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FOIA: History of US military satellite systems

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posted on Nov, 25 2007 @ 02:29 PM
History of military satellite systems
Chapter 5, 'Satellite Systems', from an unknown report detailing the history of military and US government satellite systems.

Document date: 1111-11-11
Department: unknown
Author: unknown
Document type: report
pages: 22


Archivist's Notes: A good quality report with many color photographs. No classification marks. Pages 33 to 53 from Chapter 5, Satellite Systems', from an unknown report. Interesting read about the background of US satellite systems.

posted on Nov, 25 2007 @ 07:05 PM
This 22 page document entitled: Vela Satellite Systems appears to be part of a larger book/document – professionally printed with photographs.
No date or author identifiable.

Background history of the satellite projects:

Military satellite projects were added to the existing Western Development Division in 1950’s. The first being the Weapon System (WS117L), which had separate subsystems that could carry out different missions (photographic, reconnaissance and missile warning).
However by 1959, each became separate programs: the Discoverer Program, the Satellite and Missile Observation System (SAMOS), and the Missile Defense Alarm System (MIDAS).

Satellite reconnaissance filled a crucial need, because President Eisenhower had suspended aerial reconnaissance of the Soviet Union just three months earlier after the Soviets had shot down the U-2 spy plane.

The Discoverer program officially ended in feb 1962, however it continued in clandestine from 31 May 1972 carrying out 145 launches under the secret code name Corona.
Management of Corona passed to a new DOD agency, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in 1961. Corona gained photographs of Soviet missile launching complexes and identified a testing range north of Moscow.

SAMOS had three unclassified launches and it was apparent that the technology for the electro-optical film readout system was not yet sufficiently advanced and further work was cancelled.

MIDAS focused on developing a satellite with an infrared sensor to detect hostile ICBM launches. Unfortunately the first four test satellites launched in 1960-61 ended in a launch failure and early on-orbit failures.
DOD kept the program in a research and development phase.
It was lengthened and renamed Program 461. More failures followed. Then followed some short termed successes – and failures.
The MIDAS program was declassified in 1998.

DOD initiated a new program in 1963 to develop improved infrared early warning systems, which became the Defense Support Program (DSP).
The new concept involved placing satellites into orbits at geosynchronous altitude, where only three or four would be necessary for global surveillance. Like MIDAS, the satellites would use telescopes and IR detectors, but the necessary scanning motion would be done by rotating the entire satellite around its axis several times per minute.
Large ground stations were set up in Australia, Europe and the continental U.S. controlled the craft and data. By 2003, 20 DSP satellites had been successfully launched. “They provided a level of early warning that was, by then, indispensable for both military and civil defense. They also carried sensors that performed nuclear surveillance, a mission inherited from the Vela system”
Pdf pg 6
By 1994 DSP was succeeded by Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) for missile warning, missile defense, battlespace characterization and technical intelligence.
There were actually two planned satellite
systems in SBIRS – High and Low. SBIRS High was focused on detection
and tracking of missiles during the earlier phase of flight – short
wave data. SBIRS Low was designed for tracking during middle portions
of a flight – long wave data. By 2001 a mission control station (MCS)
operated at Buckley AFB.

Nuclear Surveillance pdf pg 7.
The first space system to accomplish nuclear surveillance was called
Vela Hotel – later, Vela. In 1960 a joint program was created by Air
Force Ballistic Missile Division, Atomic Energy Commission and NASA to
develop a high altitude satellite system to detect nuclear explosions.
Primary objective: monitor compliance with Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
In October 1963 the first pair of satellites were launched, a few days
after Nuclear Test Ban Treaty went into effect. Two more pairs – July
1964 and July 1965. Six Advanced Vela satellites were launched between
1967 – 70. The satellites successfully collected data on nuclear and
natural sources of radiation for many years…the last one deliberately
turned off in 1984.

Meteorological Systems
Military weather observations is presently the mission of Defense
meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). At least two polar orbiting
satellites are maintained. In 1965 there was an important change in
reporting structure – became a program under Space Systems Division
due to wider military uses.

Civilian weather satellites were operated by National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Since the early 1970s proposals
were made to merge the civilian and military systems. In 1994, Clinton
issued a directive, ordering the convergence/merger into a national
space-based system for environmental monitoring.
Integrated Program Office (IPO) was made up of reps. of NOAA, NASA and DOD.

Navigation Systems
Space-based navigation system was called Transit – developed by John
Hopkins University in 1958. The Air Force Ballistic Missile Division
launched the Navy's first Transit satellite in 1960. Three satellites
were used to provide Doppler effects plus known positions so that
ships and submarines could calculate their positions in two
dimensions. By 1996 it was found it was too slow for moving platforms
and so was turned off.
Now DOD's navigation needs are performed by Global Positioning System
(GPS). 24 satellites that broadcast signals to earth. By processing
signals from 4 satellites, the location of each satellite is
determined and the distance from each one. From that, 3 dimensional
navigation is derived.

Pdf pg 13
"GPS can support a wide variety of military operations, including
aerial rendezvous and refueling, all-weather air drops, instrument
landings, mine laying and mine sweeping, anti-submarine warfare,
bombing and shelling, photo mapping, range instrumentation, rescue
missions, and satellite navigation."
It is also the focus of a
growing civilian market.

to be continued........

[edit on 25-11-2007 by frozen_snowman]

posted on Nov, 25 2007 @ 08:30 PM
Communications Systems pdf pgs 13 – 22.

In 1958 the world's first communications systems satellite was
launched by Air Force Ballistic Missile Division.
There was much development history here.
By January 2002, Boeing began production on the first two satellites and November 2002 began production of the third Wideband Gapfiller Satellites (WGS).
It would be able to support 96 channels of communication, two-way tactical military communications, a new one-way wideband satellite broadcast system called Global Broadcast Service(GBS). Around 2008 there is due an Advanced Wideband Satellite system.

posted on Feb, 2 2008 @ 02:49 PM
It would be interesting to see if this file contains information on the military satellite that is expected to make its way back to earth sometime late February early March.

discussed in this thread :

Defunct Spy Satellite Falling From Orbit

If it is, does it describe what hazardous materials that this satellite is carrying?

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