work.

Then I realized the hydraulic powered transmitting antenna was completely inactive, so had a transmitter but no antenna.

So again asked the supervisor when the next pass was and was told in 35 minutes. So I said send 6 staff and ropes to the transmitter building as soon as possible.

We hooked the ropes to the antenna and using the position of the main antenna we pulled the antenna around manually to support the pass.
36 hours and about 130 transistor replacements later I finally was able to go home, with the knowledge we had only failed to support one pass.
This was the reason that Orroral got the reputation of being one of the best tracking stations in the world, and gave me many fond memories.

Clive Broomfield
Tech C RF Orroral.