Who picked the Labs address?

Ed Martin forwarded this request and asked that it be forwarded to our members. If you have any memories of the topic, just reply to this email, and it will be forwarded to Ed. A collection of the best answers will be added to the Legacy section. You might even get a quote in the Post article...

Hey Ed -

I wondered if you would remember some old Comsat trivia (or know someone around who might) --

My husband is working on a story for the Post about street numbering systems in the area, and he was talking to a now-retired man who used to do the street numbering for Montgomery County. John mentioned that he had heard that when Comsat Labs was built, Comsat was told it would get a 5-digit street number, but that since Comsat was going to be the only building on the new street, it could basically have any number it wanted. Being satellite geeks, they chose 22300. However, the numbering man said that the choice of 22300 was a coincidence - that "he" just assigned a street number arbitrarily to the Labs, and it just "happened" to be the same number as the GSO orbit.

I'm not buying it! That anecdote was one of my father's favorites (about getting to number the street), but I need to find someone else who was involved in the building of the Labs, or at least remembers hearing the story from my Dad (or better yet, hearing it from yet a different person around at that time). Anyway, I thought I'd start with you, and see what you know or can find out.

Thanks! All well with you otherwise?

Ruth Pritchard-Kelly

John V Evans I always understood that the number was deliberately chosen to be the distance (in miles) to the geostationary orbit. My source for this was Geof Hyde - may the Lord rest his soul.
Irv Dostis I thought the address was picked by Sig. Rieger to correspond with geosynchronous altitude- that was the word on the West Coast. Irv Dostis
Rolan Clark 22300, the miles from earth for synchronous orbit
But I don't know who picked it. :)
Jack Hannon I can't "put a name to it," in terms of a discussion with a particular Labs officer or staff person, and I was in the Law Dept., not the Labs. But I was working with Labs people on negotiating contracts in 1968-69 for the"fitting out" out the Labs building (e.g. food service from Marriott; buying special test eqpt.; an"anechoic chamber" for tests; etc.), and I know the Labs people at that time talked about choosing 22300 as the Labs address in honor of the geosynchronous orbit, which after all COMSAT had pioneered and successfully proven only a few years before.
Ginny Oehler My guess is Sid Metzger!
George May Tony VanHover was involved with checking out the site for the Lab in Clarksburg, and he might be able to shed some light on your question. I'm copying him on this e-mail.
Henri Suyderhoud Being among the first group of Comsat Labs to move into the building and having followed the construction of it, It is my (admittedly vague) recollection that one of the Comsat contract persons involved with the construction decided to assign the 22300 to the address. Obviously, it did not come about through the result of a random number generator. I would not be surprised if it actually was Bill Pritchard who suggested that number, knowing his sense of humor and correlation.
Neil Helm While I worked for Reiger for the first years the labs was built, I was close with both Bill Pritchard and Burt Edelson as both were delegates to the ICSSC that Ed Wright and I handled.

I can remember the conversations that took place over the address. My memory was that Bill proposed and was happy with 1 Comsat Lane, but the postmaster who was known personally by the decision makers, said there may be other companies along the road, as we owned a "right-of-way" we did not own all the land up to the Route 35. The postmaster suggested a five letter sequence and again my memory is that Burt came up with the 22,300, although it had to get Bill's approval. I never heard of the coincidence Ruth mentioned and I had a number of conversations about the name of the road with both Bill and Burt.
Lyn Russell My memory is that Bill Fallon picked the Lab's address.
Paul Schrantz As one of the excited Spacecraft Lab members who moved out to Clarksburg in September 1969, it was neat to see the address "22300 Comsat Drive". It was well known that the 22300 number was based on the altitude of the GEO satellites we were working on, and planning for the future. Not sure I heard how Bill Pritchard got the address approved by the County, but he could have sold refrigerators to Eskimos. The roundoff to 22300 is interesting as can be seen from the note on Wikapedia, but Bill didn't have access to the web when he picked the number!
John Talcott Celebrating my 75th birthday today in Sierra Vista, AZ; this is also the home of Don Kutch, another member of the Aerosat Team of 1975-76 in Holland and D.C..

I was around while the Lab was being planned and built. Never saw the construction drawings, but it is possible that the architect put the address on the drawings. Who signed off on the drawings ? Our first Great White Father ?
See you at Roy's ?
Dave Reiser That is as I remember it. Also, the address in Pamalu is the same thing, but in kilometers.

This is not coincidence, I believe it was planned that way.
Lou Pollock My recollection is that Dr. Sig Reiger and/or Sid Metzger came up with the street name of 22300 Comsat Drive. Both men were well familiar with the synchronous orbit distance and because they had a wry sense of humor, they chose that name for the roadway that led to the Labs.

Bill Fallon, who unfortunately is no longer with us, would certainly remember this since he was the administrative assistant at the Labs and negotiated the road naming with the County authorities. Initially, 22300 Comsat Drive applied only to the section of land owned by Comsat Corp.

I joined the Labs early in 1967 when it had temporary quarters at 2100 L Street, D.C. and plans for the Lab to move to Clarksburg were well underway. Bill Pritchard joined the Lab as director in mid-1967.

As further background, the Board of Directors authorized the establishment of the Laboratories in March of 1966 and building in Clarksburg began immediately.

Perhaps Jerry Breslow or Sid Metzger can further substantiate my recollection.
Victor J. Slabinski Ed et al.

I am wondering how they got the value 22300 (presumably statute miles) for the satellite height:

geostationary satellite orbit radius = 42,164 km
. subtract Earth equatorial radius = -6,378 km
. Satellite height above equator = 35,786 km

Use conversion factor 1 inch = .0254 meter (exact)
1 foot - 12 inches = .3048 m
1 statute mile = 5,280 ft = 1.609344 km<

so satellite height above equator = 22,236 stat. mile
. which rounds to 22,200 mile, not 22,300 mile

One possible explanation is that someone erroneously assumed that the orbit period for a geostationary satellite was exactly 24 hours = 86,400 seconds = Psolar; this is the orbit period with respect to the Sun. The orbit period with respect to inertial space (with respect to the "fixed" stars) is 4 minutes less than this; this is the period to use in Kepler's Third Law. The value for this period is the sidereal day = 86,164 seconds.

Kepler's Third Law states

(2*pi/period)^2 * a^3 = G*Mearth = 398,600.5 km^3/s^2
where a is the semi-major axis in km.

Using period = Psolar in this formula gives
a = 42,241 km; subtraction the equatorial radius=6,378 km
gives the height=35,863 km = 22,284 stat. mile,
a value 77 km higher than the correct value.
This value rounds to 22,300 stat. mile, the value given.

Victor J. Slabinski
Comsat Astrodynamics Dept.
Scott Chase Hello, Ruth and Comsat gang,

I never heard that story but I have always assumed that Comsat folks in Clarksburg were involved in choosing the address because that number could never be randomly assigned.

Maybe we should ask Joe Pelton . . . Joe?

Dear Scott: I have always heard the story from Wilbur Pritchard and Burt Edelson the same way you heard it. Comsat asked for the 22300 address and it was provided since it was essentially a private driveway. This was just like SAIC got the SAIC Way address in Tyson's Corner. In short I doubt that this was just a random coincidence. This is too unusual of a number to have been sheer coincidence. All the best.
Joe Pelton
Ed Martin Ron, Thanks for your prompt help on this. I think that John Kelly now has enough confidence in the GEO explanation. Keep an eye out on his column.

Ed Martin

Washington Post Article follow up to the Question:

Thanks to all who responded. Comments are now closed.