Goonhilly Earth Station
Image: courtesy Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, Semiconductor, 2017
Goonhilly Earth Station is a large radio communications site, one of the first three satellite earth stations ever constructed, located on Goonhilly Downs near Helston on the Lizard peninsula. Its first dish, Arthur, was built in 1962 and was the world’s first parabolic satellite communications antenna.
Goonhilly Downs was selected as an ideal site for the satellites – a flat elevated empty plateau made of a serpentine bedrock that could take the weight of a 1,118 tonne communication dish and enable this dish to track satellites from horizon to horizon without obstruction.
Arthur received the first live transatlantic television broadcasts from the United States via the Telstar satellite on July 11 1962. The site’s largest dish, Merlin, has a diameter of 32 metres. Other dishes include Guinevere and Tristan and Isolde, also named after characters from Arthurian legend.
At one time the largest satellite earth station in the world, with more than 25 communications dishes in use, the site also links into undersea cable lines. British Telecom shut down satellite operations on the Lizard in 2008. Goonhilly Earth Station Limited took ownership in January 2014 and is taking the site in new directions – providing a mix of carrier-grade satellite communications service, deep space communications, earth observation, tracking, monitoring and science. GES is also part of an international radio astronomy network involving six British universities.