Eight days after Russia launched Sputnik 1, U.S. civilian and military scientists and engineers teamed with a TV broadcaster to obtain a motion picture of its orbiting rocket body. It was shown on local and network television and in newsreels, but soon forgotten. This article presents an accurate video rendition of the archived film and tells the story behind it.
The video of Sputnik 1 rocket shows it crossing the pre-dawn sky of Baltimore, Maryland, on October 12, 1957, for about 2m40s. Despite considerable bright noise that dominates the lower half of the screen, the rocket is visible more than half the time, appearing as a star moving from left to right. The film records its transit through Ursa Major, Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices and Virgo. A small number of stars between magnitude 2 and 6 are visible. Sputnik 1 rocket's slow, end-over-end tumble is manifested as a regular variation in brightness between magnitude 2 and 5, over a period of about 45 s.
2. Circumstances Behind the Making of the Film
3. Imaging System
4. Topics for Further Research
5. My Interest
6. Editing of the Present Video of Sputnik 1 Rocket
7. Other Reported Sputnik 1 Motion Pictures
The film of Sputnik 1 rocket was the result of a collaborative effort under the auspices of the Geophysics Research Directorate (GRD) of the USAF Cambridge Research Center (AFCRC), in Bedford, Massachusetts, that included the Friez Instrument Division of the Bendix Aviation Corporation, in Baltimore; Westinghouse Broadcasting Company (WBC) stations WBZ-TV Boston and WJZ-TV Baltimore; the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in Cambridge. The scientists sought trajectory data; the broadcasters, to report a huge news story.
The project was conceived within the AFCRC-GRD's Photochemistry Laboratory, in Bedford, Mass., under the direction of Dr.
Frederick F. Marmo1 (1920-2009), chief of the Chemical Physics Branch.2 Engineering at Baltimore most
likely was directed by Mr. Ralph E. Sturm, director of
Physical and Medical Research, Bendix-Friez, co-inventor of the Lumicon image-intensifier, and
WJZ-TV Staff Photographer Mr. John A. Kelly Jr. (1926-1977) awoke at 3 AM on three consecutive days and succeeded in capturing video of Sputnik 1 rocket on the third morning,4 October 12, 1957, at 6:17 AM EDT (10:17 UTC). He used a special camera with the Bendix-Friez Lumicon image-intensifier. The video imagery was displayed on a kinescope monitor and recorded on 16 mm film at about 8 fps.
John Kelly flew the film to Boston, where it was developed and verified by scientists to show "Sputnik".5 WBZ-TV used it on an exclusive basis in a special Sputnik broadcast, produced by Mr. Chester F. Collier, director of public affairs.6 Dr. Jonathan Karas (1922–1999), professor of physics at the University of New Hampshire and WBC Science Editor, assisted in developing the show and served as host.5 His guests were Dr. Fred L. Whipple, Director of the SAO, and Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Associate Director, in charge of the SAO's Optical Satellite Tracking Program.3 The scientists explained how the film of Sputnik 1 rocket was made and how its orbit was determined using MIT's computer.7 Shots of the computer and Moonwatchers with their equipment were shown.8
WBZ-TV first aired the half hour program on October 12 at 5 PM EDT, and repeated it at 6:30 PM.6 Its feed was carried by WBC stations WJZ-TV Baltimore, KYW-TV Cleveland and KDKA-TV Pittsburgh. A copy was flown to WBC's KPIX San Francisco and broadcast the next day. Later on October 12, WBC made the film available to all the networks and to national TV and newsreel services,5 distributed via United Press Movietone.6 That same night, NBC aired an abbreviated form of the program; CBS followed suit the next day.5 WBZ-TV rebroadcast the kinescope of the program on October 19, at 1:30 PM; its title in the Daily Boston Globe TV listings was "Soviet Satellite". Life Magazine published four frames in its October 21 issue. (The caption incorrectly identified the brightest star in the scene; it is Eta Ursae Majoris (aka Alkaid). The fainter star above it is 24 Canum Venaticorum.) Westinghouse loaned copies of the 29 min. kinescope of the program to schools, service clubs, church groups and other organizations through some of its manufacturing plants.8, 9
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds a copy of the Baltimore kinescope in a USAF archive. The National Archives Identifier (aka ARC Identifier) is 67312. The Local Identifier is 342-USAF-26252. Westinghouse Broadcasting System (sic) is identified as producer for AFCRC.
Dr. Karas reminisced about the Sputnik 1 special on WBZ-TV's 30th anniversary broadcast in June 1978, which includes clips of him with Drs. Whipple and Hynek, and scenes from the Baltimore kinescope. The following video is from the 35th anniversary broadcast in 1983, which included Dr. Karas' comments from 1978.
It should be noted that the large camera shown in the clip is a Baker-Nunn, which was not involved in imaging Sputnik 1 rocket from Baltimore. Also, Dr. Karas was mistaken in his recollection that this was the first still or motion picture of Sputnik 1. It was of course of its rocket, of which, several confirmed still photos had already been taken.
Note About Terminology: in common usage, the term "Sputnik 1" or simply "Sputnik" may refer to the first Earth satellite or the final stage of its rocket. Some writers may not be aware that anything other than Sputnik 1 entered orbit, or that most visual sightings and observations were of the huge rocket, not the tiny payload. Others may lack the space or find it awkward to include the text to differentiate between the two. Sputnik 1's rocket is commonly also known as its rocket body, carrier rocket, final stage, second stage, third stage, upper stage or core stage. This article mostly refers to the payload as "Sputnik 1" and its rocket body as "Sputnik 1 rocket", except when quoting sources, many of which mistake the rocket for the payload or use some of the alternative terminology.
The remaining sections provide more detailed information on the making of the Baltimore kinescope of Sputnik 1 rocket, the imaging system, topics for further research, my interest in the film, how I edited the video, and reports of other motion pictures of Sputnik 1 or its rocket.
Within hours of the launch of Sputnik 1, on Friday, October 4, 1957, the SAO responded with an intensive effort to image and track it, assisted by an international network of professional astronomers, military missile trackers, and amateur Operation Moonwatch teams.
Despite scant knowledge of the orbit, several U.S. Moonwatch teams were fielded overnight, but saw nothing. By early Saturday, the SAO had a better understanding of the orientation of Sputnik's orbit with respect to the Sun, and knew that it would not be visible from the U.S. mainland for at least several days. By Monday, October 7, the SAO had begun to telex information and requests for observations to prospective observers in parts of the world that already had good visibility of the orbit. Meanwhile, planning was underway for observation and imaging from the U.S. mainland.10 Among the U.S. Military organizations that lent their support, was the AFCRC-GRD, which soon established an R&D space surveillance program called Project Space Track, from which the DoD's operational program later evolved. The arrangements between the SAO and AFCRC-GRD are described in SAO Special Report No.1, first published on October 14:
Since twilight visibility analysis indicated that the first likelihood of optical sightings in the United States would occur along and off the U.S. East Coast, arrangements with the Geophysics Research Directorate, AFCRC, were initiated by Dr. John S. Rinehart, Assistant Director, SAO, with Dr. G. R. Miczaika, GRD, to utilize special aerial cameras for this purpose. Subsequently, several good photographs were obtained of the last rocket stage and analyzed and measured by Dr. G. Van Biesbroeck, Consultant, SAO.10
The timing of those arrangements - in anticipation of the first mainland U.S. morning visibility window, which opened on October 9 - and the east coast location of the aerial cameras, is consistent with two known AFCRC-GRD imaging projects, both of which involved different Westinghouse Broadcasting stations in Boston. The first, and of primary interest here, employed the Lumicon at Baltimore, which involved WBZ-TV. The second one involved radio station WBZ-AM, which transmitted a Morse code signal to aid manual triggering of GRD-operated triangulation cameras located in the Bedford area, yielding photos of Sputnik 1 rocket on October 14 and 15 (Section 4.2).
The idea to photograph Sputnik 1 using the Bendix-Friez Lumicon image-intensifier originated in AFCRC-GRD's Photochemistry Laboratory, at Bedford, Mass., where Dr. Frederick F. Marmo was chief of the Chemical Physics Branch.1 The photochemists had been preparing to use a Lumicon to image clouds of sodium and other elements, formed by rockets launched pre-dawn into the atmosphere at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.2 They recognized that the Lumicon, then undergoing calibration at Bendix-Friez near Baltimore, had the potential to image Sputnik 1. It was most likely Dr. Marmo who telephoned WBZ-TV's Dr. Jonathan Karas, no later than Tuesday, October 8, to invite Westinghouse Broadcasting Company to participate in the project. Here is Dr. Karas' 1978 reminiscence:
... I got a telephone call from someone in a lab, who said, "how would you like to get a picture of Sputnik in orbit?" I said, "ha, that's a very funny joke and how's everything?" He said, "no seriously, down in Baltimore, in an old barn, we have a special camera which is used to track sodium vapour in the upper atmosphere." Sodium vapour lights up there - it gives a yellow radiation - so this camera is very sensitive to very dim light. He says, "you know, Sputnik goes by, it reflects light. If we knew where to look and we happened to be calibrating the camera at 5 o'clock in the morning by accident, gee maybe we might get a picture." I said, "beautiful!" There's also a Westinghouse station in Baltimore, so we sent a photographer out. And now we had to find out where's Sputnik. So we go over to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) ... they had tracked Sputnik. So they called Baltimore, told them where to accidentally point the camera ...11
The exact reason for seeking the participation of a TV broadcaster is unknown, but may have resulted from the need to quickly improvise a tracking system. The AFCRC and Bendix-Friez may not have been able to assemble all of the equipment required to make effective use of the Lumicon at Baltimore on short notice. Partnering with a TV station provided access to TV cameras, kinescope monitors, film cameras and processing, professional photographers, and engineering support.
Dr. Jonathan Karas probably was a significant factor in WBZ-TV receiving the invitation. He was WBC's Science Editor, and had produced and hosted WBZ-TV's weekly science show, 2000 A.D., for a couple of years. The IBM-sponsored program combined "scientific education, dramatic action and showmanship ... designed to help find young men and women interested in science careers."12 That the space age would soon begin was no secret, and WBZ-TV's proximity to the SAO provided an excellent opportunity to stay abreast of developments. Evidence that Dr. Karas did so is found in his 1956 Amicus Curiae brief, Scientific Accident Evaluation, which opened with a brief discussion of the plan to launch the first Earth satellite during the upcoming International Geophysical Year, and the applicable physics principles. During a February 1957 live broadcast of 2000 A.D., the firing of an instrument rocket motor was demonstrated outside the studios. His professional credentials, local visibility, and demonstrated interest in spaceflight, made him an obvious person to help organize the attempt to make a motion picture of the first satellite and inform the public of the results.
WBZ-TV was too far from Baltimore to have directly participated in the imaging, but owner Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. had just recently acquired WJZ-TV in Baltimore, formerly called WAAM. WBZ-TV Program Manager, Mr. Herbert B. Cahan (1914-1989), held that position for 7 years at WAAM before joining WBZ-TV in 1956 - a coincidence that could have facilitated close collaboration between the now sister stations.
Mr. Chester F. Collier, WBZ-TV Public Affairs Director, produced the Sputnik special. Dr. Jonathan Karas assisted in developing the show and served as host. Mr. Cahan consulted with Mr. Benjamin Wolfe, Chief Engineer at WJZ-TV Baltimore, on the feasibility of a live broadcast, but ultimately decided to record to film for later broadcast, due to the unfavourable hour of Sputnik's passes, just before dawn. Working closely with Ben Wolfe at WJZ-TV were Mr. Joel Chaseman, Program Manager, Mr. Keith McBee, News Editor, and Mr. John A. Kelly Jr., Staff Photographer.5
In an article on the successful project, Westinghouse News hailed "the untiring efforts" of John Kelly in bringing about "one of TV's biggest news scoops". He was born on November 6, 1926, and died on January 4, 1977. He worked at WJZ for over 25 years. John Kelly lived at 1710 Hartsdale Rd. in Baltimore City, MD when he filmed Sputnik 1 rocket. Westinghouse News reported highlights of his career to that time:
For John Kelly, the news scoop was the high spot in a photographic career that started in 1942 at Glenn L. Martin.
Except for a two-year stint as radio operator in the Navy from 1944 to 1946, John has been shooting news photos for 14 years. He also taught at the Baltimore Institute of Photography and for a brief spell was a free-lance photographer.In 1950, he came to WJZ-TV (then WAAM) as Staff Photographer to take charge of the Station's photo lab. In addition to his TV work and United Press assignments, John is photographer for the Baltimore Colts. A number of his photos have taken top honors at national photo salons.5
Another key participant was Mr. Ralph E. Sturm, director of Physical and Medical Research, Bendix-Friez, co-inventor of the Lumicon image-intensifier. Upon his passing in 1994, a memorial recalled that by using the device, "Ralph obtained the initial moving pictures, under U.S. Air Force auspices, of the Soviet’s first spacecraft, Sputnik."13 Benjamin Wolfe, was inspired by the Lumicon to experiment on extending the life of image orthicon tubes. In the opening remarks of his 1960 paper on the results, he recalled the Sputnik imaging project, the Lumicon and Ralph Sturm:
During October, 1957 our station was interested in observing Russia's Sputnik No. 1. It was desired to make this pick-up so that a film could be made off of our kinescope and this film integrated in a program originating at WBZ in Boston. A very low noise image orth had to be used and the inventor of the "Lumicon", was contacted. Mr. R. Sturm, the inventor, agreed to use the "Lumicon" for this pick-up. The "Lumicon" is similar to the 5820 image orthicon and it was observed that it was transported in dry ice. ... While all of us use image orths the thought occurred to rest an image orth at zero degrees F to restrict molecular movement by some degree and see if we could not obtain a signal to noise ratio similar to the "Lumicon".14
John Kelly, Ralph Sturm and Ben Wolfe most likely worked together closely and in cooperation with AFCRC-GRD's photochemists at Bedford, Mass. to work out the technical details of the video capture and filming. A test film was shot from the Lumicon's special monitor to verify that "Sputnik" could be photographed.5 Over the course of the project, John Kelly used four 100 ft. rolls of TRI-X film,15 of which 31 ft. captured Sputnik 1 rocket. The remaining 300 to 400 ft. probably was consumed in testing and calibrating the equipment and on the initial unsuccessful attempts to spot the satellite, which began on the morning of Thursday, October 10. John Kelly's expense report hints at the intensity of the effort: 271 miles of local auto travel and 56 hours of work (16 hours "straight", 40 hours overtime).15
The dozen or so un-named early-risers who reportedly participated in the pre-dawn filming of Sputnik 1 rocket with John Kelly5, almost certainly included Ralph Sturm and probably Ben Wolfe, leading the respective work by Bendix-Friez and WJZ-TV. Whether anyone from AFCRC-GRD was present is unknown.
Imaging was attempted on three consecutive mornings;4 present day knowledge of the orbit of Sputnik 1 and its rocket enables reconstructing the circumstances. The pass of Thursday, October 10 culminated just 10 deg above Baltimore's northeastern horizon, at a high phase angle, that experienced satellite observers today would consider challenging. The pass of Friday, October 11 culminated at about 13 deg, with a similar phase angle - still far from easy, especially for beginners. The first decent pass was on Saturday, October 12; Sputnik 1 rocket culminated at about 18 deg, and photographer John Kelly picked it up just before that point, at a more reasonable, but still far from easy phase angle. He quickly and smoothly re-aimed the camera four times to keep the rocket in the field of view for 2m40s, resulting in five scenes showing it moving from left to right relative the fixed stars. Knowing when and where to aim the camera to initially acquire the rocket had been essential, which depended on accurate knowledge of the orbit, which was the SAO's contribution to the project.
The first reasonably accurate orbits were of Sputnik 1 itself, derived from Doppler and interferometric observations of its radio transmissions, in the U.K., by the Royal Aircraft Establishment Radio Department, at Lasham airfield, near Farnborough, and the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory at Cambridge; and in the U.S., by the Naval Research Laboratory's Minitrack network. For example, Mullard had determined an approximate orbit by October 9. The tiny sphere (0.58 m dia.) was well heard, but seldom seen. Nearly all visual observers reported an object much brighter than expected, that scientists quickly identified as its huge rocket body (28 m long and 2.95 m in diameter at its widest). It was leading its payload by a few minutes in time - the gap between them gradually widening due to their different rates of decay. This brilliant object accounted for nearly all of the confirmed sightings from the Sputnik 1 launch.
By October 11, the SAO had received a handful of confirmed optical and visual observations from Alaska, Australia and Canada, spanning the period October 6-9.10 The Christian Science Monitor reported the SAO's announcement that on October 11, at 7 AM EDT (11:00 UTC), MIT's IBM 704 computer performed 21 seconds of calculations resulting in the SAO's first orbit of the rocket, and that SAO Director Dr. Fred Whipple and Dr. Gianpiero Rossoni (aka Dr. John P. Rossoni), of IBM, "had stayed up all night with the machine preparing their final calculations".16 Less than 24 hours later, the Lumicon imaging team in Baltimore finally got their motion picture of the rocket. Whether they received look-angles derived from the MIT orbit is unknown, but seems reasonably likely.
This was one of many similar stories playing out all around the world. Professionals and amateurs tried to observe Sputnik 1 using the means at their disposal. With breathtaking speed they made the observations that enabled increasingly more precise orbits to be computed. By the morning of October 12, the rocket was under frequent surveillance. Forty minutes before Baltimore's pass, Australia's Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) made numerous observations, using fixed ballistic cameras at its headquarters in Salisbury, a northern suburb of Adelaide (SAO site 3602), and a kinetheodolite on the Woomera missile range (SAO site 3601). Fifty-two minutes after it was captured on video at Baltimore, it was back over Australia, observed by Perth Moonwatch (SAO site 601) using a surveyor's theodolite.
John Kelly quickly flew the Baltimore kinescope film to Boston, where it was developed and verified by scientists to show "Sputnik", and incorporated by WBZ-TV into its special program, broadcast less than 11 hours after it was filmed.5 Whether the complete kinescope of the broadcast has survived is unknown, but fragments are seen in newsreel footage and the aforementioned reminiscence by Dr. Karas. Some information is found in press coverage of the event. The Daily Boston Globe reported that Westinghouse credited the photochemists with recognizing the potential of the Lumicon to image Sputnik 1, and for having, "worked entirely on their own, without pay to bring about the filming of the satellite". The coordination between the scientists at AFCRC-GRD and the team at Baltimore was described as "the closest possible".3 The Christian Science Monitor reported that the motion picture had been "taken with the cooperation of the Air Force Cambridge Research Center and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Cambridge, Mass."17 Reporting on Dr. Karas' comments on a limitation of the recording system - apparently it lacked a method to record the time - the Daily Boston Globe concluded, "even if the films have no real scientific use, they provided for thousands of New Englanders their first view of Sputnik."3
A Bendix light amplifying system called a Lumicon was employed. This is an electronic instrument comprising a highly developed closed circuit television system which intensifies light. The detector includes an optical imaging system, image orthicon camera tube and an amplifier. The monitor incorporated several amplifiers with a power supply and a 10 in. kinescope tube on which the intensified image is produced. The imaging system employed an 85 mm, f/1.4 lens. A timer was mounted adjacent to the kinescope tube face, to record the time of the event on each exposure. A 16 mm movie camera, set at 8 frames/sec, f/2.0 focused at 41 in. and employing Tri-X film, was used to photograph the kinescope tube.18
Two 16 mm Bell and Howell standard movie cameras were used to image Sputnik 1 rocket,5 mounted side-by-side, as evidenced by the position of the monitor on the film frame, which sometimes appears on the left side, and at other times on the right. In the present video, the transition from one camera to the other occurs at the splices after 10:18:03 UTC and 10:19:39 UTC. This setup provided for continuity at the ends of film reels, by starting the second camera just before the first one ran out of film.
Four 100 ft. rolls of TRI-X film were used during the project,15 sufficient to record about half an hour at 8 fps. Sputnik 1 rocket was captured on 31 ft., for a duration of 2m40s. The remaining 300 to 400 ft. probably was consumed in testing and calibrating the equipment and on the initial unsuccessful attempts to spot the satellite.
WBZ-TV projected the Baltimore kinescope at 24 fps, perhaps unable to slow its projector to 8 fps. This resulted in Sputnik 1 rocket appearing to move 3 times too fast. The present video is the first known production with the correct frame rate.
The timer was not used in the Sputnik 1 rocket imaging; a pity, since it would have enabled complete trajectory data to be reduced.
Frequent manual gain-riding is evident watching the video - an apparent effort to find the sweet spot that enabled the satellite to be seen, free of the bright noise that dominated much of the lower half of the monitor. It is unclear whether the noise was purely electronic, or due to stray light - perhaps from the pre-dawn horizon - that may have overwhelmed the sensor.
The Bendix-Friez Lumicon Image-Intensifier originated at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, where in late 1946, Dr. Russell H. Morgan became the chairman of the radiology department that today bears his name. The following year, he initiated research and development of technology to increase the brightness of imagery on x-ray fluoroscopy screens. The existing imagery was so dark, that "the radiologist needed to dark-adapt his eyes for a half hour or more to see the dim x-ray images." With support from the National Cancer Institute, he hired physicist Ralph E. Sturm to begin work on the project.19
By 1950, Morgan and Sturm reported a screen intensifier that produced a 300 to 3000 times gain over fluoroscopic screen image brightness, depending on the anatomical target. Their intensifier was of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) type, which used a folded Schmidt optical system consisting of three plane mirrors, a corrector plate, and a spherical mirror to focus the faint image on the fluoroscope onto the sensitive surface of an image orthicon TV camera tube. The intensified image was displayed on a kinescope monitor. They reported additional progress in subsequent years, but in January 1954, acknowledged that their invention required further development: "It has seemed to us for some time that if screen intensifiers are to become clinically worthwhile, they should be made essentially automatic so that the radiologist is not required to give any appreciable amount of time to their operation."19
By June 1954, Morgan and Sturm had assigned the patent for their invention to The Bendix Corporation, and Mr. Sturm had joined its Friez Instrument Division, in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, as Director of Physical and Medical Research. By January 1956, Bendix-Friez began to market a product of the invention, called the Lumicon. Life Magazine's photos of the control unit, monitor and camera are available here and here. It displayed 1029 interlaced lines at 30 fps and was commonly used with the G.E. Z-5294 image orthicon tube. Bendix-Friez promoted it for radiology and other potential applications, including astronomy.
Evaluation of the invention for astronomical applications had been initiated prior to the involvement of Bendix-Friez. Under a contract with the Office of Naval Research, the Laboratory of Astrophysics and Physical Meteorology of Johns Hopkins University arranged for observations of Mars at the Lowell Observatory. During the opposition of July 1954, several photographs were obtained "showing good detail of Martian surface features". The researchers found that "the advantage of the short exposure time in overcoming the seeing was evident", and the technique showed "considerable promise in planetary photography."20 The evaluation continued for several years under Bendix-Friez, at Lowell and several other observatories, but the results generally were found to be inferior to photography.21
By the time of Sputnik in 1957, the Lumicon had attracted the interest of scientists at AFCRC-GRD's Photochemistry Laboratory, at Bedford, Mass., who were preparing to use it to image clouds of sodium and other elements, formed by rockets launched pre-dawn into the atmosphere at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.2 They recognized that the Lumicon then undergoing calibration at Bendix-Friez near Baltimore, had the potential to image Sputnik, the successful result of which is the subject of this article. The Space Flight Physics Laboratory of AFCRC-GRD sponsored tests of the Lumicon for astronomical and satellite observations, carried out under principal investigator Dr. Gerard P. Kuiper, during December 1958 to July 1959 at the Yerkes and McDonald Observatories. The resulting paper - part of the Project Space Track series - concluded, "(1) the Lumicon is very fast in recording faint detail, provided this is stationary; (2) on moving objects and particularly on shifting planetary images its usefulness is limited and does not yet quite compete with photography." In the preface, AFCRC-GRD's Dr. Gerhard R. Miczaika found the results of the tests "very promising concerning satellite acquisition."22
Use of the Lumicon product name did not continue much past the late 1950's, but variations of its CCTV method of image intensification continued to be developed by Bendix and others. By spring 1960, development of the invention for radiology reverted to Dr. Russell Morgan at Johns Hopkins, as the Screen Intensifier,23 where it was in clinical use as late as 1962.24 Ralph Sturm joined the Mayo Clinic in 1962, where he continued to specialize in medical diagnostic technology R&D until he retired. A fall 1960 Bendix-Friez paper described evolved versions of the Lumicon technology, used for AFCRC-GRD's high-altitude chemical releases in 1959, and to record missile trails on the Atlantic Missile Range in 1960.25 By this time, the Lumicon product name had been retired.
By 1961, Bendix-Friez introduced what appears to have been a more advanced generation of the Lumicon's CCTV technology, for shipboard use by the U.S. Navy, which bore the military designation AN/SXQ-3.26 It consisted of a camera unit on an alt-azimuth mount and a control cabinet. The 8 inch monitor built into the control cabinet could be operated simultaneously with a separate 14 inch monitor.27 The video output consisted of 875 interlaced lines at 30 fps.26 The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) employed a modified AN/SXQ-3 for experiments in satellite tracking and astronomy. The image orthicon had an S-10 photocathode, which tends to identify it as the G.E. Z-5294 used earlier with the Lumicon. Imagery was recorded on film at 24 fps. In December 1962, the AN/SXQ-3 recorded 1.2 ms flashes from the optical beacon of the Anna 1-B satellite (1962-060A), yielding modest positional accuracy:
For a satellite program such as that of ANNA 1-B, where extreme precision in reduction of directions is being sought, the present system should not be considered as a substitute for the cameras formally used in the program. It can, nevertheless, yield positional accuracies of ± 10 min of arc and timing accuracies of ± 0.04 sec.27
The NRL used the AN/SXQ-3 to image auroral phenomena in 1963,28 and meteors in 1965.29 By 1965, for auroral photography and spectroscopy, it had been outfitted with a G.E. GL-7967 image orthicon, that was an order of magnitude more sensitive than conventional tubes.30 The NRL loaned the instrument to the SAO for use in imaging meteors in conjunction with radars in 1969 and 1970.26
Many questions remain about all aspects of the project. A couple are discussed below.
The Baltimore kinescope can help improve our present understanding of the orbit of Sputnik 1 rocket through the trajectory data that can be extracted from it, despite the lack of timing data, but only if the location from which it was shot is known with reasonable accuracy. No precise record has been found, but available evidence points to the Bendix-Friez headquarters, then at 1400 Taylor Avenue in the Baltimore suburb of Towson, MD (39.38389 N, 76.56889 W, 119 m AMSL).
The Daily Boston Globe reported that the film had been made using "a special camera" plus light-amplifying electronics fitting the description of the Lumicon, "stationed at a Westinghouse installation in Baltimore"; later in the same article it referred to the "Baltimore installation, where the light-sensitive device was being developed for other purposes."3 Except for the initial reference to "Westinghouse", this is a description of the Bendix-Friez headquarters, which most likely became garbled as "Westinghouse". The Christian Science Monitor reported it was shot "near Baltimore",17 which is consistent with its Towson suburb. An unidentified Baltimore area newspaper reported, "exactly where the film was taken was still an Air Force super-secret, except that the pictures were blipped at a military installation in the metropolitan area on a Bendix monitor,"31 which would not have excluded Towson.
The Bendix-Friez headquarters in Towson happens to fit very well with the trajectory relative the stars on the kinescope film and the known orbit of Sputnik 1 rocket. The known orbit and the trajectory on the film can be used to help confirm the location of the film shoot, but it would be preferable to obtain the precise location independently, so that it and the trajectory on the film could help confirm the accuracy of the orbit.
The Townsman, Wellesley, Mass., reported that AFCRC-GRD requested the assistance of WBZ-TV's radio sister, WBZ-AM, to measure Sputnik or its rocket's altitude using triangulation photography as it passed over the vicinity of Bedford, Mass. Cameras were set up on October 15 at three locations spaced apart 85 to 100 miles. When the satellite was spotted, the station made a voice announcement to alert the photographers. A scientist then used a telegraph key to broadcast the international Morse code for "V" - three dots and a dash. Upon hearing the dash, the photographers were to open their camera's shutter for the first exposure. The process was to be repeated to produce a series of synchronized photos from the three locations. The WBZ-AM broadcast was coordinated by Program Manager, Gerald A. Spinn, by his assistant, John M. Grubbs, and by News Director, Charles Gray.32 Broadcasting published a brief summary of the event.33 The rocket reportedly was also photographed on October 14 with a camera at AFCRC's Bedford headquarters.34
SAO Special Report 10 lists observations from Hanscom AFB (SAO Site 3002) and several other nearby locations, on each day from October 14 to 17, at least some of which probably resulted from this project. It is unclear whether any useful triangulations resulted, but a few reasonably accurate positions were obtained. Surviving images could be useful in the present orbital history study, described in the following section. Also of interest are the circumstances behind this collaboration. WBZ-TV's Dr. Karas seems to have been the point of contact for the Lumicon collaboration. What role, if any, did he have in setting up the WBZ-AM collaboration?
Leads to additional information on the above topics and all matters relevant to how and why the Baltimore motion picture was made would be appreciated.
I learned of the Baltimore kinescope and WBZ-TV's broadcast several years ago, while researching the observational and orbital history of Sputnik 1's rocket. The primary purpose is to compute the history of its eight weeks in orbit using a modern orbital model. After it decayed from orbit, scientists determined its orbital elements with sufficient precision to support their analyses of upper-atmosphere density, but apparently did not publish anything like a complete orbital history. The best I am aware of is the set of polynomials in Harvard Announcement Card 1389. Even if more complete elements had been published, they would be incompatible with present day standard orbital models. Representing the orbit by sets of "2-line" orbital elements, which adhere to the widely used USAF standard model SGP4, will make its orbital history accessible to anyone using compatible software, which is widely available.
The initial work has been to compile as complete an observational record as possible. Much data was published by the SAO at the time of Sputnik 1, but with numerous errors and inconsistencies, e.g. typos, zenith angle reported as elevation, conflicting definitions of azimuth, confusion between local time and UTC, etc. (It represented the bottom of what fortunately proved to be a steep learning curve, that brought rapid improvement with each new launch.) Intensive research and analysis has enabled most of the reporting errors to be corrected and the data restored to its original accuracy. Currently, I have more than 1200 full and partial observations, of which about 200 are sufficiently precise to yield orbital elements of the accuracy I seek to produce. That is not much data to cover 8 weeks of a rapidly decaying orbit. There are some lengthy gaps in coverage, and long periods are only sparsely covered. That is where still and motion imagery can help.
Professional and amateur photos of Sputnik 1 rocket against an identifiable star background, taken from a known location, are a valuable additional source of trajectory data. Though they seldom include the precise timing data to constitute a full observation, the track relative the stars can confirm orbits derived from full observations, thereby helping to constrain solutions. My initial interest in the Baltimore film was for its potential to yield trajectory data. Frames showing the satellite and at least two stars could be reduced into positional data. But only if I could find the film.
Periodic web searches turned up a few references in old newspaper stories but no film. Finally, a July 2011 search turned up a video copy available for licensing from archival footage provider CriticalPast, made from the aforementioned NARA film. I quickly downloaded the more than one hundred sample frames and studied them carefully. Despite considerable noise, a small number of bright stars and a moving object that appeared to be a satellite were visible. I had previously determined a fairly accurate preliminary orbit of Sputnik 1 rocket spanning the date of the film, which enabled me to identify all of the stars and confirm that the moving object was indeed Sputnik 1 rocket. A preliminary analysis revealed that at least a dozen accurate trajectory positions could be reduced. I quickly licensed the video of the complete film from CriticalPast.
Analysis revealed at least 25 accurate trajectory positions, but I found the film even more interesting as a record of the early days of both the space age and the art and science of satellite observation. I was surprised to learn through my research that the motivation and interest of the scientists, engineers and broadcast journalists who collaborated to make it, largely mirrored mine of a half century later. The scientists sought trajectory data; the journalists, to tell the story of the dawning of the space age. I resolved to help bring the film fully out of obscurity by publishing the results of my research into its origins, as well as an accurate video rendition.
NARA's reproduction copy of its film is 16 mm format, 83 feet long. At the nominal rate of 40 frames per foot, there would be 3320 frames. The video copy licensed from CriticalPast consists of 3249 frames, which is reasonably close. Upon playback, it is evident that NARA's film consists of two positives of the original kinescope film spliced together. I will refer to them as Copy 1 and Copy 2.
The original kinescope reportedly was recorded at the non-standard rate of 8 fps (closer to 7.76 fps, I estimate), but for some reason, all public productions have been at the motion picture standard 24 fps - three times too fast! That is true of WBZ-TV's production, the few newsreel clips I have seen, and the CriticalPast version. CriticalPast telecined the film from 24 fps to the nominal broadcast standard of nearly 30 fps by inserting what appears to be a duplicate frame after every 4 frames. To facilitate smoother playback at 7.76 fps, I identified and discarded the duplicate frames, yielding 1304 unique frames of Copy 1 and 1293 unique frames of Copy 2.
The next editing phase was to select the scenes and frames to be included in the production. Image quality was the major consideration. Both copies are marred by considerable contamination and apparent damage. Overall, Copy 2 seems superior in terms of contamination, but Copy 1 is better in some places, and in many random frames. Since they are otherwise very similar, I decided to identify the matching frames of both copies, and select the best one by visual inspection - feasible only due to the relatively small number of frames.
My earlier trajectory analysis aided greatly in understanding the technical details of the film, which informed the editing. The following preliminary 2-line elements, derived in late 2007, enabled estimating the absolute time of each frame to within about one second and identifying the stars that appear. The earliest frame showing the rocket was imaged at 10:17:25 UTC.
1 00001U 57001A 57287.40195948 .00516919 00000-0 20815-2 0 05 2 00001 65.2379 311.4754 0470264 45.4407 318.4118 15.05039926 03
There is reason to be confident in the frame time estimates, because the above orbit was based in part on precise observations made from Australia less than one hour before and after Sputnik 1 rocket's Baltimore pass, discussed earlier. The accuracy of the frame times also depends on the accuracy of the assessment that the imaging was performed at the Bendix-Friez facility in Towson, MD (39.38389 N, 76.56889 W, 119 m). If subsequent research reveals the actual location to have differed by more than a few kilometres, then the times may need to be revised by up to a few seconds.
Determining the actual frame times helped correct a splicing error in the original film, which has the final scene - the one that shows the rocket passing below Denebola in Leo - far out sequence. Gaps are present at two scene changes; approximate frame times and durations are: 10:18:03 UTC for 9 s, and 10:19:39 UTC for 4 s. They are evident in the present video as sudden jumps in the estimated frame times.
I excluded the initial scene (the first 171 unique frames of Copy 1, and 176 unique frames of Copy 2) since Sputnik 1 rocket is not visible and little else of interest is evident. It appears to have been shot immediately before the arrival of the rocket. The stars Mizar and Alcor are visible some of the time, and the camera appears to have been pointed close to the predicted track of the rocket. Unfortunately, it passed directly through the region of dense noise in the lower half of the field, rendering it invisible.
A total of 1133 frames were selected for the production; 273 from Copy 1, and 860 from Copy 2. They were assembled in the correct sequence and renumbered accordingly to facilitate further editing.
The video licensed from CriticalPast is 1920 x 1080 pixels. The film image occupies 1890 x 1080 pixels; black borders account for the remainder. Versions closer in aspect ratio to the original 4:3 were available, which probably would have been a wiser purchase, but re-sizing would still have been required. Editing consisted of cropping the black borders, resizing to 704 x 528, and flipping each frame horizontally, since they were mirror images of the original. Processing was performed using VirtualDub 1.9.11. Results were saved lossless in preparation for adding captions and times.
Captions and times were generated in an Excel spreadsheet and stored in separate text files. VB.NET code was written to append a 30 pixel high black border to the bottom of each frame, and draw the captions and times. Results were saved lossless for input to VirtualDub for assembly into the final compressed video. The degree of H.264 compression was determined by trial and error, to allow for playback at a reasonable size on screen without excessive artefacts, as judged by my eyes.
In addition to the Baltimore kinescope of October 12, at least four other attempted or successful motion pictures of Sputnik 1 rocket have been reported.
On the morning of October 11, the USAF's Aeronautical Research Laboratory (ARL) attempted to track Sputnik 1 rocket, under Project Cat Eye, using an experimental sequential light-amplifier system (SLAS), installed at the Weaver Observatory of Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio (SAO Site 3008):
In response to an urgent request from higher Air Force echelons for trajectory data and an inquiry from the Air Technical Intelligence Center as to the possibility of photographing the third-stage rocket of Sputnik I at a high enough resolution to supply data on its size and configuration, ARL attempted to obtain the desired information with the help of the sequential light-amplifier system. From the outset it was considered unlikely that the satellite could be successfully photographed with the installation at Wittenberg University, because of the very small field of view of the telescope and because the mounting (which was designed for following a star-image course) was too cumbersome for the fast tracking demanded by a satellite. Nevertheless, numerous efforts were made -- without much success -- to track and photograph the satellite using this equipment.35
The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) holds a copy of film of the Wittenberg imaging attempt of October 11 in a USAF archive. The National Archives Identifier (aka ARC Identifier) is 67180. The Local Identifier is 342-USAF-25650. The shot list states that the film shows Sputnik 1, "moving slowly across TV screen in a darkened room," which is at odds with reference 35. A video copy is available for viewing and licensing from archival footage provider CriticalPast. It appears to show a star-like object that remains more or less fixed in position during the 2 min. running time. Since it was impossible to track a fast-moving object using the telescope's equatorial mount, it seems likely that the object is in fact a star, perhaps located near the predicted track of the rocket, and used as a guide in the hope of capturing a few frames of it, if/when it passed through the field of view.By late November 1957, the ARL had configured an SLAS at Wright-Patterson AFB (WPAFB) with a servo-controlled gun mount with the required tracking speed, which apparently operated in a mode similar to a cinetheodolite:
... When the main telescope was brought to bear on the satellite, the image was passed to the transducer photocathode by the proper positioning of a mirror. After the light amplification had taken place, the image appeared on the monitor screen and was recorded on 16-millimeter motion picture film. At the same time, other motion picture cameras were recording the azimuth and elevation information. The first really successful satellite photographs made through the use of this apparatus were taken of Sputnik II during predawn conditions on 11 December 1957, at distances ranging from 600 to 758 miles.35
The satellite would have remained nearly fixed on the screen, and any stars within the field of view would have appeared to move past it. The result would not have been as visually interesting as showing the satellite moving past fixed stars, but the primary objective was to obtain trajectory data. The catalogue of positional observations of Sputnik 2 (1957 Beta) in SAO Special Report No. 10, appears to include an observation made with the SLAS at WPAFB (SAO Site 3009) on December 12.
Mr. Harry Mamas, Boston bureau manager of INS-Telenews, claimed to have shot 40-50 ft. of film of Sputnik 1 rocket on the morning of October 11, from the SAO site at Cambridge, Mass. The film reportedly was scheduled for broadcast that evening by ABC-TV, on John Daly and the News (7:15-7:30 PM EDT).36 Assuming 16 mm film at 24 fps, the duration of the film would have been more than one minute. Mamas was one of several reporters known to have been present at the SAO, who believed they spotted the object.37 Whether the film was ever broadcast and its present status is unknown.
On the evening of October 23, Los Angeles TV station KTTV had a crew at International Airport, waiting to cover the arrival of Brooklyn Dodgers (soon to be LA Dodgers) President Walter O'Malley. They spotted Sputnik 1 rocket at 5:48 PM PST and informed the station, which interrupted its regular program with a live broadcast of the object. It was seen for about 90 s, "clearly visible against the dark sky", looking like "a large, fast-moving star".38,39 Sputnik 1 rocket is known to have made an excellent pass at exactly the reported time. It happened to be exactly at perigee, and close in track to Los Angeles, resulting in a high-elevation pass, with good illumination. Positional observations were made from the area at the same time, by the Baker-Nunn camera at Pasadena (SAO Site 8008), and Operation Moonwatch teams at Whittier (SAO Site 12) and Los Angeles (SAO Site 100). Whittier reported its brightness as magnitude 0; Los Angeles reported it varying between magnitude 1 and 4 - both consistent with present day knowledge of the object's size, orbit and optical behavior. Whether KTTV made a recording, and its present status is unknown.
An undated motion picture attributed to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), reportedly shot from Sydney, appears in a Movietone newsreel about Sputnik 1 at 1m32s.40 Australia was among the first places to have a good view of the orbit and accounted for the first precise observations. Sputnik received considerable press attention; therefore, it is highly plausible that motion picture imaging was attempted. The newsreel clip appears to be of a bright, diffuse, round object, being tracked at high angular velocity, possibly through some thin cloud. The lack of background stars frustrates any modern effort to verify the identity of the object. The present status of the film is unknown.
1. The Massena Observer, "Dr. Marmo Takes First Movies Of Sputnik", The Massena Observer, Massena, N.Y., October 21, 1957: 4.
2. F. F. Marmo, L. M. Aschenbrand, J. Pressman, "Physics of Artificial Electron Clouds", ARS Journal, June 1960: 523-530.
3. Daily Boston Globe, "WBZ-TV Shows Sputnik Films; Satellite Clear", Daily Boston Globe, October 13, 1957: 1.
4. The Sun, "Satellite Filmed By Baltimorean", The Baltimore Sun, October 13, 1957: 2.
5. Westinghouse, "WBC Is First to Show 'Sputnik'", Westinghouse News, Vol. 12, No. 23, Pittsburgh, Pa., October 29, 1957: 1.
6. Broadcasting, "Westinghouse Broadcasting Co" in "Datelines" section, Broadcasting, October 21, 1957: 111.
7. (UP) Boston, October 12, 1957, "Pictures of Sputnik on Television", Lowell Sun, Lowell Massachusetts, October 13, 1957: 40.
8. The Paris News, "Westinghouse Brings 'Sputnik' Film Here", The Paris News, Paris, Texas, December 1, 1957: 6.
9. Chester Times, "Film on First Sputnik Is Available Locally", Chester Times, Chester, Pennsylvania, December 17, 1957: 12.
10. G. F. Schilling, T. E. Sterne, "Preliminary Orbit Information For USSR Satellites Alpha One And Alpha Two", SAO Special Report No. 1, October 14, 1957: 4.
11. J. Karas (guest), "WE'RE 4 Looking Back at 30", WBZ-TV Boston, June 9, 1978.
12. Broadcasting,"'2000 A.D.', Stimulus to Science", Broadcasting, March 25, 1957: 124.
13. H. L. Baker Jr., MD, "In Memoriam: Ralph E. Sturm", Radiology, December 1994: 880.
14. B. Wolfe, Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. Inc., "Reactivation Of Image Orthicons Under Low Temperatures", IRE Transactions on Broadcasting, April 1960; BC-6(1): 27-28.
15. J. Kelly, "Operation Sputnik Expenditures", Westinghouse Internal Correspondence - Form 3504Q, October 17, 1957.
16. R. C. Cowen, "Computer Tracks Orbit", The Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 1957: 1.
17. The Christian Science Monitor, "Sputnik On TV" (photo caption), The Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 1957: 1.
18. F. F. Marmo, J. Pressman, E. R. Manring, L. Aschenbrand, "Artificial Electron Clouds V: Morning Twilight Study, Release Of Cesium And Sodium At 128 And 116 Km", Planet. Space Sci., Pergamon Press, 1960. Vol. 2: 174-186.
19. O. W. Linton, MSJ, R. W. Gayler, MD., "Johns Hopkins Radiology 1896-2010 - Ch.16 Russell Morgan The Inventor", Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2011: 133-142.
20. Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, Ariz., "Reports of Observatories", Astronomical Journal, Vol. 60, September 1955: 286-288.
21. Commission 9: Instruments, "Signal Generating Image Tubes", Transactions of the IAU Volume X 1958: 148-149.
22. G. P. Kuiper (Yerkes Observatory, Williams Bay, Wis.), "On The Performance Of The Bendix Lumicon With Astronomical Objects", Air Force Cambridge Research Center, Geophysics Research Directorate, Bedford, Mass., AFCRC-TN-59-637, GRDST-9, September 1959.
23. J. Poole (Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.), "TV a New Eye for Medicine", Lawrence Daily World-Journal, Lawrence, KS, April 16, 1960: 4.
24. RCA, "Smile! They May Put Your Next X-Ray Exam On Television Tape", Broadcast News, Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Vol. No. 114, August 1962: 5.
25. B. A. Bang, "High-Sensitivity Television as an Aid to Low-Light-Level Photographic Recording", Fifth International Congress on High-speed Photography, Washington, D.C., October 18, 1960.
26. A. F. Cook et al (SAO, Cambridge, Mass.), "Combined Observations of Meteors by Image-Orthicon Television Camera and Multi-Station Radar", Evolutionary and Physical Properties of Meteoroids, IAU Colloquium #13, State Univ. of New York, Albany, N.Y., June 14-17, 1971: 23-44.
27. G. T. Hicks, "Image orthicon techniques and satellite cinemaphotography: Anna 1-B", Photographic Science and Engineering, Vol. 7, No. 6, Nov-Dec 1963: 328-330.
28. T. N. Davis, G. T. Hicks, "Television Cinemaphotography of Auroras and Preliminary Measurements of Auroral Velocities", J. of Geophysical Research, Vol. 69, No. 9, May 1, 1964: 1931-1932.
29. G. T. Hicks, G. G. Barton, JR., and W. J. Dambeck, "Meteor Photography with an Image Orthicon System", Meteor Orbits And Dust - The Proceedings Of A Symposium, Smithsonian Contributions to Astrophysics, Vol. II, Cambridge, Mass. August 9-13, 1965: 95-103.
30. T. N. Davis, "The Application Of Image Orthicon Techniques To Auroral Observation", Space Science Reviews, Vol. 6, Issue 2, November 1966: 222-247.
31. "Satellite Filmed Over Baltimore", article clipped from unidentified Baltimore area newspaper, October 13, 1957: B-1.
32. The Townsman, "Three Local Radio Men Coordinate WBZ Air Force 'Sputnik' Portrait", The Townsman, Wellesley, Mass., October 17, 1957: 1.
33. Broadcasting, "Boston" in "Datelines" section, Broadcasting, October 21, 1957: 110.
34. (UP) Cambridge, Mass., "Shifting Course of Satellite Poses Puzzle", Traverse City Record-Eagle, October 15, 1957: 1.
35. D. Bushnell, G. P. LeCompte, "Project Cat Eye: A History of Light Amplification Research At The Aeronautical Research Laboratory, 1952-1960", March 1962.
36. Broadcasting, "Sputnik Rocket Film Claimed" in "at Deadline" section, Broadcasting, October 14, 1957: 10.
37. E. Tavel, "Soviet Space-Satellite Rocket Sighted By Observation Teams in Cambridge", The Christian Science Monitor, October 11, 1957: 1.
38. LA Times, "KTTV Transmits Live Shots of Sputnik Shell", LA Times, October 24, 1957: 6.
39. Broadcasting, "Los Angeles" in "Datelines" section, Broadcasting, October 28, 1957: 84.
40. B. Loweree (editor), J. King (narrator), "Sputnik Spotted and Filmed From 2 Far Removed Sites", Movietone News, October 1957.