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From Gemini to Apollo with a Collins 51S-1F Receiver

One of the joys of being in the auction business is discovering something special floating around in a sea of regularity – and that happened this October.

As we were cleaning up equipment for photography and testing, KFØCOM discovered an original JPL/NASA DSIF (Deep Space Instrumentation Facility – pre-Deep Space Network) tag! It was affixed to the reverse along with a green and white inspection/calibration sticker with JPL stamp and handwritten dates 1/17/68 and 10/8/69 with “JPL 17” and “JPL 168” code stamps next to them – indicating this unit was in service during the heart of the Apollo program!

As many of you already know, the 51S-1F model began production in 1962 and ran through 1974. JPL and its fledgling Deep Space Instrumentation Facility was transferred from the US Army to NASA in 1958 just as the space race was really hotting up between the USA and USSR.

The serial number for this rig, 2935, dates to 1966. The JPL/NASA tag is designated DSIF, but that had been renamed the Deep Space Network in 1963. So, what’s with the gap?

We contacted NASA/JPL archivists to inquire about acquisition records of the era. An archivist at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center forwarded our inquiry to JPL who responded that they had in turn forwarded our inquiry to the Deep Space Network team itself. They said little is kept on this old equipment, but they’ll let us know if they find anything. As of publishing time, we’ve not heard back. It could be there are no records remaining.

In the meantime, we speculate the sticker was original DSIF stock that was still readily available when the rig was acquired by JPL. In other words, we suspect thrift won the day.

All the same, the later green and white JPL inspection/calibration tag is beyond doubt. While there does not appear to have been any special mods done (or reversed), the tag certainly points to a noble history for this rig!

David, WDØERU & Charles, KFØCOM