Tidbinbilla MSFN Wing – the Honeysuckle “Wing”

Each 85 foot (26m) Apollo tracking station had a “wing” station nearby with a similar-sized antenna.

The signals from that antenna would be demodulated and processed at the primary site. Part of the reasoning for this was that one antenna could handle communications with the Command Service Module and the other the Lunar Module. It also provided some redundancy in case of problems.

For Honeysuckle Creek, the wing station was Tidbinbilla, and utilised its 85 foot DSS-42 antenna.

For Apollo missions, Tidbinbilla was designated HSKX, and its signals were sent via microwave link to HSK.

In 1966 the new wing was built by T H O’Connor, the Department of Works contractor (who also constructed the buildings at Honeysuckle Creek).

Tid before Apollo

Tidbinbilla before the MSFN wing was built.

Photo supplied by Keith Aldworth.

Tid with Apollo wing

Tidbinbilla after the Apollo wing was built.

Photo supplied by Milton Turner, scanned by Betty Saxon.

Tis with the Apollo wing added

Tidbinbilla after the Apollo wing was added.

Photo courtesy of Glen Nagle, CDSCC.

Mike Dinn writes: “The microwave dish in the foreground is the link to HSK – via a passive repeater on Mount Tennant.

In about 1970, the tower had to be moved to behind the main ops building, because the DSS43 construction was going to block the line of sight to Dead Man’s Hill.

The tower in this [new] position was used into the 1990s to carry dishes for links to the ridge above the station then into Black Mountain. One link was for general comms and the other to Parkes for the Voyager realtime combining.”

[Black Mountain is the main telecoms tower in Canberra.]

Tis with the Apollo wing added

Tidbinbilla after the Apollo wing was added.

HSKX 1969

The MSFN Wing DSS42 at Tidbinbilla – in 1969.

Starting from lower centre and going clockwise:

Antenna – Dave Arman
Paper Recorder Backup – Damian Farrell
Paper Recorder – Ginge Booth
SB2 – Bruce Window
RCV1 – Jack Dickinson
RCV2 – Ian Fisher
RCV3 – ?
RCV4 – ?
RNG – Ivan Boyd
TDP – Dave Shaw

The Comm centre was behind the Ranging equipment [at the far end on the left, facing the camera], and the 1218 computer was usually operated by John Flaxman who is not shown for some reason.

Photo probably taken by Hawker Siddeley. With thanks to Bruce Window for the photo and description.


The Honeysuckle Wing DSS42 at Tidbinbilla.

This photo is taken from the other end of the USB section.

Hamish Lindsay writes:

“Time Standard on the left, SDDS in the distance behind, TDP (Tracking Data Processor) in the centre foreground with APP (Antenna Position Programmer) at the far end with the Servo Console along the window in the distance, and the Receiver Controls along the right hand side, with the PA (Power Amplifier) controls towards the far end.

Other racks at the far end include the Collimation Tower controls and the System Monitor chart recorders on the very end.

Picture taken from above the receiver racks, with the Ranging System the rack top in the bottom right corner of the picture.”

Personnel are (from lower right, going towards Antenna CRT Rack):

Receiver/Exciter 8 = Ian Fisher
Receiver/Exciter 7 = Mark Foster
Receiver/Exciter 6 = Brian Eagleton
Receiver/Exciter 5 = Jack Dickinson
SB2 = Tony Keiller
SB1 = Bruce Window
Chart Recorders = Ginge Booth
Antenna = Don Sinclair? I think
Standing at APP/TDP = David Shaw
Time standards = Ivan Boyd.

With thanks to Bruce Window, Stew Burton, Keith Aldworth and Hamish Lindsay for the names.

Photo via Stew Burton, scan and image processing by Colin Mackellar.


Tidbinbilla viewed from near the current Visitors Centre in 1969.
The Coll Tower is visible in the distance on the hill at left.

Photo by Ted Barnes, whose wife Leonie worked at Tidbinbilla.
Ted was at Orroral Valley.


DSS-42 in 1969. Photo: Ted Barnes.


The Wing receivers in 1969. Photo: Ted Barnes.


The Wing receivers in 1969. Photo: Ted Barnes.

The Apollo wing
The new wing built to support Apollo is at the far end of the building.

Tid 1971

Tidbinbilla, October 1971.

Note that the microwave tower has been moved from its former position on the far left to behind the ops building. This was because the structure of DSS-43 would block the line of sight to the passive repeater on Deadman’s Hill to Honeysuckle Creek.

Photo: Colin Mackellar.