The scene in the Physics lecture theatre as the launch unfolded. The map on the right. We had arranged for a free telephone connection (normally $600 per hour then) to the launch control room is NASA to a lecture theatre in the Physics Department of the University of Melbourne and here we heard the count down, the launch and the excitement of the first reception of AO5's signals!
It had been a long time since Australis was delivered to California. However in 1969 we were informed that a recently formed group at NASA Goddard reckoned they could get Australis launched. With gathering excitement we awaited the launch until Australis OSCAR 5 was launched on 24 January 1970. This was while NASA was busy with the moon landings and just six months after men landed on the moon for the first time.
Here's the first orbit, hand drawn from orbital parameters given to us before the launch from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California on the west coast of the USA. As you can see, it was launched southward over the Pacific Ocean, below Australia and then over Africa, crossing the equator for its first ascending node over Sudan and then over Greece and eastern Europe.
Each subsequent orbit was about 20 degrees west of the previous one, so that it was not until the second, some two hours after launch was AO5 heard in Australia. However, we knew that AO5 was a success because an amateur in the Malagasy Republic (now Madagascar) heard the VHF signal soon after separation from the launch vehicle.
Lots has been written about the flight of AO5. Click on any of these articles: University of Melbourne Gazette, April 1970; Magazine of the Science Students' Society, April 1970; some early results from George Jacobs; four articles from the AMSAT Newsletter of June 1970: Editorial, a summary report for NASA and FCC, excerpts from reception reports from around the world, including USA, Sweden, Japan, England, Canada, Switzerland, Spain and France, and a comprehensive summary of the life of AO5 - the cartoon at the end is significant in view of the massive satellites that NASA was launching at the time. A comprehensive report on Ionospheric Propagation from AO5.
Would like to hear what AO5 sounded like? Here is the VHF signal and the HF signal. Both are .mp3 files.
Finally, there's Owen's interim report that also refers to the proposed next AMSAT satellite.