Author Topic: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy  (Read 85192 times)


Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #1 on: 06/04/2012 03:30 PM »
KH-11 optics? I take it these are lightweight optics that can(are) be used in space. Wish they had more details and pics in the article?
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Offline kevin-rf

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Offline brihath

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #3 on: 06/04/2012 03:51 PM »
If there are the components for two telescopes in storage, could they possibly be used as a pair for very long baseline interferometry (VBLI)?  This could provide us with vastly improved resolution of extra solar planets.

If handled properly, this could be a huge windfall for astronomy.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #4 on: 06/04/2012 04:03 PM »
Reading the NYTimes article, it sounds like some people have plans for them. They sound like they are better for wide field work, and not an extremely high res baseline interferometer.

So they are sitting in an ITT clean room, does this mean Lockheed (KH-11 and beyond) heritage and not the canceled Boeing FIA imaging birds?

They still need a spacecraft to mount them. This is like having a telephoto lens without the camera and person for pointing it.

Though it does prove the mantra of NSF, build a rocket and someone will ask if you can make a heavy with it ;)
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Offline Lurker Steve

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #5 on: 06/04/2012 04:17 PM »
Just reading between the lines...

If the NRO doesn't need these optics any longer, that means they have something better already in service, right ? Of course, they aren't giving way those spares yet.

How challenging to build a suitable spacecraft around these telescopes ? I assume there isn't much technology that needs to be developed to make these operational.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #6 on: 06/04/2012 04:22 PM »
Just reading between the lines...

If the NRO doesn't need these optics any longer, that means they have something better already in service, right ? Of course, they aren't giving way those spares yet.

Or they are the optics from the canceled FIA imaging birds.

It is really odd, considering when the last KH-11-ish bird (USA-224) was launched (NRO L-49), there where stories that it was from spares and they had to restart the line to build another. So either this is a set of very old optics (From an early block KH-11) or they are from something that was canceled (FIA-I).

I am now really wondering if these are FIA parts...
« Last Edit: 06/04/2012 04:25 PM by kevin-rf »
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Offline Jim

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #7 on: 06/04/2012 04:22 PM »

How challenging to build a suitable spacecraft around these telescopes ? I assume there isn't much technology that needs to be developed to make these operational.


Not technology but a lot of hardware

Offline Ronsmytheiii

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #8 on: 06/04/2012 04:28 PM »
Not technology but a lot of hardware

Judging from the aricle, I would assume that the major item would be two Satellite bus (as it says payload items)

Still, curious to see whether NASA can muster funds together to launch one or both telescopes, would assume they are going to L1 since no need to refurbish them.

Yay for double Hubble 2.0!
And this is a good reminder that just because one of your fellow space enthusiasts occasionally voices doubts about the SpaceX schedule announcements or is cautious about believing SpaceX has licked a problem before actually seeing proof that's true, it doesn't mean they hate SpaceX.

Offline Antares

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #9 on: 06/04/2012 04:36 PM »
From the NYT article: "Instead of requiring an expensive launch to a solar orbit, the telescope can operate in geosynchronous Earth orbit...."
If I like something on NSF, it's probably because I know it to be accurate.  Every once in a while, it's just something I agree with.  Facts generally receive the former.

Offline Jim

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #10 on: 06/04/2012 04:37 PM »
From the NYT article: "Instead of requiring an expensive launch to a solar orbit, the telescope can operate in geosynchronous Earth orbit...."

that doesn't make sense.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #11 on: 06/04/2012 04:55 PM »
Not technology but a lot of hardware

I would assume that the major item would be two Satellite bus

Instruments.
« Last Edit: 06/04/2012 04:57 PM by Blackstar »

Offline jnc

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #12 on: 06/04/2012 04:58 PM »
From the NYT article: "Instead of requiring an expensive launch to a solar orbit, the telescope can operate in geosynchronous Earth orbit...."

that doesn't make sense.

Maybe the data rate would be such that it would overload TDRS, and they want a direct link to a high-capacity earth station? (Astronomy instruments produce ridiculous amounts of data these days, I gather.)

Can't think of any other reason offhand to prefer geosynchronous. You'd still be crossing the Earth's shadow boundary (which tends to unsettle the Hubble, ISTR) as the Earth itself rotates, etc.

It's also possible the reporter got confused (even the NYT - I've found errors in stories they did in my area of expertise).

Noel
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Offline Jim

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #13 on: 06/04/2012 05:10 PM »

Maybe the data rate would be such that it would overload TDRS, and they want a direct link to a high-capacity earth station?


TDRS isn't used for either orbit. 

The "doesn't make sense" is that "solar orbit", which means L2 (i believe) takes less energy than GSO

Offline Proponent

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #14 on: 06/04/2012 05:11 PM »
Still, curious to see whether NASA can muster funds together to launch one or both telescopes, would assume they are going to L1 since no need to refurbish them.

I doubt there's much point in sending these telescopes to L2.  If they're spysats, they presumably operate in the visible or near-IR, where proximity to the earth isn't such a problem.  JWST is designed to operate far into the IR, so it must be kept very cool and far from the relatively warm earth.
« Last Edit: 06/04/2012 05:12 PM by Proponent »

Offline Jim

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #15 on: 06/04/2012 05:16 PM »

I doubt there's much point in sending these telescopes to L2.

It isn't just heat, it is viewing.   Most telescopes would prefer L2, where the earth is a small portion of the view.  HST wouldn't be in LEO if it wasn't for the shuttle 

Offline William Graham

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #16 on: 06/04/2012 05:41 PM »
So they are sitting in an ITT clean room, does this mean Lockheed (KH-11 and beyond) heritage and not the canceled Boeing FIA imaging birds?

The article describes them as being "as big as...the Hubble Space Telescope". Assuming that is correct, and not a misunderstanding or exaggeration by the media, that would suggest that it is KH-11, as KH-11 is rumoured to resemble the HST.

At around the time of FIA-O's cancellation an Atlas V 521 which had been slated to carry and NRO satellite (NROL-29) disappeared from the launch schedule. There were also reports describing FIA satellites as being far smaller than their predecessors. So I suspect NROL-29 was to be an FIA spacecraft. By contrast, the last KH-11 flew on a Delta IVH.

The strange thing is that the KH-11 still seems to be in production; the last launch was NROL-49 last year, and it seems likely that NROL-65, scheduled to fly next year, is also one.


As for orbit, it would take a Delta IVH just to put one of these into LEO, so putting one of these to L2, or anywhere else for that matter, would require a far more powerful rocket than anything currently flying (although SLS could be ready by the time these satellites have been developed).
« Last Edit: 06/04/2012 05:45 PM by William Graham »

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #17 on: 06/04/2012 05:41 PM »
Not to pull a Jim,

But this should be a large heavy Telescope.
How much did Hubble weigh again?
What are the chances it will weigh less?
KH-11's require a Delta Heavy for LEO.
So other than a Delta Heavy, what exists to launch this into an orbit beyond LEO? Will a Delta Heavy be able to launch one of these to L2?

Now I will give you, KH-11's is believed to have launched a large amount of fuel for orbital maneuvers. I just think it will be very expensive to put one of these in HEO or L2. Could a Titan 34D/IV have sent Hubble to L2? I really don't know the answer, it is just setting off a flag.

Also,
Quote
Can't think of any other reason offhand to prefer geosynchronous. You'd still be crossing the Earth's shadow boundary (which tends to unsettle the Hubble, ISTR) as the Earth itself rotates, etc.

But that is not everyday, only periods twice a year. SDO's inclined GEO orbit is inclined such that it minimizes the eclipse season. Not as ideal as L2, but not as much of a handicap.
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Offline jnc

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #18 on: 06/04/2012 05:57 PM »
TDRS isn't used for either orbit. 

I was meaning 'as opposed to Hubble' (which does use TDRS).

Downlinking data is a significant issue, see for instance James Webb Space Telescope L2 Communications for Science Data Processing; in "4. High Data Rate With 26 Ghz Ka-Band" it actually says:

"One of the main challenges ... is in the spacecraft to earth communications. Geostationary satellites have straight forward satellite to earth communications"

and then it goes on to discuss having to build their own receiving station, having only a limited number of hours of downlink per day because of limited ground stations, etc.

And then factor in that a next-generation instrument would generate even more data... Getting the data back really is a factor in where you put the instrument. (E.g. farther out means you need more power, or a bigger receiving antenna, etc, etc.)

Noel
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Offline cozmicray

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Re: NASA gets two military spy telescopes for astronomy
« Reply #19 on: 06/04/2012 05:59 PM »
The instrument determines IR. Visible, etc not optics?


Put the scope in orbit close to ISS.
teleRobotic/robotic repair and upgrade
EVA repair and upgrade

SpaceX will sell you a rocket to get it up?

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