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One of the Founders of the CCRA

I first met Louis Brydon, WA6OCZ while he was in high school. In one of our first meetings I found Louis to be full of questions to the point of being irritating. He wanted to know about a radio I had just bought, how much did it cost, did I pay by cash or by check…well maybe not the last one but Louis was always asking questions.

He wanted to work with Peter Danzig, WA6WVH; Brad Watson, WA6AEO and I to design and build a repeater controller using integrated circuits. We barely knew what the IC was but we knew we could learn how to build something better than the old equipment that was the “state of the art” from the 1960 telephone exchanges.

As brash teenagers Peter took the position of head of the technical committee, Brad was the feature and touch tone tester with Louis and I being the fabricators and sometimes builders of Peter’s designs. Louis had an amazing ability to look at a problem and figure out a way to mount equipment into a 19” equipment rack. Most of learning was by trial and error but Louis had the knack of figuring out the spatial problems. He also had the gift of being a neat freak. I would be using a tool, place it beside me and when I turned around Louis would have already put the tool back into the tool box…another irritation! We would work 12 weeks during the summer vacation building the ham repeaters in Peter’s and later in Louis’s family garage. 12 to 16 hour days, 6 to 7 days a week were the norm for us since we wanted to learn about electronics. For some reason girls were not very interesting at that time.

Initially we were able to use funds Peter had received from his newspaper route to help pay for the parts we needed but shortly after our start, we knew we needed more money. We tapped our families and our very small savings accounts. We then came up with a great idea, let’s form a club. The Contra Costa Repeater Association was created to finance our electronic habit. We found 25 hams to pony up $40 each with the promise we could build a repeater that had features such as autopatch. The autopatch was the ham version of cellular phone before there were cellular phones. After 3 months of work we were able to put the WR6AUL repeater at Smith Hill in Walnut Creek. Louis and I would climb up on an old wooden water tank platform to put up 30’ masts with crummy ham antennas that worked better to talk with aircraft than hams on the ground. It was a start…

Over the years we built several new and improved repeater controllers and laid the foundation of what we would do later in life. Louis was an avid sailor and mechanic. If we weren’t working on ham repeaters we were tearing down and rebuilding one of the engines on the Brydon family boat called the Nereid. Louis later learned to fly and went to and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

Louis’s life was cut short due to cancer but his impact on me and others in the technology field was profound. Please read the below article reproduced from the Space Systems/Loral internal web site.

73…Steve Overacker, WA6HAM

A Dedication and Remembrance
Steffey, Antenna Mechanical Engineering Department, 10/1/01

We are dedicating a new test facility at SS/L. It is a large thermal chamber that is specially equipped to measure the shape of antenna reflectors at temperature extremes that simulate conditions in space. The chamber, in Building 48, is the product of a team that was led by Louis Brydon, an Antenna Products engineer who recently passed away. Consequently, the chamber is being designated the “Louis Brydon Photogrammetry Chamber,” in honor of his many contributions to SS/L, which include the chamber itself.

The Louis Brydon Photogrammetry Chamber is a large insulated room of stainless steel construction that features biparting 14′ x 8′ doors in the front for access. The 14-foot chamber allows the largest reflectors we build to be installed. Temperature in the chamber can be varied from +180 °C (+357 °F) to -185 °C (-300 °F), which exceeds the predicted variation seen on orbit by our satellites. Liquid nitrogen is used to cool the chamber, and electric heaters are used to provide heat. The modifications to Building 48 to incorporate the chamber facility took over a year to complete, with much help from Bruce Phillips and Kevin Barnes of the Composites Manufacturing Center.

A digital camera mounted near the top of the chamber allows for remote measuring of the reflector distortions. This technique is known as photogrammetry, and involves the conversion of reflector images, which are targeted on the surface, to target locations in 3-dimensional coordinates. The conversion is made using software that has evolved in complexity and sophistication over the years. Photogrammetry started in the field of aerial mapping and was used in measuring structures back in the era of film images. Of course, the time needed to wait for development of film images did not lend itself to quick results. The advent of optical measuring devices such as electronic theodolites, together with processing of data by computers, resulted in ‘real time’ applications for photogrammetry. Finally, however, the use of precision digital imaging has led photogrammetry to a level of usefulness that directly applies to our spacecraft programs. Checkout tests have been completed and several reflectors have been measured in the new facility. Our current photogrammetry experts include Sam Antos, Russ Beck, Mike Aliamus, and Tamer Mahmoud, all of the Antenna Products Directorate.

The viewport in the top of the chamber is, itself, a masterpiece of mechanical engineering. The central feature is a 0.75″ thick quartz window, made in a two-piece construction with a 6.77″ diameter outer halo piece and a 2.50″ diameter inner circular piece. The two pieces are bonded together with a special epoxy. Images are taken with the camera pointing through the central circular piece of glass, while the outer halo piece permits a strobe flash to illuminate the subject. The epoxy between the two pieces of glass shields the camera from the strobe light. The glass is housed in a three-level bearing which rotates to allow adjustment of the pointing direction by 10° in any direction. Bruno Hollenstein, of the Antenna Mechanical Engineering Department, worked with Louis to create the detailed design of the viewport mechanism.

Louis Brydon joined SS/L after graduating from U.C. Berkeley in 1986 and, at first, was part of the Advanced Materials Engineering Laboratory. He transferred to the Antenna Products Directorate in 1988 and was responsible for many of the antennas that are now regarded as ‘pioneers.’ In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Louis worked with Japanese suppliers of reflectors for N-Star, INTELSAT-VII, and MTSAT. Louis’s expertise took him to various companies in Japan, Europe, and throughout the United States, and his professional approach established a high degree of credibility for SS/L with many people around the world. The experience Louis gained in antenna design and manufacturing, together with his creative abilities, has resulted in the award of five patents.

Louis is regarded as the developer of the workhorse reflector of the 1990s, the 2.4-meter-diameter reflector used on Tempo, MCI, PanAmSat-6, EchoStar 5, EchoStar 6, Mabuhay, Apstar, Orion, Telstar 5, Telstar 6, Telstar 7, L-Star, DIRECTV-5, and soon to be on EchoStar 9. He also led Research & Development projects that are now culminating in the development of a new reflector design for the future. This new Stiffened Membrane Reflector, also being referred to as the Ultralight Reflector, is planned for use on SatMex-6, DIRECTV-7, iPSTAR, and the next generation of satellites. The new design offers the lightest-weight, slimmest-profile antenna design yet created at SS/L.

Louis was also licensed as a pilot of private aircraft and an amateur radio operator. He was a founding member of the Contra Costa Repeater Association (CCRA) and served as a volunteer with the Contra Costa Sheriffs’ Search and Rescue squad and Marine Patrol. An active boater since childhood, Louis was a member of the Berkeley Yacht Club.

Above all, Louis treasured and cherished his family: Lynette, his wife of eleven years, and his children Benjamin, age 6, Peter, age 4, and Lynsey, age 2. He was the beloved son of Charles and Alice Brydon of Danville, California, and dear son-in-law of Oliver and Evelyn Devany of San Carlos.

Louis’s creativity, loving presence and unique spirit will be greatly missed by all that knew him.