RECONNAISSANCE

Satellites

Articles

2003 - 2004

Day, Dwayne A. "Ferrets Above: American Signals Intelligence Satellites during the 1960s." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 17, no. 3 (Fall 2004): 449-467.

"Throughout the 1960s, signals intelligence satellites were designed, developed, and operated by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, working within the framework of the National Reconnaissance Office."

Defense Science Board/Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Joint Task Force. Acquisition of National Security Space Programs. Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, May 2003. [http://www.fas.org/spp/military/dsb.pdf]

Steven Aftergood, "Military Space Programs in Disarray," Secrecy News, 5 Sep. 2003, notes that the DSB/AFSCB report finds that there are "systemic problems" in the U.S. military and national security space programs. This includes the conclusion that "the next generation spy satellite program, known as the Future Imagery Architecture, is 'technically flawed' ... and 'not executable.'"

French, Matthew. "Defense Plans Smaller, Cheaper Satellites." Federal Computer Week, 16 Oct. 2003. [http://www.fcw.com]

Speaking in Boston at the Military Communications Conference 2003, Arthur Cebrowsk [VADM/USN (Ret.)], DOD's director of force transformation, announced that "[t]he Defense Department plans to launch a small, relatively cheap, experimental tactical satellite capable of supporting specific missions early next year." It is expected that "TacSat-1 will proceed from the official go-ahead to launch in about nine months for a total cost of only $15 million....

"TacSat-1 will be a sensor satellite, not used specifically for imagery or voice and data communications. It will, however, use an infrared camera and new thermal imaging technology, according to information from the Office of Force Transformation. The system will have a Secret Internet Protocol Router Network address, so battlefield commanders could potentially access the satellite's sensor data through DOD's classified network."

Jehl, Douglas. "Debate on Secret Program Bursts Into Open." New York Times, 10 Dec. 2004. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"An intense secret debate about a previously unknown, enormously expensive technical intelligence program has burst into light in the form of scathing criticism from members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. For two years,... Republicans and Democrats on the panel have voted to block the secret program, which is believed to be a system of new spy satellites. But it continues to be financed ... with support from the House, the Bush administration and Congressional appropriations committees."

Jehl, Douglas. "It's Planes vs. Satellites in Debate on Spying." New York Times, 16 Dec. 2004. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"An alternative to a new, highly classified $9.5 billion stealth satellite program that is the subject of a Congressional dispute calls on the United States to rely much more heavily on high-flying unmanned aircraft to take pictures of critical targets around the world, former government officials and private experts say.... The alternative, endorsed by the Senate Intelligence Committee in authorization bills over the past two years, also calls for greater reliance on other, nonstealthy reconnaissance satellite systems now in existence or in development, including commercial satellites and a new generation of satellites known as the Future Imagery Architecture."

Jehl, Douglas. "New Spy Plan Said to Involve Satellite System." New York Times, 12 Dec. 2004. [http://www.nytimes.com]

According to current and former government officials, "[a] highly classified intelligence program that the Senate Intelligence Committee has tried unsuccessfully to kill is a new $9.5 billion spy satellite system that could take photographs only in daylight hours and in clear weather.... The cost of the system, now the single biggest item in the intelligence budget, and doubts about its usefulness have spurred a secret Congressional battle."

Merle, Renae. "Boeing Satellite Project Criticized: Funding, Delays Concern Panel." Washington Post, 6 Sep. 2003, E1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

A report by the Pentagon's Defense Science Board says that Boeing's Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) "project to develop the next generation of spy satellites has been significantly underfunded and has suffered from technical shortcomings." The program "can be 'mitigated sufficiently' to permit" it to continue, "but was 'not executable' as it existed before recent changes." Spokesman Art Haubold said that the NRO "has already addressed many of the concerns raised by the report.... About $4 billion was added to the program in January to initiate changes, including new deadlines and more testing of technology....

"Another program spotlighted by the report, Lockheed Martin's Space Based Infrared-High satellite program [SBIRS], which will act as an early warning system for incoming missiles, 'could be considered a case study for how not to execute a space program,' the report said. The program lacks experienced personnel and has counted on unproven approaches because they promised cost savings, the report said."

See Defense Science Board/Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Joint Task Force, Acquisition of National Security Space Programs (Washington, DC: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, May 2003).

Priest, Dana. "New Spy Satellite Debated On Hill: Some Question Price and Need." Washington Post, 11 Dec. 2004, A1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

According to U.S. officials, "[t]he United States is building a new generation of spy satellites designed to orbit undetected." In closed congressional sessions "lawmakers have questioned its necessity and rapidly escalating price.... The previously undisclosed effort has almost doubled in projected cost -- from $5 billion to nearly $9.5 billion, officials said." Officials said the NRO "has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the program.... The satellite in question would be the third and final version in a series of spacecraft funded under a classified program once known as Misty."

Richelson, Jeffrey T. "A 'Rifle' in Space." Air Force Magazine 86, no. 6 (Jun. 2003): 72-75. [http://www.afa.org]

On 12 July 1963, an Atlas/Agena D rocket from Vandenberg AFB placed the first KH-7 satellite in orbit 100 miles above the Earth. The satellite weighed about 4,500 pounds and carried "a camera system..., a single recovery vehicle in which ... film would be returned to Earth for analysis, and command and communications equipment." The images produced were "far sharper" than those from the existing Corona system, operating since 1960.

The KH-7 was "developed under a highly secret program code-named Gambit." The U.S. Air Force's "special projects office was responsible for delivering the finished satellite. However, a contractor team ... conduct[ed] the actual research, development, and production work. General Electric ... produced the spacecraft body, while Eastman Kodak ... develop[ed] the camera system. Lockheed was the integrator, responsible for putting together the whole package."

In four years of operation, there were 38 KH-7 launches. "[S]ome 19,000 frames of varying length,... 43,000 feet of film," were returned to Earth. "In contrast, the Corona satellites over their 12 years of operation ... return[ed] more than 800,000 frames." The KH-7 "was truly a close-look system. [Its] perigee (the point of the orbit on which a spacecraft comes closest to Earth) averaged 92 miles in altitude, although on one mission it came within 75 miles.... The time on orbit was short -- on average 5.5 days and never longer than eight days."

The last KH-7 satellite was orbited on 4 June 1967.

Richelson, Jeffrey T. "The Satellite Gap." Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 59, no. 1 (Jan.-Feb. 2003): 49-54.

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