Author Topic: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions  (Read 5515 times)

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #20 on: 08/11/2017 10:33 PM »
As a side-note, I enjoyed the Babylon 5 references that Dwayne used to work into his article titles for The Space Review.

I hope it would be possible to continue that theme, if the author desires?

Just a thought.

Wow, somebody actually noticed?! (I've also used song lyrics and book titles in the past.)

I have in the works a lengthy article--probably not for The Space Review--about the unique GAMBIT Dual Mode mission of 1982. The title is "All Alone in the Night."



Offline Arch Admiral

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #21 on: 08/12/2017 01:01 AM »
Sometime in late 1977 I was at a social event in Honolulu that was mostly astronomers - except for one obviously military guy whose shirt said "6594th Test Group" in big letters, and the unit's (unofficial) insignia. I remember someone asked him "Are there 6,593 other Test Groups?".

The only thing covert about these units was that they didn't have a press officer cranking out releases about every minor event. Since Hickham AFB and Honolulu International Airport share the same runways and taxiways, their aircraft were taking off and landing in plain view of thousands of tourists all the time. And the big tracking antenna radome on top made it clear that they weren't ordinary Hercs. These planes should have been located at NAS Barbers Point alongside the Navy's secret units, but of course interservice rivalry prevented that.

Offline Jim

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #22 on: 08/12/2017 01:20 AM »
The insignia was official.
Radomes?. JC-130 didn't have them.
« Last Edit: 08/12/2017 01:21 AM by Jim »

Online Opie

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #23 on: 08/12/2017 03:54 AM »
No, but the HC-130s used to refuel the Jolly's did.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #24 on: 08/12/2017 07:29 PM »
Sometime in late 1977 I was at a social event in Honolulu that was mostly astronomers - except for one obviously military guy whose shirt said "6594th Test Group" in big letters, and the unit's (unofficial) insignia. I remember someone asked him "Are there 6,593 other Test Groups?".

The only thing covert about these units was that they didn't have a press officer cranking out releases about every minor event. Since Hickham AFB and Honolulu International Airport share the same runways and taxiways, their aircraft were taking off and landing in plain view of thousands of tourists all the time. And the big tracking antenna radome on top made it clear that they weren't ordinary Hercs. These planes should have been located at NAS Barbers Point alongside the Navy's secret units, but of course interservice rivalry prevented that.

The unit's connection to recovering satellite capsules was openly acknowledged with the Discoverer 14 catch back in 1961. It was an open secret what they did, and the fact that they were still doing it in 1984 was a tip off that it was an important mission. I think that monitoring the unit's activities would have been a good indication that they were conducting recovery operations. They usually sent quite a few planes out for each recovery, so launching a whole bunch of C-130s would have been a sign. That said, the planes spaced out a bit, so they might have launched three and then another three an hour later, so it would have required some careful monitoring.


Offline Jim

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #25 on: 08/12/2017 07:59 PM »
No, but the HC-130s used to refuel the Jolly's did.

They were less than 30% of the test group's fleet and weren't used on every recovery.

Offline Jester

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #26 on: 08/15/2017 08:23 PM »
The insignia was official.
Radomes?. JC-130 didn't have them.

some did.
http://6594thtestgroup.org/images/57-0526.jpg

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #27 on: 08/16/2017 11:06 PM »
The insignia was official.
Radomes?. JC-130 didn't have them.

some did.
http://6594thtestgroup.org/images/57-0526.jpg

Wasn't that direction finder equipment? I think that was antennas for picking up the radio beacon from the SRVs as they descended.

By the way, that test group's records have been preserved and are at Peterson AFB. I went through some of them a number of years ago. There was some neat stuff in there, but they were not set up to support researchers. They had things like reports on the recovery rigs installed inside the aircraft and a few mishap reports. I remember one report about how they caught an SRV--probably a training flight--and it actually flew up on its cable above the aircraft (although this would have been behind the aircraft). I don't think the report explained why that happened, but I would guess that the pilot did something wrong in his approach.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #28 on: 12/12/2017 03:00 AM »
http://thespacereview.com/article/3390/1

Black ops and the shuttle (part 3-1): Recovering spent HEXAGON reconnaissance satellites with the space shuttle
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, December 11, 2017


The James Bond movie You Only Live Twice started with a covert satellite sneaking up on an American spacecraft in orbit, swallowing it like an alligator and smuggling it back to Earth. But by the early 1980s, the American National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) began contemplating launching a space shuttle north out of Florida, dropping its solid rocket boosters off of Daytona Beach, and heading inland over the mid-Atlantic states overflying Cleveland, Ohio, and Canada. Once in orbit, it would open its payload bay doors, grab hold of a top-secret American HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite the size of a school bus, and bring it back to Earth. It was an audacious plan, not only because it would overfly the American and Canadian landmasses on its way to orbit, but also because it would first show up on Soviet radar as it rose over the North Pole—and they might be a little upset. “The political problems were agreed to be most difficult,” an NRO memo declared with remarkable understatement.

Offline Hog

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #29 on: 12/12/2017 04:13 PM »
Wow, a Polar launch to the North from Florida. 

1)Since the Orbiter is launching "light", aside from the cradle would actually cradle "Big-Bird", and landing "heavy" would the standard issue 4 segment SRBs be sufficient for a Northern launch from KSC?  The FWCs were needed for Polar launches to the South from SLC-6, Cali, to take sufficient cargo to orbit.

2)Drop the boosters off of Daytona Beach, where would the ET release take place?  The pictured trajectory goes directly over my house in Southern Ontario, Canada. One of the most densely populated areas of Canada is a roughly 100km to the East. After that though, actual population density is very sparse.  We OK'd Canadian launch vehicles to be fielded to launch US nuclear anti-aircraft warheads and we OK'd US cruise missile tests over Canadian soil. I'd guess that the political hurdles with Canada wouldn't be the "No-Go" political issue, but I could be totally wrong. I'd think the Classified status of the mission would help in this respect.

A quick look at the launch path map, it appears that there is a target rich environment for whatever the equivalent of the ECAL/BDA(East Coast Abort Landing/BermuDa Abort) capability was in a post-Challenger world.  RTLS(Return To Launch Site) abort planning would be "interesting" to say the least.

And yes, the Soviets would have a serious "blip" on their screens as the stack came up "over the pole". And being a classified mission, launch details would be classified, so a friendly call to the Kremlin would be out of the question.  This is one instance where forewarning of a launch, while blowing a portion of that missions OPSEC, can actually protect the PERSEC of your nations populace.  There are numerous examples of initial reports of missile launches of various scales, on both sides.ie-the 1983 Soviet incident involving the Soviet Oko satellites(Molniya/GSO) which mistook sunlight interacting with high altitude clouds as a US missile attack.

Apollo–Soyuz Test Project flew in mid-1975.
3)Any idea what year this STS/Hexagon presentation was first given?

Thanks for posting Blackstar, fascinating stuff.  That Space Shuttle had many possible uses.
« Last Edit: 12/12/2017 04:17 PM by Hog »
Paul

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Re: Top Secret Space Shuttle Missions
« Reply #30 on: 12/13/2017 05:08 AM »
This idea that a polar-orbit launch over the North Pole could be mistaken for an ICBM attack crops up all the time, but it is completely mistaken. The ICBM minimum-energy trajectory is about 600 miles up as it crosses the pole and can't be mistaken for a LEO launch that will be less than 150 miles up. The ICBM will pop up over the radar horizon at a much longer range, and a short tracking arc quickly determines the impact point. The orbital target, of course, has no predicted impact point.

The only confusion might arise with a depressed-trajectory or fractional-orbit system. The only such system was the Soviet 9K69 "R-36O" Global Rocket which was deployed in 18 silos at Baikonur from 1969 to 1983. This put its 5MT warhead into a very low orbit over the SOUTH pole, and brought it down on target with a retro-rocket. Its location at Baikonur suggest that its designers actually did hope that its launches would be misidentified as an orbital launch -- but I have never seen this claim in print.


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