The St Joe's High School Radio Club: 1957 Sputnik Adventure    
Sputnik St. Joe's High School Radio Club

--Tracking the First Man-Made Space Satellites:
---beginning with the first Sputnik, Oct 4, 1957, beating the U.S. Navy by 4 hours,
--then later Sputnik-2, Nov 3, 1957---and Sputnik-3, May 15, 1958--


October, 1957 

Some of The Sputnik Trackers

Back group (L-R): Bernard Kulwin, Rich Robbins, Ed Miller, and Jim Fritz. Front group: Fred Imm, T. Warner, Mike Cegelski, Dennis Skala, Jim Kitzmiller, Joe Marsey, David Tommasone, Dennis Tommasone.

Sputnik transmitted on two frequencies. The 20.005 MHz signal was received on an HRO-60 (hidden behind Kulwin and Robbins).   Bob Leskovec had brought in his new NC-109 (behind Fritz) which went up to 41 MHz, and thus the group was able to receive the 40.002 MHz signal.   Recordings were made at 7.5" per second on the 10" reel-to-reel Concertone Tape Recorder (above Fred Imm).

Local broadcasters, especially Chief Engineer Howard Spiller at KYW-AM Radio 1100, helped out by donating more tape as the club supply got quickly used up.

Photo by Mike Stimac

Some of Sputnik Group pix1C500x384x8.jpg
Sputnik Gang pix1D500x396x8

October, 1957  

Sputnik Trackers Take a Break

Sputnik has just passed out of range, and the guys take a break.   (left-to-right) Fred Imm K8EVB listens to tape playback, Bob Leskovec K8DTS, at the HRO-60 receiver, sips coffee from the much frequented "Royal Castle" across the street, Joe Marsey K8EGZ and Dan Lombardo K8GKB mark the orbit on the plotting sphere, while Tom Hipp W8UYZ checks the earth globe.

Another photo in this sequence, appeared in QST Magazine, December, 1957, p.11.

Photo by Mike Stimac


October, 1957 

Checking their Data

Dan Lombardo, Tom Hipp, and Joe Marsey correlate the orbital data between the computation sphere and the earth globe to refine their ability to predict the next satellite pass arrival time, duration, and direction to point the antenna.

Although fun at first, this cumbersome process made them realize there had to be a better way, and that led to the development of the "Orbitometer"!


Photo by Mike Stimac

Sputnik Gang pix1C500x386x8.jpg
Club Antennas pix3C500x386x8

Fall, 1957  

"Antenna Farm"

The Radio Club Gang checks out the antennas use to track Sputnik. These antennas and mounting structures were all fabricated on site by the faculty and students.   Everything was first made out of scrap iron pipe! --much heavier that the more readily available aluminum tubing that came into use later.

Keep in mind that a very heavy arc welder had to be hoisted up there to weld the unseen but very large area "angle iron" base structures which supported those towers on the roof!


Photo by Mike Stimac


November, 1957 

The Orbitometer

The Orbitometer was a "satellite slide rule" devised as a shortcut to get around the laborious calculations performed by various members of the club to predict the orbits.   This was an amazing achievement in the context of the era!   They started working on a patent, and two companies were considering manufacturing the device.

Keep in mind that affordable electronic calculators had not been invented yet.  Engineers and Scientists did all their work using linear "slide rules" and books of tables laboriously worked out by paper calculations, and using mechanical calculators.  The Orbitometer was a "Circular Sliderule".


Photo by Mike Stimac

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Tommasone and Skala

Fall, 1957  

Checking out the Orbitometer

Dennis Tommasone and Dennis Skala discuss the Orbitometer with Moderator Mike Stimac.


Photo by Fred Imm


October, 1957 

Tuning the NC-109

Dan Lombardo looks on as Joe Marsey tunes the new NC-109 Receiver to the second Sputnik frequency of 40.002 MHz.

One report later indicated that the approximate equal on-and-off time of the beeps (shown in the oscilloscope picture at the top left of the web page) actually alternated keying the two transmitters on frequencies of 20.005 MHz and 40.002 MHz!

This is quite plausible because it would be highly desirable to average out the drain on the batteries.


Comments by Bob Leskovec

Photo by Mike Stimac

Lombardo-Marsey
Ed Miller Live on TV-5

Fall, 1957  

"Sputnik Tracking, Related Live on WEWS TV-5"

Only a few weeks after the Sputnik signals went dead, the Radio Club did a live presentation on WEWS describing their adventure. (Click here to jump to "Live on Five!")

Here, Ed Miller has just finished describing the Sputnik signals, (photos on the chair) and looks across to colleagues who continue the presentation, while the TV-5 camera is focused on the oscilloscope, looking at the Sputnik beeps being played back from the 10-inch reel tape machine in the background, controlled by Joe Marsey (blocked by camera).

Of course none of us had any idea Ed would later have a life-long career in broadcasting, 28 years with TV-5 alone, become Engineering Manager, serve as the National President of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, and engineer the Grand Opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! --for which he won and Emmy!   --Bob Leskovec

Photo by Mike Stimac


October, 1957 

Listening to Sputnik on the Concertone

Fred Imm and Mike Stimac with the Concertone 10" reel-to-reel tape machine used to record the Sputnik signals that the FBI "borrowed" for analysis.   Each reel held 3,600 feet of "1-mil" tape.

This machine was professional full-track monaural, with 7.5 and 15 inches-per-second speed, and separate Record and Playback heads.  Besides the synchronous capstan motor, it had a separate motor for each reel, so that Fast-Forward and Reverse were very quick, and the the tape was always properly tensioned during record and playback.  It was mounted in a transport case so it could be protected when carried to "remote" locations, as was done to play back the tape in the TV-5 presentation above.

Because of the quick rewind to play back a Sputnik pass just recorded, the students noticed a pronounced pitch change between the beginning and end of the satellite pass.  This, indeed was "Doppler Shift" of the carrier frequency, --and the observation was a big deal in the context of the burgeoning space science of the day!


Photo by Bob Leskovec

Fred Imm and the Concertone
The Sputnik Gang Poses

Fall, 1957  

"Sputnik Trackers (news-release)"

Here, the gang re-enacts their typical assignments.

Moving clockwise, we start with Fred Imm K8EVB seated in front of the Concertone Tape machine on which he recorded the beeps.  We have Joe Marsey K8EGZ under the W8KTZ sign, in front of the HRO-60 Receiver he used to tune in the main 20.005 MHz signal, and Bob Leskovec K8DTS deep in thought about how he located the 40.002 MHz signal using his NC-109 receiver.

Next, some of the gang who calculated and plotted the orbits: Dan Lombardo KN8GKB looking over the shoulder of Rich Robbins W8VNE who is marking the globe.   Seated down at his left, is Bernie Kulwin K8BFF, then Dave Mazi K8DUD, at the Merchant (electromechanical) Calculator, and seated across is Dennis Skala K8GCB.  Finding the repetitive numeric calculations time-consuming, the gang came up with the "Orbitometer" described above.

Photo by Mike Stimac


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