Apollo Spacecraft S Band Communication System, Part 16—Visiting the Stanford Dish

Driving along Interstate 280 on the San Francisco peninsula, one encounters two striking technological marvels: the 3.2 km Stanford Linear Accelerator, which passes under the freeway, and the Stanford Dish, standing on a hill to the east of the highway. The dish was built in 1961 by the Stanford Research Institute for the U.S. Air Force, which planned to use it to eavesdrop on Soviet radar sites by receiving their transmissions bounced off the Moon. Since then, it has been used in numerous space projects, including communicating with Pioneer interplanetary spacecraft and conducting bistatic radar experiments with Apollo spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. Operated today by SRI International, it is a “dish for hire” available to customers wishing to communicate with spacecraft in Earth orbit and beyond.

Not open for public tours, the intrepid Apollo communication system restorers arranged a private visit to see the mix of vintage and modern equipment used with the dish, and even use it to bounce a signal off the Moon from a modest amateur radio transceiver.