"Hard Luck" FPS-90

Contributed by Edwin Higginbotham

That FPS-90 was a hard-luck radar from the beginning for me. On the morning of my first full day on the job in the summer of '64, SSgt Craig stopped me before I could even get in the front door of the ops building. His words were something like: "you'd better get out here to the '90 tower and see what happened." What had happened was that all of the bolts had fallen out of the elevation data generator and it had fallen off of the yoke. The sail was lying on its back on the bottom of the yoke and the only thing that was keeping it off the antenna deck was the elevation rotary coupler, which was coming seriously from together. The antenna had almost beat itself to pieces before it finally jammed, and why ops hadn't noticed anything amiss before shift checks is a mystery to me.

This was only a few months after a large chunk of the FPS-35 antenna at Fortuna fell off in an ice storm, and there was big talk going around about sabotage and other sneaky things. (that is a story someone should get into the Fortuna page)

Days later, Gerry Hintz (from MDA) and I were out with a crew lifting the new antenna onto the tower off of the truck and onto the antenna deck, using that haywire gantry assembly that came with the tower. With the new antenna dangling between heaven and earth, the security officer called a sabotage alert. The whole crew immediately abandoned the antenna and ran for their carbines, leaving me on the top deck and Gerry hanging on the antenna. It was only because of some inspired cussing that the whole thing didn't wind up in the road.

By the way, the FPS-90 originally came into being when a TCTO removed the mechanical variable nod mechanism from the FPS-6B, because it used to beat the antenna to pieces on a regular basis.


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