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The Hughes Corporationís Contribution to the Development of Space





In Martin Scorsese's movie, The Aviator,

the life of Howard Hughes was fully

glamorized.The company he founded,

Hughes Aircraft, and later Hughes Space

and Communications, was obviously

noteworthy.These companies built

airplanes, helicopters, missiles, radar

systems, satellites, and interplanetary

exploration vehicles.†† The company

built the first working laser, aircraft

computer systems, and ion-propulsion



In 2000, Hughes sold it Space and

Communications divisions to Boeing,

and in 2003, Hughes sold controlling

interest (39%) in DirecTV to News

Corporation/Fox Broadcasting

(Rupert Murdoch).



Notable Achievements:


Syncom (1963):Hughes built the world's first geosynchronous communications satellite, Syncom 2 ("synchronous communication satellite").Syncom 1 was to be the first geosynchronous communications satellite. but was lost due to an electronics failure.The Syncom satellites weighed 86 pounds.


ATS (1966-1969):Hughes built the world's first geosynchronous weather satellites, ATS.The ATS satellites conducted experiments in communications and meteorology. An ATS satellite produced the first color picture showing a view of our planet from space.


Surveyor (1966): Hughes built 5 Surveyor systems, robotic spacecraft used as pathfinders, These spacecraft provided the first soft landings on the Moon as a prelude to the Apollo missions.Each spacecraft was about 10 feet tall, 14 feet in width, and weighed about 2300 pounds.A total of 7 Surveyor systems were sent to the moon.Five made successful landings. Apollo 12 later landed about 400 meters from the landing site of Surveyor 3, and astronauts retrieved parts of it to determine the effects of long exposure to the lunar environment.


Pioneer (1978):Hughes built Pioneer Venus, which performed radar mapping of Venus until its demise in 1992.The mission, scheduled to last 243 days, instead lasted 14 years.The Pioneer mission to Venus consisted of two modules, launched separately, Pioneer Venus Orbiter (the "mother" craft) and Pioneer Venus Multiprobe.The single multiprobe spacecraft divided into four separate probes, one large probe, and three small probes.In total, the five spacecraft contained 18 scientific instruments.The probes all functioned perfectly, transmitting data through their descent. One probe survived impact and continued to transmit valuable data from the planet's surface for more than an hour.


LEASAT (1984-1990):Hughes built the LEASAT satellite system that was launched in the 1980's that formed a global military communications network.The 5 Intelsat satellites were called Syncom IV-1 to Syncom IV-5 (also called LEASAT, short for "Leased Satellites").These satellites weighed more than 1500 pounds each.The LEASAT satellites were the first satellites specifically designed for launch by the Space Shuttle.Users include mobile air, surface ships, submarines, and fixed earth stations of the Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Army.


DirecTV (1994):Hughes pioneered direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service for delivering television programming directly to the consumer, launching service in 1994.The new technologies needed to provide this service included very high power satellite transmission and digital video compression (CDV).CDV reduces the signal bandwidth requirements of a TV signal to enable its transmission via the Internet, DVD, cable, or satellite.This is necessary because an uncompressed video signal is very large.The high definition signal(HDTV) is much larger than standard definition files.DirecTV has approximately 17 million customers in the United States.DirecTV is currently in a race with the Dish Network to develop the HDTV DBS market.By 2010, 60% of U.S. homes will use a Satellite signal, up from 15% in 2002.


Galileo (1995):Hughes built the Galileo probe that studied Jupiter in the 1995-1997.The spacecraft studied the planet, its moons, orbital rings and the planet's magnetic field.As a part of the program, Galileo released a probe that entered the planet's atmosphere for detailed study.The probe survived entry speeds of over 106,000 MPH, extreme temperatures more than twice the temperature of the surface of the Sun, and deceleration forces up to 230 G's. The probe relayed data obtained during its 57 minute descent mission back to the Galileo orbiter for transmission back to Earth.


As of the year 2000, the company had built approximately 40 percent of commercial satellites in service worldwide.Much of the current interplanetary exploration, and communication satellite industry, has been built on the foundation laid by the Hughes Corporation.









About the Author:


Brian Bradshaw is an InfoComm Certified Technical Specialist (CTS), Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), and CompTIA A+ Computer Technologist.Areas of expertise include Video, HDTV, Audio, Computation, SATCOM Systems, and Communications.