Author Topic: Satellite signals intelligence - recent  (Read 3988 times)

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2457
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #20 on: 09/16/2017 10:54 PM »
Here:

« Last Edit: 09/16/2017 11:00 PM by Blackstar »

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2457
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #21 on: 09/16/2017 11:07 PM »
Look what I came across

So there's something odd/unusual about this program's classification level. I don't know exactly what it is, but I suspect that it is something like the spacecraft was never classified, but the payload (meaning the internal electronics) were classified.

The reason is that there were a lot of images of this spacecraft floating around in unclassified settings almost from the start. For instance, Aviation Week famously published a drawing of the spacecraft on the MSD back around 1976 or so. And in the 1990s I knew somebody who had gotten a public tour of NRL and he said that there were stickers showing several variants of this spacecraft stuck on the outside of one of their vacuum test chambers. Plus, NRL actually released a chart in the 1990s that showed the MSD and satellites on a timeline. Several years ago, somebody else told me about taking a public tour of NRL and seeing stickers of another classified satellite stuck on the outside of the vacuum chamber. Plus, the diagram that I posted above is from an unclassified payload user's guide to that launch vehicle.

So my guess is that NRL has handled its security classification differently than the NRO has for its classified satellites, and the overall image of the spacecraft is unclassified, but its mission and internal equipment are classified. And perhaps some later versions were classified because of their antenna configurations.

Offline Skyrocket

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2082
  • Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • Liked: 276
  • Likes Given: 69
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #22 on: 09/17/2017 09:19 AM »
Look what I came across

So there's something odd/unusual about this program's classification level. I don't know exactly what it is, but I suspect that it is something like the spacecraft was never classified, but the payload (meaning the internal electronics) were classified.

The reason is that there were a lot of images of this spacecraft floating around in unclassified settings almost from the start. For instance, Aviation Week famously published a drawing of the spacecraft on the MSD back around 1976 or so. And in the 1990s I knew somebody who had gotten a public tour of NRL and he said that there were stickers showing several variants of this spacecraft stuck on the outside of one of their vacuum test chambers. Plus, NRL actually released a chart in the 1990s that showed the MSD and satellites on a timeline. Several years ago, somebody else told me about taking a public tour of NRL and seeing stickers of another classified satellite stuck on the outside of the vacuum chamber. Plus, the diagram that I posted above is from an unclassified payload user's guide to that launch vehicle.

So my guess is that NRL has handled its security classification differently than the NRO has for its classified satellites, and the overall image of the spacecraft is unclassified, but its mission and internal equipment are classified. And perhaps some later versions were classified because of their antenna configurations.

This is similar to the also NRL built GRAB and POPPY satellites, where images and photos existed before the declassification of the program, but we did not know about the SIGINT payloads.

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2457
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #23 on: 09/17/2017 06:24 PM »
This is similar to the also NRL built GRAB and POPPY satellites, where images and photos existed before the declassification of the program, but we did not know about the SIGINT payloads.

Yes, my thoughts as well.

I think this is an institutional thing--NRL has its own culture of how it addresses security, and that is different from how NRO did it.

One other thought is that now that some of this stuff is getting declassified, the NRL has to submit their documents to NRO for declassification, and NRO is applying different standards than the NRL did originally. Note that some of the POPPY images that have been released have had stuff like antennas deleted off of them (or they have deleted an entire photo).


Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2457
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #24 on: 09/17/2017 09:03 PM »
NRL has its own culture of how it addresses security, and that is different from how NRO did it.
Unsurprising.

Like also AFCRL, NRL has to have a significant public presence, otherwise they cannot get the outside involvement necessary to function, unlike NRO/others more unique function.

It might be interesting to dig more deeply into that. I think that a key aspect might be that NRL has always had a strong science component to their work. In the case of GRAB they actually used their scientific work as a cover for their SIGINT mission. It may be that an inherent part of their culture is scientific and that leans against them classifying everything, or at least making classification their default position.

Anyway, I have suspected that there is a lot of stuff about the above program that never had a classification stamp and could have gotten out into the wild without much trouble. For instance, if somebody was making stickers showing their spacecraft and slapping them onto the vacuum chamber, there was nothing to prevent them from taking those stickers home and giving them away.

Offline gosnold

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 414
  • Liked: 111
  • Likes Given: 892
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #25 on: 09/24/2017 04:01 PM »
I took out my ruler and did some measurements on the USA-202 picture published by The Intercept some time ago:

https://satelliteobservation.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/a-radiotelescope-in-the-sky-the-usa-202-orion-satellite/

There's also an analysis of the capabilities of the satellite, especially regarding geolocation. They are really impressive and their publication must have caused quite a stir in some circles.

Online Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10990
  • Liked: 2457
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #26 on: 09/24/2017 05:41 PM »
I never believed the 100-meter diameter estimates. They seemed to be extrapolations based upon assumed manufacturing capabilities, but they were never attached to an assessment of technical requirements. Simply put: did any antenna need to be that big? Nobody answered that.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2017 10:26 PM by Blackstar »

Offline zubenelgenubi

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1181
  • Arc to Arcturus, then Spike to Spica
  • Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Liked: 251
  • Likes Given: 733
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #27 on: 09/24/2017 08:26 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?
« Last Edit: 09/24/2017 08:29 PM by zubenelgenubi »
Support your local planetarium!

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8265
  • UK
  • Liked: 1339
  • Likes Given: 168
Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #28 on: 09/24/2017 10:38 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2017 10:39 PM by Star One »

Offline Skyrocket

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2082
  • Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • Liked: 276
  • Likes Given: 69
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #29 on: 09/24/2017 10:55 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.

As far as i know, there is no solid source for the "Mentor" designation. The Budget documents show the name Orion.

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8265
  • UK
  • Liked: 1339
  • Likes Given: 168
Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #30 on: 09/24/2017 10:57 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.

As far as i know, there is no solid source for the "Mentor" designation. The Budget documents show the name Orion.

That leads onto another question that being where on Earth did the Mentor designation originate from. By the way in my above response I meant the document showed the name Orion not Mentor as you say.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2017 10:58 PM by Star One »

Offline Skyrocket

  • Extreme Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2082
  • Frankfurt am Main, Germany
  • Liked: 276
  • Likes Given: 69
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #31 on: 09/24/2017 11:07 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.

As far as i know, there is no solid source for the "Mentor" designation. The Budget documents show the name Orion.

That leads onto another question that being where on Earth did the Mentor designation originate from. By the way in my above response I meant the document showed the name Orion not Mentor as you say.

Yes, the doc said Orion - same as in the docs from the Intercept's Menwith Hill article.

Off the top of my head, i would say i have seen the name Mentor first in a drawing by Charles Vick, but i need to check my archives.

The name Magnum had leaked before the first launch, so apparently the series was launched from the beginning as Orion.
« Last Edit: 09/24/2017 11:09 PM by Skyrocket »

Offline Michael Cassutt

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 372
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Liked: 31
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #32 on: 09/25/2017 04:45 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.

As far as i know, there is no solid source for the "Mentor" designation. The Budget documents show the name Orion.

That leads onto another question that being where on Earth did the Mentor designation originate from. By the way in my above response I meant the document showed the name Orion not Mentor as you say.

Yes, the doc said Orion - same as in the docs from the Intercept's Menwith Hill article.

Off the top of my head, i would say i have seen the name Mentor first in a drawing by Charles Vick, but i need to check my archives.

The name Magnum had leaked before the first launch, so apparently the series was launched from the beginning as Orion.

MAGNUM was definitely in the news around the time of the first ORION launch in 1985 -- MENTOR appeared about a decade later, and my notes suggest the source was John Pike or Jeffrey Richelson. Of course, both frequently exchanged info, and both were in touch with Charles Vick, too.

Michael Cassutt

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8265
  • UK
  • Liked: 1339
  • Likes Given: 168
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #33 on: 09/25/2017 04:57 PM »
Has anyone ever used the observed magnitudes of Orion satellites to estimate the diameter of the primary dish?

I've read that they are a few magnitudes brighter than "typical" GEO satellites: typically +8.
***

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.

As far as i know, there is no solid source for the "Mentor" designation. The Budget documents show the name Orion.

That leads onto another question that being where on Earth did the Mentor designation originate from. By the way in my above response I meant the document showed the name Orion not Mentor as you say.

Yes, the doc said Orion - same as in the docs from the Intercept's Menwith Hill article.

Off the top of my head, i would say i have seen the name Mentor first in a drawing by Charles Vick, but i need to check my archives.

The name Magnum had leaked before the first launch, so apparently the series was launched from the beginning as Orion.

MAGNUM was definitely in the news around the time of the first ORION launch in 1985 -- MENTOR appeared about a decade later, and my notes suggest the source was John Pike or Jeffrey Richelson. Of course, both frequently exchanged info, and both were in touch with Charles Vick, too.

Michael Cassutt

How does the name Mentor relate to Orion, is it a nickname or are the names used in some interchangeable way?

Offline Michael Cassutt

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 372
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Liked: 31
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #34 on: 09/25/2017 05:27 PM »

Also, is the Snowden documents leak the source for deprecating the name Mentor for these satellites?
[/quote]

In amongst his initial leaks there was a document that gave the program names for various satellites including these.
[/quote]

As far as i know, there is no solid source for the "Mentor" designation. The Budget documents show the name Orion.
[/quote]

That leads onto another question that being where on Earth did the Mentor designation originate from. By the way in my above response I meant the document showed the name Orion not Mentor as you say.
[/quote]

Yes, the doc said Orion - same as in the docs from the Intercept's Menwith Hill article.

Off the top of my head, i would say i have seen the name Mentor first in a drawing by Charles Vick, but i need to check my archives.

The name Magnum had leaked before the first launch, so apparently the series was launched from the beginning as Orion.
[/quote]

MAGNUM was definitely in the news around the time of the first ORION launch in 1985 -- MENTOR appeared about a decade later, and my notes suggest the source was John Pike or Jeffrey Richelson. Of course, both frequently exchanged info, and both were in touch with Charles Vick, too.

Michael Cassutt
[/quote]

How does the name Mentor relate to Orion, is it a nickname or are the names used in some interchangeable way?
[/quote]

Going back to the posts upthread, I would say neither -- I'm pretty sure it was a single mention in print circa 1995 that has just lingered without any supporting confirmation, much like the spurious attachment of "MERKUR" to the Soviet Almaz program return spacecraft.

MC

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31351
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 9628
  • Likes Given: 299
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #35 on: 09/25/2017 05:31 PM »
How does the name Mentor relate to Orion, is it a nickname or are the names used in some interchangeable way?

Per Gunter's page

http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/orion-5_nro.htm

Geostationary orbit SIGINT Rhyolite-Aquacade-Magnum-Orion

It looks like some thought Mentor was the next name or series.

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8265
  • UK
  • Liked: 1339
  • Likes Given: 168
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #36 on: 09/25/2017 05:47 PM »
How does the name Mentor relate to Orion, is it a nickname or are the names used in some interchangeable way?

Per Gunter's page

http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/orion-5_nro.htm

Geostationary orbit SIGINT Rhyolite-Aquacade-Magnum-Orion

It looks like some thought Mentor was the next name or series.

When in fact they are called Advanced Orion.

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8265
  • UK
  • Liked: 1339
  • Likes Given: 168
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #37 on: 09/25/2017 05:57 PM »
SN’s article on the launch of NROL-42 comes complete with a free history of such satellites including their remarkably long lives.

Quote
The NRO began sending up eavesdropping satellites to Molniya orbit, known by the codename Jumpseat, in 1971 to surveil Soviet radar transmissions.

After five successful launches in the 1970s and early 1980s, the lineage moved to three much-larger Trumpet satellites launched by Titan 4 rockets in the 1990s. Two follow-on missions, requiring smaller boosters, were lofted a decade ago by Vandenberg’s first Delta 4 and Atlas 5 launches.

The newest generation likely started with the NROL-35 launch on the more powerful Atlas 5-541 in 2014.

“U.S. signals intelligence satellites have demonstrated long service lives. Recent observations by my colleagues Peter Wakelin and Brad Young reveal that all six previously launched Trumpets continue to maintain operational orbits. They consist of the first generation satellites launched in 1994, 1995 and 1997, and the follow-on satellites launched in 2006, 2008 and 2014,” said respected satellite observer Ted Molczan.

“Whether NROL-42 is intended to grow the fleet, or replace one of the older members remains to be seen.”

Quote
** PREVIOUS TRUMPET LAUNCHES **

Trumpet 1 -- Titan 4-Centaur -- May 3, 1994
Trumpet 2 -- Titan 4-Centaur -- July 10, 1995
Trumpet 3 -- Titan 4-Centaur -- Nov. 8, 1997

Trumpet F/O 1-1 -- Delta 4M+(4,2) -- June 27, 2006
Trumpet F/O 1-2 -- Atlas 5-411 -- March 13, 2008

Trumpet F/O 2-1 -- Atlas 5-541 -- Dec. 12, 2014
Trumpet F/O 2-2 -- Atlas 5-541 -- Sept. 23, 2017

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/09/24/signals-intelligence-gatherer-successfully-launched-by-powerful-atlas-5-rocket/

Offline gosnold

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 414
  • Liked: 111
  • Likes Given: 892
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #38 on: 10/08/2017 07:57 PM »
Some interesting info from the Air Force EELV RFP (more details there):

The high-altitude SIGINT missions are Molnya for 5t, and direct to GEO for 7t with an extended 5m fairing(GEO2). Other missions might also include SIGINT.
« Last Edit: 10/08/2017 07:58 PM by gosnold »

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 31351
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 9628
  • Likes Given: 299
Re: Satellite signals intelligence - recent
« Reply #39 on: 10/08/2017 09:24 PM »
The high-altitude SIGINT missions are Molnya for 5t, and direct to GEO for 7t with an extended 5m fairing(GEO2). Other missions might also include SIGINT.

That would be the LEO mission
« Last Edit: 10/08/2017 09:24 PM by Jim »

Tags: