IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo Program

IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo Program

Summary: IBM and UNIVAC were the key system integrators for the Apollo program. IBM provided broad computer support on a number of fronts including guidance systems on the Saturn V vehicle itself, whereas UNIVAC's computers were critical to the Deep Space Tracking Network (DSTN) required for upstream and downstream telemetry to and from the spacecraft.Read more about IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo program in Tech Broiler.


 |  Image 9 of 15

  • The 210 foot antenna at the Perth station was the subject of the 2000 film "The Dish" starring Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton. It is a largely fictional account which downplays the significance of all of the stations in the DSTN network. During the course of the Apollo 11 mission, several stations were required in order to receive telemetry and television signal from the spacecraft and the moon.

  • The heart of the DSTN telemetry decoding were several dozen UNIVAC 1230 systems deployed on site at the DSTN tracking stations around the world. Originally designed for use on naval vessels, The modified 1230s, known as 642B military computers, used ferrite core memory and were military hardened to handle 140 degree temperatures as well as salt spray.

  • The computer room of DSTN station Fresnedillas, outside Madrid, Spain. The systems shown here are for the Apollo 8 mission and are UNIVAC 1218, a forerunner to the 1230s used on Apollo 11.

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10
  • Thumbnail 11
  • Thumbnail 12
  • Thumbnail 13
  • Thumbnail 14
  • Thumbnail 15

Topics: CXO, IBM


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Radio Telescope

    ... is at Parkes not Perth
  • RE: DSTN Station at Perth, Australia (IBM and UNIVAC in the Apollo Program)

    Perth (West Coast) has a dish that was very important to the mission, but it was definitely the Parkes dish(East Coast)that was the subject of the movie "The Dish".
    Why Knot
  • Univac 1230 at Goddard

    I worked at Goddard as an employee of CSC from 1974 to 1978, and worked on the telemetry systems for the shuttle Approach and Landing Test and Orbital Flight Test projects (as a computer programmer). The telemetry systems ran on the Univac 1230 computer. Several years later, a friend and co-worker from that time gave me a circuit board from a decommissioned 1230. I can't remember if he said it was a flip-flop circuit or a one-shot. Can anyone help me identify it? The following is printed on the connector: A-2333-6 7003700 00. I can provide a photo (I'd post it here if I knew how).