Nicholas Marshall, W6OLO and K2SS

1914 - 1996

by Jeffrey Pawlan, WA6KBL

Nick was born on Aug. 12, 1914 in Hungary. He built his first crystal set in 1924 at the age of 10 and was an avid experimenter and amateur radio operator ever since. He attended University at the Sorbonne in Paris where he earned a B.S. in Physics and also Chemistry in 1932. He came to the US in 1934. Two years after arriving in the US, he got both his amateur radio license and first class commercial license on the same day in 1936.

His first ham interests were on 160 meter phone, 10 meters, the old 5 meter band, and the old 2.5 meter band. After the second World War, Nick was among the first to get on the then new 6 meter and 15 meter bands. Later, his interests expanded to 432 MHz and 1296 MHz where he mostly concentrated on low noise converters, front ends, and satellite ground station gear.

Nick's professional career was very diversified, varying from design engineer on 1934 flight recorders, 16 mm sound-on-film projectors, oil exploration and detection devices to aerospace work as a staff scientist with Lockheed. He has also been involved in Oceanographic (deep water) instrumentation, submarine detection, and VHF and UHF scanners. Mr. Marshall's work included the conception, design and development of the following systems: missile-borne television, X-17 telemetering system (ICBM), NGB-l, -2, -3 echo sounders, AN/SSQ-2 sonobuoy, APS-42 radar, AN/ARN5 glide slope receiver, R-570 radio control receiver, and an optical encoder . Some of his last activities at Lockheed were submarine communications, oceanographic buoy systems, periscope technology, submarine detection, digital transducers and aerosol particle detection.

Around 1963, he moved to New York State where he founded NASTAR (Nassau College Amateur Satellite Tracking Astronomy and Radio) an amateur technical group with 30 members dedicated to the design, development, construction, and delivery of an amateur repeater station that was to be placed on the moon with the Apollo 18 mission in 1973. The Apollo missions beyond 17 were cancelled, hence this project Moonray, as it was called, was also cancelled. Nick moved back to California in the early 70's and went back to work for Lockheed as a Senior Research Scientist. He was the first president of the Lockheed amateur radio club and also was one of the founders of Project OSCAR. He was responsible for the design, development, test, and checkout of OSCARS I, II, and III; ably assisted by other key members of the OSCAR team including Chuck Townes and Lance Ginner.

Details about Project Moonray

Nick thought of the idea of putting an amateur repeater on the moon in 1965 while the Apollo manned lunar explorations were taking place. He met with Owen Garriott, W5LFL, who was an astronaut in training. Owen was scheduled to go to the moon on the forthcoming Apollo 18 mission. Nick gave this amateur project the name Moonray, which was short for moon relay. The idea that he proposed to NASA and was accepted by them was to build a package small enough to fit under the seat of the Lunar Rover vehicle. It would fit in a space vacated by the exchange of batteries with fuel cells. Hopefully, Owen would be the driver of this vehicle and he would have been the person to erect the Moonray package on the surface of the moon. There was to have been a connector on the Moonray package so that Owen could plug in his spacesuit headset and make a few contacts with hams on Earth. He would have then left the assembled package on the moon operating as an open amateur repeater.

Nick planned to build a thermonuclear powered (50 WATT DC output) Plutonium 235 fueled unit with a half-life of 97 years. It was to be a 5 pound repeater package with a 432 MHz uplink receiver and 1296 MHz 3.5 watt output downlink transmitter. The repeater was to accept all modulation modes at the input and linearly translate these to the downlink transmitter. The repeater also was to have contained several interesting amateur experiments including a laser receiver, a slow-scan color TV system giving gross cloud cover pictures of the earth several times a day, and a 32 channel telemetry link to transmit a variety of experimental and housekeeping data.
The call SS in Morse code was to be the identifier and had been allocated and approved by the FCC. NASTAR's ground station was to be the secondary control link to turn the repeater on or off as needed, and the giant dish at Arecibo was to be the primary control in emergency or during unexpected repeater malfunctions.

Unfortunately, Congress cut off funding to NASA for all future Apollo missions and Project Moonray was shelved.

Nick was again president of Project OSCAR from 1994 until his death in January, 1996. He was going to present a new version of Project Moonray to the opening meeting of the 50MHz and Up Group of N. California but he passed away 3 days before the meeting took place.

Nick as we knew him.

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