Viking Lander Watkins-Johnson 274 Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier

Radio Ron W4RON

New Member
I’m working on a kind of unusual replica, it’s not a movie prop.

I guess first I’ll introduce myself, I’m a collector of antique radios and vacuum tubes, I’ve been collecting for over 45 years. Most of that time I was mainly a radio collector, I have over 500 radios and pieces of vintage test equipment in my collection. I have over 600 vacuum tubes on display in my collection. I have a number of historic radar and microwave tubes, early cathode ray tubes (CRTs), early transmitting tubes and some of the first tubes made for radio use.

A few months ago a friend was visiting the local flea market where he found something he was sure I’d be interested it. It’s a aluminum Zero Halliburton carrying case for a Viking Lander Traveling Wave Tube Amplifier (TWTA). There were 2 of these on each of the Mars Viking 1 & 2 Landers. They were the main part of the communications system allowing the Landers to talk back to earth. The TWTA were made by Watkins-Johnson and were their type 274 TWTA.

I’m a member of the Tube Collectors Association (TCA) and a member of their Board of Directors. One of the TCA members worked for Watkins-Johnson and was head of the Viking TWTA test team. He has told me that he made a number of trips to JPL hand carrying a 274 TWTA in a case exactly like mine. When he traveled they bought two plane tickets, one for him and one for the Zero carrying case. They were insured for $1,000,000 each.

What I hope to do is build a replica of the W-J 274 TWTA, I’ve settled for a replica since I’ve been told that no original 274 exist, period.

I hope to find someone with NASA or JPL or whoever that may be able to find some original photos of the W-J 274. So far I’ve written to NASA History and JPL with no response at all. Surely someone has photos that were taken during the build of the Viking Landers, so far I haven’t been able to find them….

I wonder if anyone in the RPF group has a contact at NASA or JPL that they could put me in touch with? I hope to build a replica of a W-J 274 TWTA that I can display inside the Zero carrying case.

I’ll try attaching some photos of my Zero case so you guys can see what I’m talking about.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.




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    Watkins-Johnson Viking TWTA case 1.JPG
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  • Watkins-Johnson Viking TWTA case 2.JPG
    Watkins-Johnson Viking TWTA case 2.JPG
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  • Watkins-Johnson Viking TWTA case 3.JPG
    Watkins-Johnson Viking TWTA case 3.JPG
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