Goddard Range and Range Rate

Goddard Range and Range Rate

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Goddard RARR: VHF antenna to the left and S-band antenna to the right
Goddard RARR: VHF antenna to the left and S-band antenna to the right

All GRARR sections are now complete except 'Telemetry and command'.

A part of the Satellite Tracking and Data Network (STADAN), the Goddard Range and Range Rate (GRARR) system provided 24 hours/day-7 days/week support for most of its operational life. Though not as memorable as the Manned Space Flight Network (MSFN) activities located on adjacent sand hills, it was the workhorse of the Carnarvon Tracking Station.

The GRAAR equipment occupied two vans while the local friendly rivals, the T&C and the FPQ-6, were housed more substantially. The vans were named by its rivals as Cuthbert’s Cosy Caravan Park (CCCP) after its first supervising engineer, Ron Cuthbert; a local humorous allusion to the then more bitter space rivalry between the USA and the USSR (USSR is the English translation of CCCP).

GRARR equipment was designed for operational simplicity of both ground tracking equipment and satellite transponders supporting, in particular, highly-eccentric or synchronous satellites. Initially the site provided only 'range and range rate tracking' but was sequentially upgraded to provide 'data collection' and 'command' facilities as each new generation of satellite was developed: FM/FM telemetry and command for the Bios missions from 1966; PCM/FM telemetry and PRN-range coding for the GEOS-B mission from 1968; and further upgrades for the higher tech SMS and AE missions in 1973.

The site became increasingly integrated into the general operations of CRO. A coaxial cable was installed between the T&C and GRARR in 1967 to facilitate time recovery if either of the GRARR or USB atomic clocks lost its epoch. The link became even more effective when the Goddard Mobile Laser and its associated atomic clock were located at the foot of the VHF antenna.

CRO was always a pro-active tracking station. It received the mission manuals for all NASA missions whether they were specific to CRO or not. After the co-axial cable was installed, CRO examined the manual for each new mission it was not scheduled to support and where it established it could combine T&C and GRARR resources to do so, it advised the relevant mission control of its potential capability; the station was often called upon to deliver that support in a critical situation. In late 1971 the STADAN and MSFN networks were combined as an economy measure to form the Spaceflight Tracking and Data Network (STDN); and the local partnership became increasingly formal until CRO was closed in early 1975 as a further economy measure.

We acknowledge the assistance of Viv Batty, Max Garth, Barry Heald, John Rudkin and Kon Tsiaprakas in compling this section.

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