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Maine and the Space Age

This slideshow contains 11 items
1
Earth Station, Andover, 1962

Earth Station, Andover, 1962

Item 25449 info
Maine Historical Society

Andover, Maine, was an unlikely location to make space-age history.

Nevertheless, the Oxford County community of 762 people with a smattering of small businesses became known world wide on July 11, 1962 when the Telstar satellite, launched a day earlier, sent and received signals from the Andover Earth Station.


2
Telstar antenna model, Andover, 1962

Telstar antenna model, Andover, 1962

Item 25451 info
Maine Historical Society

People in France and England, for the first time, saw live televised transmissions from the United States.

Bell Laboratories in New Jersey developed the Telstar satellite and AT&T built the receiving-transmitting station in Andover.


3
Bell Telephone Earth Station, Andover, 1962

Bell Telephone Earth Station, Andover, 1962

Item 26101 info
Maine Historical Society

The company first considered locating the giant antenna, covered with a fabric dome, in Holmdel, New Jersey. But Andover was chosen because of its geography and location.

In a bowl, surrounded by mountains, Andover would experience almost no microwave radio interference.

Its proximity to Europe was another advantage.


4
Radome, Andover, 1962

Radome, Andover, 1962

Item 25452 info
Maine Historical Society

In 1961, AT&T announced it had purchased land in Andover and construction began.

During the winter of 1961-62, during the construction phase, the heat in the dome failed and snow accumulated on top of the dome.

When the heat was restored, a large lake formed on top. Technicians then faced the challenge of removing the water.

They decided to shoot a hole in the Hypolon dome, allowing the water to drain. As the pressure inside equalized, the remaining water and ice was thrown off.

A large piece crashed onto one of the nearby office trailers, crushing it.

The dome with the bulge showing is the construction dome. When construction was completed, a new dome covered the antenna and the bulge, which had been needed to clear the house at the end of the horn, was not needed.


5
Horn antenna, Andover, 1962

Horn antenna, Andover, 1962

Item 25461 info
Maine Historical Society

The horn-shaped antenna weighed 340 tons and was 7 stories high, enclosed in 16-story inflatable fabric bubble.

The antenna was mounted on tracks that allowed station operators to aim it precisely to capture the signal from Telstar and transmit back to the satellite.

The imposing white structure was known as the radome.


6
'Big Bubble,' Andover, ca. 1962

'Big Bubble,' Andover, ca. 1962

Item 26103 info
Maine Historical Society

AT&T gambled more than $300 million on developing the solar-powered Telstar and the earth stations.

Telephone usage was increasing, as were television transmissions, which consumed much of the available broadcast capacity.


7
Andover Earth Station, ca. 1962

Andover Earth Station, ca. 1962

Item 26104 info
Maine Historical Society

In addition, demand grew for more overseas telephone capability -- and for more instant news and other information among countries.

One of the promises of Telstar was the possibility of live coverage in the U.S. from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics -- something almost unimaginable in 1962 when news events were recorded on magnetic tape and flown by airplane to overseas media outlets.


8
Horn antenna truck, Andover, 1962

Horn antenna truck, Andover, 1962

Item 25462 info
Maine Historical Society

Telstar's elliptical orbit required a sophisticated system for positioning the huge horn-shaped antenna that would pick up and transmit signals from the satellite.

On July 11, 1962, at 6:17 p.m., Andover picked up the satellite signal. At 6:29 p.m., Telstar transmitted a telephone conversation between Vice President Lyndon Johnson and AT&T Chairman Frederick Kappel.

At 6:31, the smaller horn antenna in New Jersey received an image of the American flag in front of the Andover earth station that Andover had sent to Telstar.

At 6:45 p.m., the earth station in Pleumeur-Bodou, France, received the signal sent from Andover via Telstar and, at 7 p.m., the station in Goonhilly Downs, England, received the signal.

Telstar and Andover were a success.


9
Margaret Chase Smith shows off Telstar

Margaret Chase Smith shows off Telstar

Item 9643 info
Margaret Chase Smith Library

U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Skowhegan, who served on Aeronautical and Space Sciences Committee, was especially interested in having the Earth Station located in Maine.

Smith was the ranking Republican member on the Committee from 1963 to 1971.


10
Comsat radome receiver station, Andover

Comsat radome receiver station, Andover

Item 5895 info
Maine Historical Society

Maine's role in the new era of satellite communications was so promising and the radome -- short for radar dome -- such a physical presence in Andover that all of Maine's 1962 telephone directories featured an artist's rendering of the Earth Station for Communicating by Satellite on their covers.

Some 25,000 people a year visited the Andover facility in the 1960s.

In 1968, Bethel's new high school was named "Telstar" in honor of the communications revolution that Maine was a part of.


11
Satellite System Earth Station, Andover, 1962

Satellite System Earth Station, Andover, 1962

Item 25450 info
Maine Historical Society

Ownership of the earth station in Andover changed hands over the years, and the technology driving satellite transmissions of telephone and television changed as well.

The radome and the horn antenna were dismantled in 1985. The original earth station employed about 100 people.

By the turn of the 21st century, only a dozen or so employees worked at the station, which continued to relay satellite transmissions with updated equipment.


This slideshow contains 11 items