Thunderbird 5 - International Rescue's geo-stationary orbital satellite - monitors radio frequencies, 24/7, for distress signals. It is usually seen to be manned by primary space monitor John Tracy; although we are informed in-series that he takes turns with his younger brother, Alan - and sometimes even his older brother, Scott - on one-month shifts aboard the station.
TB5 is one of the most - if not the most - important of International Rescue's fabled Thunderbirds. It has a number of radios, covering most frequencies, and speakers that allow the operator to listen to incoming radio signals. Without its sensitive equipment, calls for help could not be detected, rendering the whole organisation useless.
Should TB5's main control room sustain damage or be otherwise rendered non-operational, all monitoring functions automatically transfer to a duplicate control room built for this purpose. Computer systems are independently-powered via the adjacent solar energy panels, and all data is duplicated from the primary systems.
Like all the other Thunderbirds, TB5 has the capability to transmit and receive both audio and video.
Transport to and from Thunderbird 5 is performed using Thunderbird 3, which docks with the station using a custom-designed docking-collar and airlock.
In addition to the spacious control room that features the sensitive listening equipment, it has been observed to have a bedroom where the crew can rest when not on-duty. Rescue calls detected by the station's computer are broadcast to the bedroom for attention of the operator. John is able to access these communications wherever he is on the station, at any given moment. Furthermore, the Haynes Thunderbirds Manual says there's more to it than just the bedroom: there are accommodation areas for more crew members if the need arises, along with other facilities to make Thunderbird 5 John's man-cave.
Diameter (including meteor deflector): 296 feet
Gravity: Previn coil artificial gravity generator: Earth standard (with various options)
Height (including antenna): 272 feet
Length: 400 feet
Orbit: geo-stationary 22,400 miles above the Pacific Ocean
Power: atomic batteries
Reception range: 100 million miles
Weight (standard Earth gravity): 976 tons
Thunderbird 5 first appeared in the pilot episode Trapped in the Sky and was the first Thunderbird machine to be seen in the series (both in the title sequence and in the actual episode). John was also the first of the Tracy brothers to appear on-screen (the first family member was his father, Jeff).
TB5 appears at least briefly in most episodes, due to its key role in picking up calls for help. Generally, it is limited to receiving and transmitting such requests to Tracy Island, but occasionally its job in a rescue is more involved. In total, it appears in 23 episodes: Trapped in the Sky, Pit of Peril, City Of Fire, The Uninvited, The Mighty Atom, Vault Of Death, Operation Crash-Dive, Martian Invasion, Brink of Disaster, End Of The Road, Day Of Disaster, 30 Minutes After Noon, The Impostors, The Man From MI.5, Cry Wolf, Danger At Ocean Deep, The Duchess Assignment, Attack of the Alligators!, The Cham-Cham, Atlantic Inferno, Path Of Destruction, Ricochet and Give or Take a Million.
In Operation Crash-Dive, it was Alan's term of duty on Thunderbird 5. He was responsible for keeping track of Fireflash, and was consequently able to report its true location when the aircraft's tracking system reported a false position.
In Ricochet, the space station was undergoing repairs when Rick O'Shea's satellite fell out of orbit, so it never received the call for help. Fortunately, Tin-Tin heard the transmissions on her television in time for a rescue to be effected.
- Throughout the entire two series and two feature lengths (Thunderbirds Are Go (film) and Thunderbird 6), Thunderbird 5 has never been detected or attacked. Whether this feat will stay by the end of the Thunderbirds Are Go! (TV Series) remains unknown. TB5 has jamming plates and a meteor deflector, so it's impossible to detect and immune to natural attacks.
- TB5 was the last Thunderbird to be created, as those behind the scenes were having trouble coming up with a design for it. They eventually got the basic design from the Round House which Thunderbird 3 blasts off from on Tracy Island - however, Gerry Anderson was never truly satisfied with the final product.
- During the production of the television series, only one model of Thunderbird 5 was built and used.
- In Terror in New York City, Gerry Anderson was in charge of the script and removed John and Thunderbird 5 from the story altogether, as he disliked both John and the design of TB5. The emergency call for help was received via the live televised news. TB5 was in operation, though. as there was still communication between the Tracy brothers and Jeff back on Tracy Island.
- Thunderbird 5 is the only Thunderbird to have gone through a major redesign in the 2015 remake. However, if you tilt the new Thunderbird 90 degrees, you can still see some similarity in the design.
Following the end of season 1 of Thunderbirds, TB5's control room underwent a major aesthetic and technical refit... and appeared in season 2 episodes Path of Destruction, Ricochet and Give Or Take A Million.
John's sleeping quarters were also revamped; and in the series' season 2 premiere - Atlantic Inferno - TB5's new look is fully on view...as John, abruptly awakened in the middle of the night, is called into action when a explosion out in the Atlantic Ocean critically endangers the massive drilling rig Seascape...
Feature Films Edit
Throughout Season 1, Thunderbird 5 was depicted in essentially the same stock-footage sequence (Thunderbird 3 visits notwithstanding; see section above). For the feature films Thunderbirds Are Go and Thunderbird 6, however, new views - from different perspectives - highlight TB5 in perpetual orbit out in space, beyond Earth...