Allan Bailey – Tidbinbilla


Allan Bailey, Tidbinbilla, shares the story of his space tracking career.


Allan Bailey

Allan Bailey at the Hughes Surveyor Telemetry Console at Tidbinbilla in mid-1966.

120 medium format photo by Les Whaley. Negative scan by Colin Mackellar, 2024.


In my path towards the tracking industry commenced with my initial employment by Elliott Bros (London) Ltd where I started working in their Weapons Division but later transferred to their Inertial Navigation Division where they were looking for engineers to take part in Blue Steel missile trials in Salisbury, South Australia.

After spending three years in Salisbury I returned to their London business, but found it hard to return to a 9 to 5 office job so looked for other employment and found a job with Sperry Gyroscope who were starting out designing installing and trialling ship roll stabilisation systems, a job that involved the vessel installation and sea trials. Sperry eventually decided to close their London branch and move to Gloucester.

Fortunately some of my coworkers in Salisbury had moved to Canberra to take part in the fledgling space tracking industry and a phone call from Bob Cudmore offered me a place to join them, thus avoiding the Gloucester move and getting back to Australia. So I joined SpaceTrack Pty Ltd in 1966 & worked initially on the Surveyor support equipment.


Allan Bailey

The SpaceTrack had the contract to operate Tidbinbilla for the Department of Supply. Image from a 1964 film of the station’s construction.

With my experience with heavy hydraulics during my roll stabilisation days I became the 26 metre antenna engineer and when the 64 metre antenna was started it became a major part of my life with many months spent at the Goldstone antenna in California to become familiar with the installation before returning to Tidbinbilla to follow the construction of the antenna.


Allan Bailey

DSS-42 Senior Staff circa July 1968.

They are back row from left –

John Heath – Senior RF Engineer
Jim Wells – Senior Computer and Telemetry Engineer
Keith Brockelsby – Chief Electronics Engineer
Bert Forsyth – Deputy Station Director
Bob Cudmore – Maintenance and Operations Manager
Don Gray – Station Director
Allan Bailey – Antenna and Servo Engineer
Eric Donnelly – Support Services Manager.

Front row from left –

Jeff Newnham – Senior Instrumentation Engineer
Clive Jones – Mechanical Engineer
Guy Sherman – Administrative Officer.

Photo via Mike Dinn. Notes by John Heath.



The eventual extension of both the 26 metre antenna and the extension of the 64m to 70 metre plus the building of the AZ/El 34m antennas meant that life was never dull and full of challenges.


Allan Bailey

DSS-43, originally a 64 metre antenna, under construction.

Scan: Glen Nagle from the CDSCC archives.

Allan Bailey

In 1987, DSS-43 was extended from 64 to 70 metres.

In June 1989, Allan was awarded a NASA Public Service Award and Medal for his contribution to the 70 metre antenna implementation project.

Photo: Cyril Fenwick.


Eventually I moved from Antenna Engineer to Chief engineer and then to On Site Manager (OSM) for BAe before retirement.


Allan Bailey

Tidbinbilla Chief Engineer Allan Bailey, third from left, at an engineering meeting at the station, late 1980s.

Station Director Tom Reid has his back to the camera at left, partly obscuring Mike Dinn.

Photo preserved by Mike Dinn. Scan by Colin Mackellar.


Retirement brought with it the chance to see Australia, which we have covered quite well and I took the chance to learn my native language of Welsh, a never ending task which I still enjoy.

Computers, which I had always regarded as a tool and not a hobby, did however begin to demand a bit of attention and, needing a new one, I decided to build it myself and have since put together three more. Also building and running miniature steam engines and accumulating a comprehensive workshop means that my time is fully utilised..

March 2024.

With grateful thanks for Allan for sharing his story.