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> AT&T International Earth Station
AT&T International Earth Station
It surprised the hell out of me to find this thing where
I did, since it's more or less in my own backyard and I didn't even
know it. There are four VERY LARGE dishes here, the largest being about
30 meters or 100 feet in diameter. Normally you'd see world-class
setups like this on the outskirts of some big city, or at least, say,
close to some freeway. This is about
as far out in the middle of nowhere as you can get, 20 miles or so
from several small towns with populations under 5,000, and about an
hour and a half from Fairmont or Morgantown.
So, you probably want some background. Why is this here?
Who put it there? How long has it been here? Why is it in a cow pasture
in the middle of nowhere? Surprisingly, I haven't been able to find out
much about it yet. Obviously, AT&T built it, it says so right on the dish, which is
pretty cool. As for how long it's been there, it's hard to say. Judging
by the amount of rust on the fences, the style of the buildings, and
design of the antennas, as well as the presence of several horn antennas,
I'm going to give an educated guess of around the 1970's.
At that time,
AT&T was heavily involved in the communication satellite industry,
which it created when it launched the original commercial
communications satellites Telstar 1
& 2 in the early 1960's. These aren't the type of antennas that
were used to communicate with those early satellites, which were in a
highly inclined orbit. This earth station was probably built to
communicate with the geosynchronous Comstar
satellites, which were leased to AT&T, and later on, AT&T's
own fleet of geosynchronous Telstar satellites. The first
geosynchronous satellites designed and built by AT&T were the
Telstar 3 series: Telstar 301,
302, and 303, launched in 1983, 1984, and 1985 respectively.
These were somewhat different from the satellites you
think of today, which are squarish and have solar panel "wings";
today's satellites are "body stabilized" and use things like reaction
wheels and thrusters to keep them pointed at Earth. The Comstar and
early Telstar satellites were based on a spin-stabilized bus: the
entire spacecraft, except for the antennas, was rotated slowly and the
gyroscopic force created by the spin kept it aligned in its orbit. As a
result, these satellites were cylindrical and covered in solar cells.
Also note how the antennas on Comstar 1 (pictured at right) resembles
the earthbound horn antennas used by
AT&T for terrestrial microwave links at the time.
The last satellites launched by AT&T under the Telstar name
were Telstar 5, launched in 1997, and Telstar 6 and 7, launched in
1999. Through a chain of buyouts and mergers they eventually ended up
being part of Intelsat's fleet, with Telstar 5, 6, and 7 being renamed
Galaxy 25, 26 and 27 in 2007. Telstar 6 was retired in 2014 and Telstar
7 was retired in 2016. As of this writing (May 2018) Telstar 5 is still
active at the 93.1°W orbital location, having been moved there from
its original location at 97°W when it was replaced by Galaxy 19.
Oddly enough, AT&T would end up with a completely different fleet
of satellites when it acquired DirecTV a few years ago.
So, is any of this stuff still active or being used for
anything? I have no idea, but probably not. Someone is paying for
upkeep though, because when I went there in May of 2018 the grass was
freshly cut, the site was nicely landscaped, and the HVAC system was
running, so there's definitely something
going on here. On the other hand, the equipment
looks awfully weatherbeaten, one of the dishes is missing part of its
feed assembly, and the warm air duct used for de-icing the dish on the
far right had come loose and was just laying there. So really, it's
hard to say. As always, if you have any info, please do feel free to let me know.
451 Green Valley Rd