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Goonhilly Earth Station's communication role
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Raymond Baxter reports from Goonhilly on the first transatlantic broadcast using the Telstar satellite

The news that British Telecom's redundant satellite earth station at Goonhilly is to have a new lease of life is the latest chapter in a fascinating story.

The west Cornwall Earth Station started back in the Swinging Sixties.

Goonhilly came online in 1962, around the time the pop group The Tornados were going to number one throughout the world with their song Telstar.

It was of course about the famous satellite.

Goonhilly
Goonhilly became famous for its satellite dishes

The wild west Cornwall moorland near Helston was discovered to have the necessary ingredients for the earth station with its low horizon.

Ironically Goonhilly was built just a few miles away from another important communication site.

Poldhu near Mullion was chosen by Marconi in 1901 for his signal test from Cornwall to Canada.

Goonhilly became home to its own famous satellite dish. It was known by its nickname 'Arthur'. It was nearly 26 metres in diameter and weighed 1,118 tonnes.

The first picture was received at the Cornish site in the early hours of Wednesday 11 July 1962.

Just two days later a telephone call was exchanged between engineers at Goonhilly and in America using the Telstar satellite.

As they spoke they sent facsimile pictures to each other.

Live Aid in 1985
Goonhilly played an important role in the world-wide broadcast of Live Aid

On Monday 16 July 1962, the Post Office and the BBC worked together, to send the first colour pictures across the Atlantic. It all happened here in Cornwall.

At one time Goonhilly was the largest satellite earth station in the world. It had more than 60 communication dishes.

Goonhilly went on to play a vital communication role in many ground-breaking events, spreading the word to televisions globally on the Muhammad Ali fights and the 1985 spectacular that was Live Aid.

The shutting down of satellite operations at Goonhilly was announced in 2006.

But now the giant dishes will be refurbished to be used as radio telescopes by astronomers and for communications with future space missions to Mars and beyond.

Find out more by reading the BBC News Online feature




SEE ALSO
Goonhilly visitor centre closes
11 Mar 10 |  Cornwall
Goonhilly's calls to the world
12 Sep 06 |  Cornwall
Goonhilly dish to be dismantled
13 Mar 06 |  Cornwall

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