Geoff Perry

Photo:Geoff Perry with his receiver

Geoff Perry with his receiver

Copyright Sven Grahn 1979

The Satellite Hunters of K.G.S.

In October 1966 the eyes of the world became focused briefly on Kettering Grammar School.

This was due to the activities of the science teacher, Geoff Perry, who, with the help of antiquated equipment and a team of enthusiastic pupils, managed to unlock the secrets of the Soviet Russian space programme even before the Americans.

Extraordinarily, this was not the only time he achieved such a feat. From the early 1960's, Perry had realised that by studying the Doppler Effect - marked by a change in the signal as the spacecraft passed overhead - he could discover the orbit of the Soviet Cosmos satellites.

Starved of equipment - at first he was obliged to use the computer at the corset factory in Desborough - he relied on close monitoring and improvisation (his receiver needed "a smart tap with the hand from time to time"). His breakthrough came with the launch of Cosmos 112, in May 1966, which alerted him to something strange about the Soviet space effort. The satellite did not seem to have come from the usual site at Baikonur in Khazakstan. The launch of Cosmos 129 in October of that year from the same unknown site enabled him to pinpoint it.

The new site was identified as Plesetsk,  south of Archangel. The USSR did not admit to its existence for a further 17 years. That same year he enjoyed another scoop when he became the first scientist to announce the launch of an unmanned Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Perry's life changed as the world's media descended upon him. His name was often in the newspapers as he teased out one secret after another about the Soviet space programme. He realised the significance of the varying signals transmitted by satellites and was able to identify which were on short missions and which were up for longer. He even managed to track the signals monitoring the cosmonauts' vital functions from one of the first manned Soyuz craft. He inspired a growing band of space trackers among his pupils who named themselves the Kettering Satellite Group.

In the 1970's, he became space consultant to Independent Television News, commenting on the Apollo moonshots and the Apollo-Soyuz link-up in 1975. He retired from teaching in 1984, and died in 2000.

This page was added by Chris Leuchars on 06/03/2008.
Comments about this page

I was a pupil at a Birmingham Grammar School in the late 1960s and I vividly recall reading in New Scientist about the satellite monitoring going on at Kettering Grammar School.

By Ken Campbell
On 02/05/2008

I had Geoff Perry as my Physics teacher when I was at the Boys School. What a brilliant bloke he was.

By David Conquest
On 24/04/2009

I was was a pupil of the Tracking Group 1966-1971 and still maintain an interest in satellite tracking. I believe I am the only former pupil to do so.

People might be interested in the material at: http://www.zarya.info/Kettering/Kettering.php

By Bob Christy
On 01/05/2013

I had Geoff Perry as my physics teacher in the late 1950s and he inspired a reluctant student to achieve a GCE in Physics. Later, as a police officer, I met him directing traffic when I arrived at the scene of a road traffic accident to be greeted with, 'Hello, young Hopkins, how long should I do this?' A truly inspiring and modest man.

By Vic Hopkins
On 29/04/2013

I was in contact with Geoff Perry from 1966 until he passed away. I was the first overseas member of his kettering operation. On my web site you can read his own account of what he did:

http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/getstart/oldcyts.htm

By Sven Grahn
On 01/05/2013

I had Geoff as my physics teacher while I was at KGS (and also worked for him as a lab steward during my 6th form years). He was a great shot with a blackboard cleaner. As he said, "if you were paying attention then you would have seen it coming".

By Alan Brown
On 29/04/2013

I was part of Mr Perry's satellite tracking team and tracked a Rohini satellite. He was a character and a very inspiring teacher. I was present when the TV crews came in to interview Mr Perry. It was a great school but was left to ruin, a shame! Here's to the teachers of the future.

By Parvez Khan
On 29/04/2013

I was a member on the Satellite Tracking Group from 1979 to 1983. During that time the group were interviewed by numerous newspapers and international television crews, including from Switzerland, Japan, the USA and the UK. We also watched Russian satellites alter position to provide 24 hour coverage of the Faulklands Islands in 1982.

By Dr Darren ConwY
On 10/05/2013

I have added a couple of new pages to the zarya.info web site covering the School's connection with the regular reports on Soviet space progress to the US Senate: http://www.zarya.info/Kettering/Archive/Sheldon1967.php and a philatelic item from 1991: http://www.zarya.info/Kettering/Archive/1991Europa.php

By Robert Christy
On 16/09/2013

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