Collection RU 1005 - Dundee Satellite Receiving Station (DSRS)

Identity area

Reference code

RU 1005


Dundee Satellite Receiving Station (DSRS)


  • 1963-2018 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

22 boxes and 3 loose large items

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

Dundee Satellite Receiving Station (DSRS) captures broadcasts from satellites passing in range of its receivers, giving scientists a handy one-stop shop for getting hold of data such as climate and meteorological information.
It arose from work done in the 1960s by Peter Baylis and Dr John Brush on picking up data from weather satellites. A 3.7-metre reflector was acquired, and the team was able to take data from the Very High Resolution Radiometer (VHRR) instrument on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 4 and 5 satellites. The two spacecraft were launched in 1974 and 1976 respectively.
Archival of the data began in 1978, with the launch by NOAA of the TIROS-N satellite, which operated until 1981 and carried the first Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument.
Funding of the DSRS to capture and distribute the data to UK researchers was taken care of by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Storing the data presented a challenge for the team – initially 75MB of raw data was generated by each satellite pass, more like 93MB when converted from 10-bit to 16-bit data. To put that in context, the first 5.25-inch hard drive, the Shugart ST506, debuted in 1980 with a mighty 5MB of capacity. DSRS therefore used a 14-track tape recorder to capture the data, running at a slightly slower than normal 29.5 inches per second in order to squeeze two passes on a single track. The tape recorder continued to be used as a backup even when the team moved to Sun workstations toward the end of the 1980s. The Sun hardware was also able to process the data in real-time (unlike the PDP-11 originally used). Fans of retro hardware will also be delighted to note that quick-look images for browsing purposes were generated from the data using an ancient Muirhead fax machine, dating back to the first half of the 20th century. Admittedly, the team stripped out the old electronics and retuned the motors to run synchronous to the satellite data rate, but the fact the machine remained in use until the early 2000s is undeniably impressive. Improvements in inkjets and a drop in demand for photographic products were what ended the machine's long life rather than a mechanical failure.
By the time funding had been cut, DSRS had around 388TB of storage at its disposal. Handy, because the data being used had hit 1.5GB for the NASA Terra and Aqua spacecraft alone. Indeed, the DSRS has obtained data from a wide variety of satellites, including Nimbus-7, SeaStar and further NOAA spacecraft as well as Meteosat (although for the latter, data is normally only archived for a few days). So impressed was the ESA with the team's efforts that the original developers ended up commissioned to publish a design and construction manual for others to create similar systems.
The Dundee Satellite Receiving Station was closed at the end of April 2019 after 40 years due to funding being cut. and currently operates commercially as Dundee Satellite Station Ltd, based at Errol (

Archival history

Dundee Satellite Receiving Station donated their files to the Archives due to being de-commissioned in April 2019.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection contains photographs and negatives of weather features and AVHRR quicklook weather features; reports, statistics and user requests; correspondence between the Dundee Satellite Receiving Station (DSRS) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); information boards; posters and exhibitions; articles published in newspapers and the University of Dundee Contact Magazines in respect of the DSRS, images courtesy by the DSRS, and various weather topics and issues; booklets published by the DSRS and various information sheets; various external published books in respect of the weather and climate; examples of different media types used for archiving data received at the DSRS; a hand-drawn sketch showing elevations, a frequency of coverage map, and examples of transparent overlays.


Not expected

System of arrangement

Usually chronological within series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act (2018), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, 2018) and any other relevant legislation or restrictions. Clinical information is closed for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges may be made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply; please check with the Duty Archivist.

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Finding aids

Hard copy of descriptive list in Search Room.

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Description control area

Description identifier

RU 1005

Rules and/or conventions used

Description compiled in line with the following standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description; International Council on Archives, ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997



Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



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