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Milestones:First Transpacific Reception of a Television (TV) Signal via Satellite, 1963

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First Transpacific Reception of a Television (TV) Signal via Satellite, 1963

On 23 November 1963, this site received the first transpacific transmission of a TV signal from Mojave earth station in California, U.S.A., via the Relay 1 communications satellite. The Ibaraki earth station used a 20m Cassegrain antenna, the first use of this type of antenna for commercial telecommunications. This event demonstrated the capability and impact of satellite communications and helped open a new era of intercontinental live TV programming relayed via satellite.

Inter-continental TV program transmission over the telecommunication link is a common measure for the TV broadcasters now, but just some 45 years ago, it was not practically available and the TV broadcasters relied on long-haul aircraft which carried the news films and/or video-tapes for them.  In the early 1960's, telecommunications between United States and Japan depended on narrow-band coaxial submarine cables and HF radio. Satellite
communications that were being experimented at that time over the Atlantic Ocean, attracted keen interest in Japan with expectation as the overseas TV transmissions media for Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled in 1964. A joint committee consisting of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, the Nippon Telephone and Telegraph
Public Corporation, NHK and KDD, was organized and therein the experimental policy and the role of each party were decided. KDD (Japanese international telecommunication carrier, currently KDDI) made its preparation of the experimental earth station from 1961 and onward, while Japan participated in the Ground Station Committee sponsored by the NASA in 1962, to use communication satellites launched and operated by the NASA. 17]

Researchers and engineers of KDD in association with those of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and NEC Corp. devoted themselves to development of the first earth station system for overseas telecommunications in Japan. Eventually, a 20-m Cassegrain antenna was installed in Ibaraki in 1963. Application of this type of antenna for commercial communications was the first in the world. The experimental earth station was completed on November 20,1963 and the public experiment of U.S.Japan TV program relay via Relay 1 satellite was announced to be on November 23.

All major Japanese Newspapers reported the completion of the experimental station and the TV relay experiment schedule·11], 12], 19] through 112] The very first trans-Pacific satellite communications experiment via Relay-1 satellite
was successfully carried out on November 23, 1963. Because this experiment schedule had been widely announced by the press beforehand and telecast nation wide as a live program, many Japanese people could witness this historic television transmission from the USA in front of home TV sets. Unexpectedly, the news of the assassination of President J.F. Kennedy, who had actively promoted space exploration including satellite communications, was conveyed as the first TV program transmission over the Pacific. Japanese Newspapers reported the successful TV relay experiment along side with big coverage of President Kennedy's assassination. The fact that the very first trans-Pacific TV program transmission was the most tragic news that had happened only moments before has
deeply stuck in the memory of Japanese people. 13] through IS], 113] through 119]

Following the experimental earth station, the second antenna installed in Ibaraki called "lbaraki-2A" was approved as the first Intelsat standard-A antenna in the world in 1968. Since then, Ibaraki Satellite Communication Center (ISCC) played a key role as the Japanese gateway to the USA and countries in the Pacific Rim with the growing demand of international telecommunications including telephone, television, high-speed data transmission through 1970s-1980s. The number of satellite circuit through ISCC peaked in mid 1980 with nearly 4000 circuits, Ibaraki-4A antenna (with
32m diameter) started its operation in 1984 when the traffic through ISCC was the busiest.[2], [5] It also contributed to many innovations in satellite communications technology giving basic development facilities to researchers and engineers. It continued until satellite communications handed over its seat as the primary transmission media for
overseas telecommunications to high-capacity submarine optical fiber systems in the late 1990's.

1. The very first trans-Pacific TV signal transmission from U.S.A. to Japan via satellite was achieved just one year after the first trans-Atlantic TV transmission in 1962. It strongly impressed the mind of Japanese people as a "milestone" when a new age of real-time overseas TV transmission was ushered.[3] through (5], (9] through [19]

2, Application of Cassegrain antennas to commercial telecommunications was the first in the world, since prime-feed parabola or gigantic horn reflectors had been used in preceding satellite communication trials in other countries. From technical view point, the Cassegrain antenna intrinsically has an advantage of low-noise, since the spill-over from the edge of sub-reflector is being directed to the cold sky. Furthermore, the Cassegrain antenna is suitable for a very large earth station, because it can locate bulky communications equipment at the back of main reflector, which the conventional prime-feed type parabola being incapable Of.[l], [21

3, The Cassegrain antenna at Ibaraki was further improved later by introducing features such as 4-reflector beam-waveguide feed system and struts with a novel shape to support sub-reflector. The 4-reflector beam-waveguide feed system was designed to extend the radio frequency path between the feed horn and subreflector of Cassegrain antenna without the use of conventional waveguides, With this invention, the feed horn, low noise amplifiers and high power amplifiers with huge weight can be accommodated in a room on the ground, and high capacity earth station could be easily achieved. The beam-waveguide type design became the de-facto standard of today's large earth station antennas in the world, The 4 struts to support sub-reflector is sometimes called Godzilla-stay from their appearance. They are uniquely shaped to scatter the reflected rays to reduce wide-angle sidelobes'(6], (8]

[1] Communication-Satellite Relaying Tests between USA and Japan, Ken-ichi Miya, Journal of Institute of Electronic Communications Engineers of Japan, April 1964

[2] Advanced Technology in Satellite Communication Antennas, Electrical & Mechanical Design, Chapter 2, 2.1 Introduction, Takashi Kitsuregawa, Artech House, ISBN 0-89006-387-7
[3] NASA Space Chronology (Excerpts for 2007-2008), page 19, CHRONOLOGY - November 2008; 45 years ago 1963; Nov. 22
[4] US-Japan Satellite Relay Broadcast and Apollo 11,
[5] Satellite Communications in Japan, Toshio Kurimura, IEEE Transactions on Communications, Vol. Com-20, No.4, August 1972
[6] Development of Earth Station Antennas, Shin-ichi Betsudan, Space Japan Review, No. 49, October/November 2006 [7] Satellite Communications Engineering, Chapter 1.2, Ken-ichi Miya, Lattice Co., 1975
[8] Side-lobe Reduction of Earth Station Antenna by Means of Improved Struts Shape, Toshio Satoh et ai, KDD Technical Journal No. 111, Jan. 1982 
[9] "Space Signal Site Completed", "U.S. Television Test To Be Relayed Here", The Japan Times, November 20, 1963
[10] "Adjustment on-going, No visitors", The Asahi, November 20,1963
[11] "TV relay across the Pacific on 23'd", The Mainichi, November 20, 1963
[12] "1 st TV relay via Relay Satellite on 23'd", "The Dawn of Space Communications", The Yomiuri, November 20,1963
[13] "U.S. to Send President's TV Salute via Space Today", The Japan Times, November 23, 1963
[14] "U.S.-> Japan TV Relay via Communications Satellite to be experimented this morning", The Mainichi, November 23, 1963
[15] "U.S. - Japan TV Relay This Morning", "Preliminary Tests 100% Successful", The Yomiuri, November 23,1963
[16] "U.S. - Japan TV Relay Successful", "Vivid News of Assassination", The Asahi, Evening Edition, November 23,1963
[17) "Successful U.S.->Japan TV Relay Experiment via Communications Satellite", "Tragic News hits 1st TV Relay Experiment", "Picture Better than Expected", The Mainichi, Extra Issue and Evening Edition, November 23, 1963
[18) "Space Communication carried Tragic News", "1 st U.S. - Japan TV Relay This
Morning", The Yomiuri, Evening Edition, November 23,1963
[19) "Satellite TV Relay To Japan Successful", The Japan Times, November 24, 1963
[20) "Presentation on Ibaraki Satellite Communication Center, < First Transpacific TV Signal Reception via Satellite>", Yasuo Hirata, July 2008