My old flag

The only thing this posting has in common with Hexagon is that I   survived some terrible experiences during World War II, otherwise I would not have had the opportunity to work on this “career job.”

 Most of you with whom I worked for so long at PE do not know that I am a Holocaust survivor. I was born in Belgium and when the Nazis invaded my parents and I escaped to France. We were in hiding there for 5 years in various locations. In 1944 at the age of seven I was separated from my parents. I was sheltered by a kind Catholic family in a small village that happened to be a center for the French underground.

 Not only did I live and witness many shootings, bombings, killings and extremely frightening things, I was so lonely and heartsick being separated from my parents. I am still somewhat traumatized by this. Fortunately we were eventually re-united.

 When the United States army started liberating France in September of 1944, during a rare visit by my parents to this village, my mother made me a French flag to wave to the liberating troops as they were to pass by that village. This is a photo of that 75-year old moth eaten flag that I have hanging in my office in archival protective material.

French flag.jpg

I personally drew with a light blue color pencil the “Cross of Lorraine” symbol of Charles De Gaulle’s Free French group in the middle of the flag. It is one of the few articles I have of my youth other than my memories.

 These experiences are why I totally understand and empathize about the horrible and cruel treatment of today’s immigrant children separated from their parent and caged in this country’s crowded “concentration camps.” It is inhumane treatment and needs to be stopped. This is my political statement.

 Immigrants were and are major contributors to most of the major American milestones, scientific, art, music, sports, health, technology and literature.

 Phil Pressel





An old KISS document. Keep It Simple Stupid

For those of you who traveled for the job, you had to make out a complicated travel expense form. It included bills and costs for hotels, meals, car rental, air travel and explanations for the trip.

Here is a copy of the original travel voucher that Buzz Aldrin submitted for his trip to the moon. He was an active duty Air Force officer when he walked on he moon during the Apollo 11 mission. This is his required travel voucher paying him a little over $33 for the trip. Note the locations include Cape Kennedy, the moon to the Pacific Ocean and back home to Houston through Hawaii.

How about that. Amazing.

How about that. Amazing.


Technology Related to Hexagon at Perkin-Elmer

During the development and design of the Hexagon spy satellite system starting in 1966, with the first launch 5 years later in June 1971 and continuing on we at Perkin-Elmer did not have the following technologies until much later in the program and yet we achieved great success on the most complicated satellite of its day and perhaps still today.

  • NO CAD





  • NO DIGITAL PRINTERS (tracing paper drawings were converted to blueprints using large ammonia machines)

The tools we used were:

  • The Abacus (not really)

  • The slide rule

  • eventually the pocket calculator

  • eventually much more sophisticated computers programs

None the less our talented staff proudly developed the following new technologies that are in use today:

  • optical encoders

  • brushless DC motors

  • light pipes

  • complicated film handling mechanisms to move film at high speeds both linearly and in rotation

  • closed loop phase-lock servos

  • Kodak developed hi-resolution films both black and white and color

The incredible success we achieved really did provide so much intelligence for United States agencies and the military that enabled our government to make decisions that not only protected our security but helped keep peace in the world between 1971 and 1986, during the “cold war.”

 Credit must be given to over 1000 Perkin-Elmer employees   and of course to associated contractors, government agencies and Air Force and Navy personnel. In all of my work experience through retirement I have never worked with such a wonderful collection of smart and extremely competent people.

 They belonged to all of the following departments:

o  Systems engineering

o  Mechanical engineering

o  Electrical engineering

o  Design and drafting

o  Manufacturing

o  Optics

o  Testing

o  Quality assurance

o  Reliability

o  Technical documentation

o  Research

o  Program management

o  Sales and contracts

o  Upper management and technical staff

o  Administration and secretariat

o  Security

o  Machine shop

o  Building and facility staff

o  West coast field office

 I thank them all for their significant contributions and each time that I speak about Hexagon I honor them and Perkin-Elmer.

Phil Pressel