Author Topic: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)  (Read 26907 times)

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Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« on: 03/03/2022 12:50 pm »
I just found some DMSP histories that I have been looking for. I have some other stuff that I will add to this thread, covering it up to the late 1970s or so.

The original DMSP started under the National Reconnaissance Office and was highly classified. It gradually moved out of that black world, although the origins were classified until the late 1990s. There are books from the 1970s and 1980s noting that although there was a Block IV version of the spacecraft, there was no information on Blocks 1-3.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2022 12:54 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #1 on: 03/03/2022 12:55 pm »
This is Cargill Hall's history of the early DMSP, started under the NRO.
« Last Edit: 03/03/2022 11:18 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #2 on: 03/29/2022 01:58 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4357/1

Dark clouds: The secret meteorological satellite program (part 1)
The RAND Corporation and cloud reconnaissance

by Dwayne Day
Monday, March 28, 2022

Amrom Katz was a short, energetic, outspoken physicist who worked for the RAND Corporation in the 1950s. RAND was located in the Los Angeles oceanside suburb of Santa Monica, California. It was a “think tank” where engineers, scientists, and policy experts studied advanced technologies and ideas for the US Air Force. At lunch, RAND’s thinkers would sip margaritas at a beachside bar and then return to their offices to think about nuclear war, earning the moniker “wizards of Armageddon.”
In this particular draft, Katz recommended that the Air Force begin a “cloud reconnaissance satellite” as soon as possible. Katz suggested that the service specifically not call it a “weather satellite,” because an accurate title would create problems.

Much of what RAND did during the 1950s concerned developing strategies for targeting, using, and protecting Air Force strategic weapons. But the think tank also had a small group of experts devoted to the subject of strategic reconnaissance and Katz and his thinking buddy Merton Davies were the lead wizards in this area. Although Katz was rarely the first person to come up with an idea, he was often the first person to study it in a comprehensive manner and recommend what the Air Force should do. Sometimes, but less often than Katz liked, they took his advice. In March 1959, Katz wrote an internal RAND “draft” document about weather satellites.

RAND drafts were actually discussion papers, not intended for external release, and unlike most bureaucratic documents, Katz’s drafts were often filled with wry, slightly sarcastic remarks about the military bureaucracy. RAND was far from the Washington power corridors, which was disadvantageous in some ways. But as Katz once wrote, from their detached perch above the bureaucratic fray, “sometimes the view is tremendous.”

In this particular draft, Katz recommended that the Air Force begin a “cloud reconnaissance satellite” as soon as possible. Katz suggested that the service specifically not call it a “weather satellite,” because an accurate title would create problems. “If we claim this is a weather or meteorological satellite,” he wrote, “various political and jurisdictional hackles at NASA and DoD and U.S. Weather Bureau levels will rise to the occasion. This we really don’t need. We feel that sleeping hackles should be left lying.”[1]

Katz also outlined the reasons why an Air Force “cloud reconnaissance satellite” would be useful for the Air Force. But what he did not know was that not only were the bureaucratic squabbles more complex than he imagined, but in spring 1959 the Air Force was strangely indifferent to the idea of a military meteorological satellite. It would take several years for this attitude to change in the Air Force, but Katz's arguments were prescient. Amrom Katz was being reminded of something he knew only too well: it was lonely being ahead of your time.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #3 on: 03/29/2022 02:23 am »
I skimmed the Cargill Hall history. It mentions the importance of determining cloud cover to reduce the percentage of CORONA images that had little value. Weren't there similar concerns about Flying Tiger (or similar) piloted aircraft undertaking dangerous missions overflying mainland China, only to return home with images of clouds rather than ground installations?
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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #4 on: 03/29/2022 10:02 am »
This is Cargill Hall's history of the early DMSP, started under the NRO.

And  here's colour version that  was eventually published by NRO (attached) as one of the CSNR legacy history series, see also https://www.nro.gov/History-and-Studies/Center-for-the-Study-of-National-Reconnaissance/Organizational-and-Program-Histories/

Was interested to see Vernor Suomi (of SEOS among other things) involved with AF metsats right from the start, page 8.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #5 on: 03/29/2022 01:07 pm »
I skimmed the Cargill Hall history. It mentions the importance of determining cloud cover to reduce the percentage of CORONA images that had little value. Weren't there similar concerns about Flying Tiger (or similar) piloted aircraft undertaking dangerous missions overflying mainland China, only to return home with images of clouds rather than ground installations?

From the article:

"The think tank addressed many other subjects as well and, in December 1956, RAND produced another report that attempted to quantify how reconnaissance in general was affected by different weather conditions. The report had been prompted in part by the first reconnaissance robots, an aerial balloon project known as “Genetrix.” Genetrix involved releasing hundreds of balloons carrying cameras in Europe. Prevailing winds at high altitudes carried the balloons over the Soviet Union and upon reaching the Pacific Ocean they were commanded to drop their camera payloads for retrieval. Most of the balloons never made it, but for the few that did, many of their photographs were degraded by clouds."

So the interest in "cloud reconnaissance" was prompted in part by how clouds affected balloon photographic reconnaissance missions. I am sure that this issue came up regarding U-2 flights, as you mention. Mission planners would want reasonable assurance that there were no clouds over the targets before they launched their missions.

As the article also notes, different mission planners cared about different things. Bombing missions cared more about winds (that could affect bombing accuracy) than clouds.

Looking back at all of this, it was really a long-term learning process. The most clearly defined requirement for the NRO was cloud photography so they could plan their own reconnaissance missions. The USAF had more vaguely-defined requirements. And at least initially, USAF used Tiros data (the first Tiros satellites were launched in April and November 1960). More of this will be discussed in part 2 and 3. Once the satellites were regularly flying, more users could access the data and learn what they could do with the data. And that refined their requirements.

In 1959-1960, USAF started to get interested in a military weather satellite for overall weather prediction. USAF did not get approval for their own satellite. Instead, the plan was for a Tiros follow-on satellite that would incorporate military requirements. As that got delayed, the NRO came in and created their small "interim" program that was supposed to operate until the follow-on became available. When the follow-on (eventually named Nimbus) got further delayed, the NRO satellite--DMSP--became permanent and was transferred from NRO to USAF.

There are still a lot of questions about how all of this worked (and I won't be answering all of them in these articles). For instance, the early DMSP data was highly classified, but it was processed by Strategic Air Command. So how did SAC use that data for its own needs without revealing the source? I assume that they had a way of incorporating it into their own global weather forecasts even though it was coming from NRO satellites. Because they also had Tiros data, at least at one level people knew that satellites were providing weather data, although few knew that there were also classified satellites providing some of the weather data. So that may have made things a bit easier. Put another way, if a pilot asked "Where did this weather data come from?" the answer could be "space," and everybody would simply assume that meant Tiros.

Also, in the 1950s, the people who thought about weather satellites figured that the only instrument they would have would be a television camera. By the 1960s, there were other instruments available to provide additional data. So the satellites became more useful.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #6 on: 03/29/2022 02:29 pm »

There are still a lot of questions about how all of this worked (and I won't be answering all of them in these articles). For instance, the early DMSP data was highly classified, but it was processed by Strategic Air Command. So how did SAC use that data for its own needs without revealing the source? I assume that they had a way of incorporating it into their own global weather forecasts even though it was coming from NRO satellites. Because they also had Tiros data, at least at one level people knew that satellites were providing weather data, although few knew that there were also classified satellites providing some of the weather data. So that may have made things a bit easier. Put another way, if a pilot asked "Where did this weather data come from?" the answer could be "space," and everybody would simply assume that meant Tiros.

 

Did it work same way as an NRO writer describes here https://www.nro.gov/Media/News/News-Display/Article/1906117/the-rescue-of-apollo-11/

[Edit: Sounds like an ingenious cover story involving the Vietnam War and the Russians ... the former makes sense at least:

"Before long, designers, technicians, and engineers developed a series of very successful defense meteorological “birds” and ground stations, like the one at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam, where Brandli first worked with the DMSP Block 4 satellite in 1966.

Brandli was not cleared for Corona while he served in Vietnam, so he was told a cover story. “I was always under the impression that we launched those weather satellites and systems for the war… People would ask, ‘why is it so classified?’ They said [it was] because we signed an agreement with the Russians that we would share meteorological information,” he explained.

It wasn’t until after the weather expert left Vietnam to assume new duties in support of the Corona program that he learned of DMSP’s primary mission: “When I went to Hawaii in ‘67, it all came together,” Brandli recalled. “I say, Holy Smokes, that’s what this weather satellite is for—to support Corona! We wanted the best weather information so we could turn the cameras on over the Soviet Union and China and Cuba.”

At Hickam, Brandli’s weather reports and forecasts ensured that film return capsules deorbited from CORONA satellites returned to clear skies over the Pacific Ocean. The film return capsules, known as “buckets,” descended by parachute and were captured in mid-air by specially outfitted cargo aircraft. Few people were aware of what the Air Force meteorologist really did. “It was so top secret that I wasn’t allowed to show anybody… In the 6594th Test Group that ran the C-130s that caught the film canister, there was only one guy who knew… The Vice Commander wasn’t even briefed. It was wicked hush-hush,” Brandli recalled."]
« Last Edit: 03/29/2022 09:06 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #7 on: 03/29/2022 06:32 pm »
This is Cargill Hall's history of the early DMSP, started under the NRO.

And  here's colour version that  was eventually published by NRO (attached) as one of the CSNR legacy history series, see also https://www.nro.gov/History-and-Studies/Center-for-the-Study-of-National-Reconnaissance/Organizational-and-Program-Histories/

Was interested to see Vernor Suomi (of SEOS among other things) involved with AF metsats right from the start, page 8.

Interesting that the official history does not include artwork of the Block 1-3 satellites. Well, by "interesting" I mean that they obviously forgot to include it.

I had an amusing incident about that image back in the early 2000s. I submitted a FOIA request to LA AFB for an image of the Block 1 DMSP and they sent it to me. I published an article with it. A month or so after the article appeared I got a phone call from NRO asking where I got that image. I told them. I cannot remember if I scanned it for them.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #8 on: 03/31/2022 03:39 pm »
Part 2 of my article picks up the story in the late 1950s. RCA was one of the losing bidders for the Air Force reconnaissance satellite program. They proposed a TV-based satellite. After losing that, they offered their satellite to the Army. It was initially approved as a reconnaissance satellite, but then changed over to a "cloud reconnaissance" or weather satellite. The Army project was then transferred to NASA and became the Tiros weather satellite.

Tiros had a camera that stuck out of the bottom of the rotating satellite. (I think they soon added a second TV camera.) There were a couple of problems. First, there was no way to determine direction, which made it really hard to figure out what the photos were showing. Were the clouds moving west to east or north to south? I don't know how they solved that problem.

The second problem was that the satellite wobbled, so some images showed more space and some showed more earth. They determined that this was caused by the Earth's magnetic field. You can see an image here of a test satellite in a magnetic cage to determine what was happening.


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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #9 on: 03/31/2022 05:19 pm »

The second problem was that the satellite wobbled, so some images showed more space and some showed more earth. They determined that this was caused by the Earth's magnetic field. You can see an image here of a test satellite in a magnetic cage to determine what was happening.

It's interesting, looking at the conference paper you uploaded, that this suggested the magnetorquer idea for stabilisation. I wonder if this was its first appearance ?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #10 on: 03/31/2022 05:28 pm »

There are still a lot of questions about how all of this worked (and I won't be answering all of them in these articles). For instance, the early DMSP data was highly classified, but it was processed by Strategic Air Command. So how did SAC use that data for its own needs without revealing the source? I assume that they had a way of incorporating it into their own global weather forecasts even though it was coming from NRO satellites. Because they also had Tiros data, at least at one level people knew that satellites were providing weather data, although few knew that there were also classified satellites providing some of the weather data. So that may have made things a bit easier. Put another way, if a pilot asked "Where did this weather data come from?" the answer could be "space," and everybody would simply assume that meant Tiros.


One interesting thing in the colour version of Hall history is a footnote saying that because of the widespread use in Vietnam some details of the metsats leaked (or were tacitly acknowledged). He cites this Jan 27th 1969 Aviation Week item (page 13) which might have been the first public identification of 417 as a military metsat ?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #11 on: 03/31/2022 09:44 pm »
One interesting thing in the colour version of Hall history is a footnote saying that because of the widespread use in Vietnam some details of the metsats leaked (or were tacitly acknowledged). He cites this Jan 27th 1969 Aviation Week item (page 13) which might have been the first public identification of 417 as a military metsat ?

That's a neat little find. There are several issues it raises.

First, it's another demonstration of how good Aviation Week used to be at uncovering this stuff. There are a lot of little "Industry Observer" blurbs in old issues of Aviation Week that uncovered classified programs. Off the top of my head, there was the one that exposed the QUILL radar satellite in 1964. And then there was that amazing one from the early 1980s that referred to Hans Mark's speech and laid out a lot of details about the US photo-reconnaissance satellite program, including HEXAGON, GAMBIT, KENNEN, and even DAMON. It did not mention any of those code names, but it was a remarkably accurate overview of the imagery part of the National Reconnaissance Program. (I'm convinced that Hans Mark sat down for an interview and told them all that stuff.)

It also is relevant to the issue of how and why the NRO and other government agencies approached secrecy. The NRO's attitude was to pretty much classify everything that they could. Their justification for that approach was that small bits of information--such as the fact that USAF had a secret weather satellite program--could be used to pry out more information--such as the fact that the program was created to support reconnaissance satellites.

And my guess is that that is what happened here. It probably was an open secret that military weather satellite photos were being used in Vietnam. Pilots were looking at the photos, and they probably got passed around during briefings. So some civilian or reporter heard about that. Then that information was used by that or another reporter to contact a source in Washington and say "Hey, this satellite exists. Why was it built?" And their source said "Oh, we built that to support reconnaissance missions." I don't know that this is what happened, but it seems a likely possibility.

Just to close the circle: this approach to secrecy has its downsides too. It costs a lot of money, and it is inefficient. And it also tends to erode confidence in the overall security program. If you classify everything, people grow somewhat contemptuous of the process. If you can clearly define what is and is not classified and why, that gives people better rules to follow. But that's an argument that has been used for decades and it never wins. The US military over-classifies a lot of stuff, and nobody ever does anything about it.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #12 on: 04/01/2022 01:20 am »
Aviation Leak also noted that stealth helicopters were being tested at Area 51 long before the Bin Laden raid, stated the air traffic controllers were "amused" by descriptions of SR-71's stealth characteristics because they repeatedly saw the huge radar returns caused by it's plasma field, reported the death of the Tactical Air Command Vice Commander or Ops Officer (DO) who tried to eject from a Mig above Mach 1 at Nellis.  Craig Covault ID'ing the first Lacrosse radar satellite as the 2nd post Challenger payload was arguably the most significant...
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #13 on: 04/01/2022 09:04 am »
One interesting thing in the colour version of Hall history is a footnote saying that because of the widespread use in Vietnam some details of the metsats leaked (or were tacitly acknowledged). He cites this Jan 27th 1969 Aviation Week item (page 13) which might have been the first public identification of 417 as a military metsat ?

That's a neat little find. There are several issues it raises.

First, it's another demonstration of how good Aviation Week used to be at uncovering this stuff. There are a lot of little "Industry Observer" blurbs in old issues of Aviation Week that uncovered classified programs. Off the top of my head, there was the one that exposed the QUILL radar satellite in 1964.
Another was the one that described the key points of JUMPSEAT including its code number, 711, a year or so before launch.

Quote

And then there was that amazing one from the early 1980s that referred to Hans Mark's speech and laid out a lot of details about the US photo-reconnaissance satellite program, including HEXAGON, GAMBIT, KENNEN, and even DAMON. It did not mention any of those code names, but it was a remarkably accurate overview of the imagery part of the National Reconnaissance Program. (I'm convinced that Hans Mark sat down for an interview and told them all that stuff.)
Something like 3 or 4 pages, that one.

Quote
It also is relevant to the issue of how and why the NRO and other government agencies approached secrecy. The NRO's attitude was to pretty much classify everything that they could. Their justification for that approach was that small bits of information--such as the fact that USAF had a secret weather satellite program--could be used to pry out more information--such as the fact that the program was created to support reconnaissance satellites.

And my guess is that that is what happened here. It probably was an open secret that military weather satellite photos were being used in Vietnam. Pilots were looking at the photos, and they probably got passed around during briefings. So some civilian or reporter heard about that. Then that information was used by that or another reporter to contact a source in Washington and say "Hey, this satellite exists. Why was it built?" And their source said "Oh, we built that to support reconnaissance missions." I don't know that this is what happened, but it seems a likely possibility.


Hall himself notes that the usage in Vietnam was one reason for this increased visibility (below), what I  don't know is if the move from NRO to SAMSO in about 1965 was in part motivated by the need to use it in Vietnam.

I was by the way intrigued to see the distinction between the roles of SAFSP/Program A and SAMSO made clear in the same Aviation Week story, not sure if that was also a first, journalistically speaking ? [... and wording that with hindsight clearly alludes to fact that 417 originated with NRO and was transferred to SAMSO].
« Last Edit: 04/01/2022 09:07 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #14 on: 04/05/2022 01:07 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4362/1

Dark clouds: The secret meteorological satellite program (part 2)
The Radio Corporation of America and the Army’s reconnaissance satellite

by Dwayne Day
Monday, April 4, 2022

In late 1955, following the RAND Corporation’s Feed Back report, the US Air Force conducted a competition to select a contractor to build a television-based reconnaissance satellite. Three companies submitted proposals: Lockheed Aircraft, the Radio Corporation of America, and the Glenn L. Martin Company. Air Force officials considered the Martin proposal to be poor. The Air Force officers evaluating the other two proposals considered both of them to be impressive. Indeed, some felt that technically, the RCA proposal was the better of the two. But according to one participant, RCA’s presentation of its proposal was a disaster: the person who delivered it was unprepared and nobody from RCA’s senior management was there to state that the company valued such a relatively small contract.

“I remember sitting in a meeting with von Braun in the old Franklin Hotel in Philly when the reconnaissance satellite problem came up,” Staton wrote, “And von Braun said, ‘let’s look at clouds!’”

In contrast, Lockheed impressed everyone. The company sent its top executives, who personally expressed their commitment to making the satellite work. They also proposed using film instead of a television camera in their satellite. The film would be developed onboard the spacecraft and then scanned, and the images transmitted to Earth. Lockheed got the overall contract. But although RCA executives were unhappy about losing, they certainly did not give up. They thought they had a good satellite proposal and if the US Air Force was unwilling to fund it, RCA would find someone else who would. As Amrom Katz joked at the time, their work “left RCA with a bag full of studies to exploit elsewhere.”

RCA submitted a modified version of their satellite proposal to the Weather Bureau in the Department of Commerce, arguing that essentially the same vehicle RCA had proposed for reconnaissance could be used to photograph clouds. But the Weather Bureau was not interested. In 1957 RCA took its reconnaissance satellite proposal to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal at Huntsville, Alabama, which was developing long-range missiles. The rocket team’s leader, Wernher von Braun, liked the satellite idea and gave RCA a contract to further study the subject. He wanted RCA to evaluate a small reconnaissance satellite for the Jupiter rocket. Von Braun soon gave the company a second contract to design a satellite structure, power supply, stabilization system, environmental control, orbital dynamics, and electronic instrumentation, as well as the necessary ground station equipment.

Maurice Staton, who was then RCA Sales Manager, remembered how he soon became involved in the program. “A group at RCA David Sarnoff Lab was already at work on a reconsat for von Braun,” he wrote more than 40 years later.[2] “When Astro was formed, seven of us from Camden Industrial Products were sent up to the Princeton Labs to start the Astro Electronics Division. We were quartered in a small lab in a secure area just east of the David Sarnoff Laboratory in Hightstown, near Princeton, New Jersey.”

But in late 1957 or early 1958, the Army was told by the Department of Defense not to develop a reconnaissance satellite because it was already an Air Force job. Staton and several of his colleagues met with von Braun in Philadelphia. “I remember sitting in a meeting with von Braun in the old Franklin Hotel in Philly when the reconnaissance satellite problem came up,” Staton wrote, “And von Braun said, ‘let’s look at clouds!’”

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #15 on: 04/05/2022 05:30 pm »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #16 on: 04/06/2022 09:21 pm »
I found my print copy of this photo. There are some poor quality versions on the internet. I will re-scan this at high resolution and post it.

Tiros was spin-stabilized, with the axis of spin pointed down at the Earth. The two cameras (one narrow angle, the other wide angle) pointed out the bottom of the spacecraft at the Earth. There were a couple of problems that cropped up early on. The first was that there was no way to tell which way was north. So was that cloud bank moving west to east or south to north?

The second problem was that the satellite wobbled. That meant that sometimes the cameras tilted up a bit. Now when the designers first selected that spin orientation, they did so believing that it was best for dealing with the Earth's magnetic field. Somehow they miscalculated, because the Earth's magnetic field was causing the wobble. They had to figure out what was going on, and so they built this magnetic cage and stuck a satellite in it.

Space is weird, huh?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #17 on: 04/07/2022 02:11 pm »
Part 3 of my series is finished. However, I'm going to wait a week or two before running it in TSR. I've got a different article I want to run in the meantime.

I'm currently writing part 4 (of 4), which will take the story up to around 1981. One of my sources is Cargill Hall's DMSP history that was published in 2001. That history was produced a decade before the GAMBIT and HEXAGON declassification. In there he mentions that a new system--obviously HEXAGON--took advantage of the weather data by 1972. Here's what I'm trying to figure out: what changed with how HEXAGON used the weather/cloud data? How could HEXAGON take better advantage of cloud cover data?

"This effort assumed increased importance in 1972 when operation of a new imaging satellite began. The early morning “scout” military weather satellite furnished weather conditions over the Soviet Union at first light. These data, used in the cloud analysis and forecast system, provided cloud-cover estimates that were transmitted from Air Force Global Weather Central to the Satellite Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon and used as a short-term forecast to program satellite camera operations in the reconnaissance satellites that trailed the weather scout. The late morning “assessment” weather satellite told how accurate the cloud forecast had been, determined whether target requirements had been satisfied, and also contributed data to the weather model. Finally, personnel in the Defense Mapping Agency scanned the film returned by reconnaissance satellites and reported actual cloud cover to Air Force Global Weather Central afterward, further contributing to the weather model data base."


I'm going to look in The HEXAGON Story history, but if anybody has seen anything about this, please let me know.
« Last Edit: 04/07/2022 03:46 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #18 on: 04/07/2022 07:33 pm »
<snip>
In there he mentions that a new system--obviously HEXAGON--took advantage of the weather data by 1972. Here's what I'm trying to figure out: what changed with how HEXAGON used the weather/cloud data? How could HEXAGON take better advantage of cloud cover data?

"This effort assumed increased importance in 1972 when operation of a new imaging satellite began. The early morning “scout” military weather satellite furnished weather conditions over the Soviet Union at first light. These data, used in the cloud analysis and forecast system, provided cloud-cover estimates that were transmitted from Air Force Global Weather Central to the Satellite Operations Center in the basement of the Pentagon and used as a short-term forecast to program satellite camera operations in the reconnaissance satellites that trailed the weather scout. The late morning “assessment” weather satellite told how accurate the cloud forecast had been, determined whether target requirements had been satisfied, and also contributed data to the weather model. Finally, personnel in the Defense Mapping Agency scanned the film returned by reconnaissance satellites and reported actual cloud cover to Air Force Global Weather Central afterward, further contributing to the weather model data base."


I'm going to look in The HEXAGON Story history, but if anybody has seen anything about this, please let me know.
We had a discussion a year ago, with edzieba mentioning "a weather satellite flying 'ahead' of Hexagon to determine cloud cover".

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26820.msg2264473#msg2264473

One question is how much lead time they required to re-program shutter opening (or staying closed) opportunities. Somewhere I read that they (the meteorologists?) had to produce punching cards, which were then used to update the shutter opening windows "just in time" (i.e. during the final pass of HEXAGON over a US ground station just ahead of its photographic pass over the area of interest).

Do we know for how long DMSP Block 5B, 5C, and 5D (up to DMSP 5D-2/F7) satellites stayed operational?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #19 on: 04/07/2022 08:10 pm »
One question is how much lead time they required to re-program shutter opening (or staying closed) opportunities. Somewhere I read that they (the meteorologists?) had to produce punching cards, which were then used to update the shutter opening windows "just in time" (i.e. during the final pass of HEXAGON over a US ground station just ahead of its photographic pass over the area of interest).

Hmmm... I find it hard to believe that it was that clunky. The process that was developed for CORONA by 1960/61 was that they had the ability to send a command up to CORONA to tell it to skip a photographic pass. Of course, that's kinda overkill, because maybe clouds only covered part of an area, and skipping an entire pass would miss viewable area. But it seems to me that there should have been an ability to send up a command to HEXAGON without requiring a lot of prep. But I'm no expert in 1970s computer capabilities.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #20 on: 04/07/2022 08:42 pm »
One question is how much lead time they required to re-program shutter opening (or staying closed) opportunities. Somewhere I read that they (the meteorologists?) had to produce punching cards, which were then used to update the shutter opening windows "just in time" (i.e. during the final pass of HEXAGON over a US ground station just ahead of its photographic pass over the area of interest).

Hmmm... I find it hard to believe that it was that clunky. The process that was developed for CORONA by 1960/61 was that they had the ability to send a command up to CORONA to tell it to skip a photographic pass. Of course, that's kinda overkill, because maybe clouds only covered part of an area, and skipping an entire pass would miss viewable area. But it seems to me that there should have been an ability to send up a command to HEXAGON without requiring a lot of prep. But I'm no expert in 1970s computer capabilities.

Emphasis mine. Per discussion in the ANS thread, in 1973/74, ANS was publicly the first on-orbit satellite with reprogrammable computer and core memory on board (which saved the day when inserted in a wrong orbit). So, yeah, would be fun to learn more about the HEXAGON on-board computer.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #21 on: 04/08/2022 09:21 am »
If I were trying to program just-in-time behaviour with the minim of on-board computing and with the ability to program only in a communications window immediately before the pass, I would:
- Write imaging schedules many orbits ahead of executing them. We know target prioritisation was used in-orbit, so you would write your schedule with the assumption both that all targets are visible, and with more targets than you actually have time to image. These could be updated on the final CONUS overflight if last-minute targets were added.
- Upload them as soon as the satellite enter visibility, or ideally a few orbits ahead (depending on satellite memory capacity and desire for tolerance to ground system issues)
- Using the DMSP imagery captured the morning of the imaging pass, forecast cloud cover over that passes ground track
- Calculate an 'inhibit list' based purely on ground track distance, or even on mission time (easier to follow in-orbit, but would need dynamic offsetting for imaging ahead/behind direct overhead point)
- Upload this list once ready, which can even be done multiple times over a single CONUS overflight to allow for updated forecasts right up until the satellite exits contact
- As the satellite performs its pass, it follows the imaging schedule, working down the inhibit list alongside it to either release the shutter or inhibit it. If you want to be extra fancy, you look 'one shot ahead' in your imaging schedule so you can skip a frame before even starting to repoint the mirror or roll/slew the satellite.

The advantage of doing it this way is that:
- Preparation of imaging targets is done independently of real-time weather and only based on long term forecasts (e.g. "don't bother even trying to shoot there, it's winter and covered in snow for 5 months")
- Preparation of weather forecasts is done independently of imaging target selection (good for security compartmentalisation, weather forecasting department are only concerned with a single strip of cloud cover at any one time)
- Forecasts can be updated at any point without affecting imaging target schedule
- Imaging target schedule can be updated without affecting inhibit list
- Using an inhibit list rather than a 'permit list' mean the fail-safe condition is to waste film rather than miss intelligence in the event of a ground communications issue

A final wrinkle to the story would be if there was a low-bandwidth relay capable satellite available (possibly even one of the DMSPs themselves) that could talk to HEXAGON after exiting CONUS coverage. The inhibit list could then be updated right up until a particular image was taken, but that capability seems too niche to have really been worth it unless somebody really wanted to try and retrofit a crisis-response capability to HEXAGON in order to command imagery and capsule release ASAP after an imaging pass rather than waiting for a 'once more around' with CONUS commanding, and I can't recall such a capability being mentioned in any documentation released thus far.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #22 on: 04/08/2022 11:16 am »

- Upload this list once ready, which can even be done multiple times over a single CONUS overflight to allow for updated forecasts right up until the satellite exits contact


There are only two CONUS AFSCN stations and it is in a polar orbit so only one station pass.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #23 on: 04/08/2022 12:17 pm »

- Upload this list once ready, which can even be done multiple times over a single CONUS overflight to allow for updated forecasts right up until the satellite exits contact


There are only two CONUS AFSCN stations and it is in a polar orbit so only one station pass.
Were none of the RTSs able to forward commands?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #24 on: 04/08/2022 12:55 pm »

A final wrinkle to the story would be if there was a low-bandwidth relay capable satellite available (possibly even one of the DMSPs themselves) that could talk to HEXAGON after exiting CONUS coverage. The inhibit list could then be updated right up until a particular image was taken, but that capability seems too niche to have really been worth it unless somebody really wanted to try and retrofit a crisis-response capability to HEXAGON in order to command imagery and capsule release ASAP after an imaging pass rather than waiting for a 'once more around' with CONUS commanding, and I can't recall such a capability being mentioned in any documentation released thus far.

I have absolutely no knowledge of whether that was possible, but I am intrigued that DMSP was i)  asserted to have another kind of low bandwidth comms ability-essentially that from agents in the field overseas embassies etc (Des Ball's DMSP history in JBIS in 1986), though Ball's article states with no real evidence that the relay system was hosted on the Burner II stages, and ii) asserted in early 70s to be going to carry  an AFSATCOM relay (Ball again, but this time citing the AW&ST article that covered the public announcement of DMSP).  See these two articles below. I've been curious for a while if either assertion was ever substantiated elsewhere.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2022 05:50 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #25 on: 04/08/2022 01:21 pm »
Maybe we can try to not derail this thread?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #26 on: 04/08/2022 10:02 pm »
The original Tiros had its cameras pointing out the bottom. The first DMSP had its single camera pointing out the side. Later versions of Tiros adopted the DMSP approach.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #27 on: 04/09/2022 06:23 am »
The original Tiros had its cameras pointing out the bottom. The first DMSP had its single camera pointing out the side. Later versions of Tiros adopted the DMSP approach.

I hadn't really appreciated that ESSA was essentially a DMSP, as per Hall history-see grabs below. This may be the only example when an entire NRO spacecraft design has been passed over to civilian use (i.e. even more completely than Lunar Orbiter ) ?

I may of course have misunderstood-how similar were they, in fact ?

[Edit: It does now make me wonder how the design change was explained away at the time.]
« Last Edit: 04/09/2022 01:22 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #28 on: 04/09/2022 11:27 am »
The original Tiros had its cameras pointing out the bottom. The first DMSP had its single camera pointing out the side. Later versions of Tiros adopted the DMSP approach.

The mechanics of this is the one thing I have never really understood. For a GEO spinner it makes sense to orient the axis of rotation north/south. With Tiros 1 was the axis of rotation aligned straight down? Then a second smaller spin on the axis itself to keep the axis pointed down as it orbited? One full rev per orbit? On later side camera satellites, was the axis of rotation oriented in the direction of the orbit so it was scanning east to west with north at the top of the images?
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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #29 on: 04/09/2022 11:37 am »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #30 on: 04/09/2022 01:14 pm »
Some good vintage pics and animations in this short DMSP history:



and also a mid 70s longer feature on DMSP (lots of detail on ground segment):



Latter includes a look at encapsulation of a Block 5-era sat (looks like a 5A?) [Edit: looking at colour pics Blackstar has uploaded above I see this must be a 5B/C as it is more like 7 feet tall than 4 feet.] and a Thor  launch (looks like a Burner 2 but shroud hard to see):

« Last Edit: 04/17/2022 03:17 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #31 on: 04/09/2022 01:29 pm »

[Edit: It does now make me wonder how the design change was explained away at the time.]

Easy block change.  They came up with a new idea and tested it on TIROS 9.
« Last Edit: 04/09/2022 01:30 pm by Jim »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #32 on: 04/10/2022 09:47 am »

[Edit: It does now make me wonder how the design change was explained away at the time.]

Easy block change.  They came up with a new idea and tested it on TIROS 9.

I am also struck that they moved to polar orbit at the same time. I guess this wouldn't have seemed odd, as Nimbus had already been launched into polar orbit, but what seems remarkable with hindsight is that TIROS 9 and the first 2, and last, of the ESSA series were launched out of the Cape on Thor Deltas, unlike the first 4 Nimbus launches which used  Thor Agenas from Vandenberg. A contemporary writer, Turnill's Observer's Book of Unmanned Spaceflight, in mid 1970s, remarks that TIROS 9 was first polar launch from the Cape but otherwise doesn't discuss this. My first thought was that this a cost-saving measure and/or  avoided drawing attention to possibility of military operational metsats, but then I see from Gunter's excellent list https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/essa.htm
 that some of the ESSA's did indeed go from VAFB.
« Last Edit: 04/10/2022 01:39 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #33 on: 04/10/2022 05:57 pm »
The original Tiros had its cameras pointing out the bottom. The first DMSP had its single camera pointing out the side. Later versions of Tiros adopted the DMSP approach.

The mechanics of this is the one thing I have never really understood. For a GEO spinner it makes sense to orient the axis of rotation north/south. With Tiros 1 was the axis of rotation aligned straight down? Then a second smaller spin on the axis itself to keep the axis pointed down as it orbited? One full rev per orbit?

You would think so but apparently not, see discussion of "normal point" in first grab below, from AW&ST, Aug 3rd, 1964, page 44. [Edit: This is interesting, if accurate, because the second spin you refer to was identified as early as the late 40s RAND studies and implemented in Agena, for example. Was it perhaps not deemed necessary for the earliest Tiros, perhaps because they were mainly looking at the US, and because it was one less thing to go wrong ?]

Quote
On later side camera satellites, was the axis of rotation oriented in the direction of the orbit so it was scanning east to west with north at the top of the images?

Second grab below is the comparison figure from same issue, has the image Blackstar posted and the comparison with early Tiros.

 
« Last Edit: 04/11/2022 09:04 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #34 on: 04/12/2022 02:15 am »
Quote: "In Tiros 1-8, axially mounted television cameras, aimed downward through the satellites 42-in-dia. baseplate, pointed directly toward the center of the earth at only one point in orbit, called the normal point, the cameras viewed the earth at increasingly oblique angles, finally seeing outer space rather than the earth. "

Well that explains it, it really only looked straight down at one point in it's orbit. Like one expects a spinning top to behave in orbit. I just thought there had to be more to it than looking straight down at only one point in it's order. Hence why DMSP side camera was superior. 

What I now find interesting is the magnetic coils built into the drum once they switched to the side camera. This let them keep the axis of rotation perpendicular to the orbital path by tilting it left and right. If you ask me, DMSP was very sophisticated for such a "simple" satellite.
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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #35 on: 04/12/2022 09:19 am »
Quote: "In Tiros 1-8, axially mounted television cameras, aimed downward through the satellites 42-in-dia. baseplate, pointed directly toward the center of the earth at only one point in orbit, called the normal point, the cameras viewed the earth at increasingly oblique angles, finally seeing outer space rather than the earth. "

Well that explains it, it really only looked straight down at one point in it's orbit. Like one expects a spinning top to behave in orbit. I just thought there had to be more to it than looking straight down at only one point in it's order. Hence why DMSP side camera was superior. 

It does explain it but I do share your surprise. I can only surmise that TIROS was meant to give way to something 3 axis stabilised more like like Nimbus in order to give a world wide system. I'd be surprised if the AW&ST piece was wrong but another source would be nice to have.

Quote
What I now find interesting is the magnetic coils built into the drum once they switched to the side camera. This let them keep the axis of rotation perpendicular to the orbital path by tilting it left and right. If you ask me, DMSP was very sophisticated for such a "simple" satellite.

Yes. I had thought that magnetorquers showed up later than that, so it is very impressive to me.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #36 on: 04/12/2022 02:08 pm »
Quote
It does explain it but I do share your surprise. I can only surmise that TIROS was meant to give way to something 3 axis stabilised more like like Nimbus in order to give a world wide system. I'd be surprised if the AW&ST piece was wrong but another source would be nice to have.

Remember, one of the early pre-Corona designs was also a spinner. Sounds like it would have had similar issues, and thus been very localized with what it could image ( Say maybe being only able to image between 60 and 70 degrees North Latitude).

Does make one wonder if a gravity gradient stabilized boom might have worked better. Especially with some of the planned rockets. (I know, alternate history with them needing to understand the concept at that point in time)   
« Last Edit: 04/12/2022 02:10 pm by kevin-rf »
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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #37 on: 04/12/2022 02:21 pm »
And another difference, the "wheel" made it easier to find North in the photos vs the axial.
« Last Edit: 04/12/2022 02:21 pm by Jim »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #38 on: 04/12/2022 03:13 pm »
It does explain it but I do share your surprise. I can only surmise that TIROS was meant to give way to something 3 axis stabilised more like like Nimbus in order to give a world wide system.

The question is when. They did form a plan to replace Tiros with something more capable. I don't know when that started. But at least early on, they were going with the first thing that they could, which was a limited spin-stabilized system.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #39 on: 04/12/2022 04:38 pm »
Quote
It does explain it but I do share your surprise. I can only surmise that TIROS was meant to give way to something 3 axis stabilised more like like Nimbus in order to give a world wide system. I'd be surprised if the AW&ST piece was wrong but another source would be nice to have.

Remember, one of the early pre-Corona designs was also a spinner. Sounds like it would have had similar issues, and thus been very localized with what it could image ( Say maybe being only able to image between 60 and 70 degrees North Latitude).


Indeed, and yet as early as 1951 for example RAND in the grab below and the attached study are proposing doing the 1 rev/orbit pitch manoeuvre that you mentioned, and which it seems TIROS didn't do.  Description is for a pencil-like satellite such as the Agena, rather than a TIROS-like drum.


So as Blackstar suggests I guess there was some cost/risk/coverage tradeoff going on.

« Last Edit: 04/12/2022 04:45 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #40 on: 04/12/2022 04:53 pm »
This dates from January 1959 and shows that Lockheed was pushing for a more ambitious satellite then. This would have been based upon Sentry/Samos technology.

(And I don't know why it is orienting sideways here.)
« Last Edit: 04/12/2022 04:54 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #41 on: 04/12/2022 06:15 pm »
Rotated.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #42 on: 04/13/2022 12:31 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4357/1

Dark clouds: The secret meteorological satellite program (part 1)
The RAND Corporation and cloud reconnaissance

by Dwayne Day
Monday, March 28, 2022

Amrom Katz was a short, energetic, outspoken physicist who worked for the RAND Corporation in the 1950s. RAND was located in the Los Angeles oceanside suburb of Santa Monica, California. It was a “think tank” where engineers, scientists, and policy experts studied advanced technologies and ideas for the US Air Force. At lunch, RAND’s thinkers would sip margaritas at a beachside bar and then return to their offices to think about nuclear war, earning the moniker “wizards of Armageddon.”
In this particular draft, Katz recommended that the Air Force begin a “cloud reconnaissance satellite” as soon as possible. Katz suggested that the service specifically not call it a “weather satellite,” because an accurate title would create problems.

Much of what RAND did during the 1950s concerned developing strategies for targeting, using, and protecting Air Force strategic weapons. But the think tank also had a small group of experts devoted to the subject of strategic reconnaissance and Katz and his thinking buddy Merton Davies were the lead wizards in this area. Although Katz was rarely the first person to come up with an idea, he was often the first person to study it in a comprehensive manner and recommend what the Air Force should do. Sometimes, but less often than Katz liked, they took his advice. In March 1959, Katz wrote an internal RAND “draft” document about weather satellites.

Turns out the really early, 1951, RAND report Inquiry into the Feasibility of Weather Reconnaissance from a Satellite Vehicle by Greenfield and Kellogg is now out there as well as things like the FEEDBACK studies:

"A discussion of the problem of obtaining an overall picture of the wide-scale weather situation. An attempt is made to present methods of attack on this problem, to show what may be actually seen from high-altitude photographs (primarily a discussion on necessary resolution and area coverages), to discuss what may be determined from these photographs (both directly and indirectly), and to give some of the results. Although this analysis is based on data obtained from vertically fired rockets, suggestions are made on possible methods of forming a synoptic picture from satellite-missile photographs."

https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/reports/2006/R365.pdf


« Last Edit: 04/13/2022 12:33 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #43 on: 04/13/2022 01:15 pm »
Turns out the really early, 1951, RAND report Inquiry into the Feasibility of Weather Reconnaissance from a Satellite Vehicle by Greenfield and Kellogg is now out there as well as things like the FEEDBACK studies:


Yes, RAND made an effort about a decade ago (or more?) to put a lot of their historical reports online.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #44 on: 04/14/2022 01:54 pm »
From the NRO Staff history. That's the best image of Samos that I have seen with the cover off.
« Last Edit: 04/14/2022 01:54 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #45 on: 04/14/2022 04:32 pm »
You should FOIA the poster in the staff history, and see what they come back with. Maybe, you can get the original. Assuming they can find it :-)
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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #46 on: 04/14/2022 05:03 pm »
You should FOIA the poster in the staff history, and see what they come back with. Maybe, you can get the original. Assuming they can find it :-)

It's an intriguing picture all round because it is recent, i.e. post the era of the new NRO building, and yet has the air of a room in the Pentagon corridor that is much discussed in the history.

Is it perhaps a museum or memorial of some sort in the Pentagon to the original NRO ?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #47 on: 04/14/2022 07:17 pm »
You should FOIA the poster in the staff history, and see what they come back with. Maybe, you can get the original. Assuming they can find it :-)

It's an intriguing picture all round because it is recent, i.e. post the era of the new NRO building, and yet has the air of a room in the Pentagon corridor that is much discussed in the history.

Is it perhaps a museum or memorial of some sort in the Pentagon to the original NRO ?

I suspect that this is the NRO's office at the Pentagon. Yes, they have a big HQ, but they would still need some kind of office over there in the Pentagon.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #48 on: 04/16/2022 02:49 pm »
Working on part 4 of my article, which will cover the period of roughly 1965-1981. (Part 3 is finished, but I'm holding off on publishing it in TSR until part 4 is ready.)

There are some interesting connections and ironies to this story. For instance, the first DMSP, the NRO's Block 1 spacecraft, was created as an "interim" program until the Tiros follow-on program was ready. However, DMSP then became permanent. Then, because the Tiros follow-on kept getting delayed, the Weather Bureau created the Tiros Operational System (TOS) as an "interim" system until something better came along. It essentially became permanent too. Two interim programs that for all intents an purposes became the permanent systems.

Cargill Hall's history indicates that the TOS satellites were copies of the DMSP Block 2 satellites. However, I don't think that is true. I think the TOS satellites, although they put the camera sticking out the side instead of the bottom, may have been shorter and wider. I need to check the dimensions on these.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #49 on: 04/16/2022 03:23 pm »
Quote
There are some interesting connections and ironies to this story. For instance, the first DMSP, the NRO's Block 1 spacecraft, was created as an "interim" program until the Tiros follow-on program was ready. However, DMSP then became permanent. Then, because the Tiros follow-on kept getting delayed, the Weather Bureau created the Tiros Operational System (TOS) as an "interim" system until something better came along. It essentially became permanent too. Two interim programs that for all intents an purposes became the permanent systems.


So typically aerospace ! The AH-1 Huey Cobra was created in 1965 as an interim, cheap type for Vietnam, pending the  (monster) AH-56 Cheyenne solved its issues.

Fast forward to 2022: AH-1 still in service.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #50 on: 04/16/2022 04:47 pm »

Cargill Hall's history indicates that the TOS satellites were copies of the DMSP Block 2 satellites. However, I don't think that is true. I think the TOS satellites, although they put the camera sticking out the side instead of the bottom, may have been shorter and wider. I need to check the dimensions on these.

I'm glad you are pursuing this because that was also my impression-TIROS 9, the lower of your two pics, indeed looks shorter and fatter than the only colour pic we ever seem to see of an early DMSP, grabbed below from the shorter of the two SAMSO-derived YouTube videos I posted above  https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=55957.msg2358623#msg2358623   at 3:01. [Edit: I assume it is TIROS 9 based on the caption here at NASA's NSSDC: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraft/display.action?id=1965-004A]

Could this be in part because of the available space in, and shape of, the Delta shroud vs the Thor Burner I and II ?

[Edit: Interesting when looking again at Hall history that his text and picture caption slightly disagree-he describes TOS as a "carbon copy" in the text but as "based on" DMSP in figure caption.]
« Last Edit: 04/17/2022 05:29 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #51 on: 04/16/2022 07:41 pm »
So typically aerospace !

In some cases, I think they referred to programs as "interim" knowing full well that they were the cheaper/better alternative to a program that was bloated and behind schedule and going nowhere. But I also think that in some cases they were indeed interim programs that people expected to go away. The early DMSP, for instance, really was a bare bones satellite with no redundancy. It was not a good long-term solution to the requirement.


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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #52 on: 04/17/2022 01:24 am »
I'm glad you are pursuing this because that was also my impression-TIROS 9, the lower of your two pics, indeed looks shorter and fatter than the only colour pic we ever seem to see of an early DMSP, grabbed below from the shorter of the two YouTube videos I posted above  https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=55957.msg2358623#msg2358623   at 3:01. [Edit: I assume it is TIROS 9 based on the caption here at NASA's NSSDC: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraft/display.action?id=1965-004A]

I need to get the dimensions for the second set of Tiros satellites. I have them for the DMSP blocks.

I will look up the caption for that photo and update here. The Tiros numbers are a little confusing, because I think they launched Tiros 10 before they launched Tiros 9.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #53 on: 04/17/2022 02:02 am »
I'm glad you are pursuing this because that was also my impression-TIROS 9, the lower of your two pics, indeed looks shorter and fatter than the only colour pic we ever seem to see of an early DMSP, grabbed below from the shorter of the two YouTube videos I posted above  https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=55957.msg2358623#msg2358623   at 3:01. [Edit: I assume it is TIROS 9 based on the caption here at NASA's NSSDC: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraft/display.action?id=1965-004A]

I need to get the dimensions for the second set of Tiros satellites. I have them for the DMSP blocks.

I will look up the caption for that photo and update here. The Tiros numbers are a little confusing, because I think they launched Tiros 10 before they launched Tiros 9.

Here is my Tiros program summary. Tiros 9 and 10 were not launched out of order. However Tiros 10 did use an older bus (the attached summary should probably have it in the 'enarged hatbox' subsection)
[edit: rechecking the docs, it looks like Tiros 10 was based on the Tiros 7 bus but was reconfigured to use the 'wheel' attitude control system like Tiros 9]
Tiros 5 was 1.07m dia 0.56m high
Tiros 9 was the same size I think
« Last Edit: 04/17/2022 02:23 am by jcm »
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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #54 on: 04/17/2022 07:19 am »
I'm glad you are pursuing this because that was also my impression-TIROS 9, the lower of your two pics, indeed looks shorter and fatter than the only colour pic we ever seem to see of an early DMSP, grabbed below from the shorter of the two YouTube videos I posted above  https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=55957.msg2358623#msg2358623   at 3:01. [Edit: I assume it is TIROS 9 based on the caption here at NASA's NSSDC: https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/nmc/spacecraft/display.action?id=1965-004A]

I need to get the dimensions for the second set of Tiros satellites. I have them for the DMSP blocks.

I will look up the caption for that photo and update here. The Tiros numbers are a little confusing, because I think they launched Tiros 10 before they launched Tiros 9.

Here is my Tiros program summary. Tiros 9 and 10 were not launched out of order. However Tiros 10 did use an older bus (the attached summary should probably have it in the 'enarged hatbox' subsection)
[edit: rechecking the docs, it looks like Tiros 10 was based on the Tiros 7 bus but was reconfigured to use the 'wheel' attitude control system like Tiros 9]
Tiros 5 was 1.07m dia 0.56m high

Tiros 9 was the same size I think

Same Aviation Week article, August 3rd, 64, that has pictures of comparison of axial and wheel designs, gives 42 inches and so 1.07 m for Tiros 1-8. Doesn't explicitly confirm 9 had  same radius but has a nice picture comparing the camera systems on the baseplates of the axial and wheel versions.

One interesting thing about the Aviation Week  article is that it suggests that the success of Tiros 9 may have caused some immediate re-thinking about  its successors. Article was sourced directly from RCA as far as I can see, and was describing the upcoming OT-1 (launched as Tiros 10) as axial, OT-3 (ESSA 1) as wheel, and OT-2 (ESSA 2)  as being as yet undecided. Whereas no more axial missions flew, right ? [Edit: Sorry, I now see that you are indeed saying above that Tiros 10 was reconfigured from axial to wheel ]

It does also sound as if Tiros I, J, K and L as R&D missions were dropped entirely, though for example the seeds of later geostationary metsats can be seen there ? And I guess this also explains why the next Tiros prototypes were M and N, which always puzzled me ?

[Edit: Interesting that the OT series, launched from the Cape by Delta, were succeeded by  TOS  A to F series, launched out of Vandenberg. If the former were in some sense a Tiros batch at least one of which was converted to wheel design, was the latter more DMSP-like in any other sense apart from being a wheel and launched out of Vandenberg ? And why was TOS G (ESSA 9) the odd one out, in being launched from the Cape again ?]

« Last Edit: 04/17/2022 05:44 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #55 on: 04/17/2022 09:08 am »
You should FOIA the poster in the staff history, and see what they come back with. Maybe, you can get the original. Assuming they can find it :-)

It's an intriguing picture all round because it is recent, i.e. post the era of the new NRO building, and yet has the air of a room in the Pentagon corridor that is much discussed in the history.

Is it perhaps a museum or memorial of some sort in the Pentagon to the original NRO ?

I suspect that this is the NRO's office at the Pentagon. Yes, they have a big HQ, but they would still need some kind of office over there in the Pentagon.

Now you point it out I guess they must have, and that the conference room photo would be in same place. Doorway photo from Ring C might thus also be recent-both grabs below from back cover of same history.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #56 on: 04/17/2022 11:40 am »
Tiros 5 was 1.07m dia 0.56m high
Tiros 9 was the same size I think

DMSP Block 4 was 30 inches diameter (76 cm)
DSMP Blocks 1-3 were 23 inches diameter (58 cm)


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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #57 on: 04/17/2022 05:28 pm »
I'm glad you are pursuing this because that was also my impression-TIROS 9, the lower of your two pics, indeed looks shorter and fatter than the only colour pic


Here is the caption for the photo that has the grid background.

« Last Edit: 04/17/2022 05:29 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #58 on: 04/17/2022 10:40 pm »
I'm ending my series with the DMSP-5D1 satellites. (They later built 5D2 and 5D3 series.) I was looking for some citations and found this 1985 report:

DOC (Department of Commerce). 1985. ENVIROSAT-2000 Report. Comparison of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and the NOAA Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) Program.

https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/ADA165118


Some decent line drawings of the satellites.

I have also attached some relevant GAO reports.

« Last Edit: 04/18/2022 01:24 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #59 on: 04/18/2022 09:12 am »
I'm ending my series with the DMSP-5D1 satellites. (They later built 5D2 and 5D3 series.) I was looking for some citations and found this 1985 report:

DOC (Department of Commerce). 1985. ENVIROSAT-2000 Report. Comparison of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and the NOAA Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) Program.

https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/citations/ADA165118


Some decent line drawings of the satellites.

Very nice report that, useful to me as a reference for its ionospheric sensors etc among many other things, and a real snapshot of how much the DMSP 5D2 and NOAA combination was doing by mid-80s. Thanks.

Also has some interesting and new to me examples of what DMSP did, e.g. role in finding the wreckage of KAL 007-first grab below. 

As you'll know, the report describes, and your pictures show, 5D-2 (Atlas launch, one STAR-37S AKM built-in to spacecraft) as per https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/dmsp-5d2.htm and you have a really nice drawing there of s/c in its shroud on Atlas E.

Haved you or anyone else seen similar line drawings of the 5D-1 in its shroud (needed two upper stages because Thor less powerful, so Thor with Star 37 XE and 37S  https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau_det/thor-lv2f_star-37xe_star-37s_iss.htm), or even of the earlier Block 1 through 5C on their various boosters ?  The only example I've seen of a line drawing of anything on a Burner II is here: https://www.b14643.de/Spacerockets_2/United_States_4/Thor/Gallery/Thor-Burner.htm which is a multiple payload mission rather than a DMSP as far as I can see.

Same site however does have a nice photo of what I think is a 5C on a Thor Burner 2A, second grab below, I wonder if you've seen any other such examples of DMSPs on their boosters. I don't know why these intrigue me except that Thor Burner and similar rockets were always rather obscure in the 70s, and the horizontal assembly and rather "open-air" conditions now seem modern rather than low-tech.
« Last Edit: 04/18/2022 09:14 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #60 on: 04/18/2022 09:37 am »
Working on part 4 of my article, which will cover the period of roughly 1965-1981. (Part 3 is finished, but I'm holding off on publishing it in TSR until part 4 is ready.)

There are some interesting connections and ironies to this story. For instance, the first DMSP, the NRO's Block 1 spacecraft, was created as an "interim" program until the Tiros follow-on program was ready. However, DMSP then became permanent. Then, because the Tiros follow-on kept getting delayed, the Weather Bureau created the Tiros Operational System (TOS) as an "interim" system until something better came along. It essentially became permanent too. Two interim programs that for all intents an purposes became the permanent systems.

Cargill Hall's history indicates that the TOS satellites were copies of the DMSP Block 2 satellites. However, I don't think that is true. 

One thing I hadn't really registered, and which your focus on this topic is showing me, is that  ESSA's TOS was more like Block 4 than Block 2 in at least one respect, if I've understood the info at Guenter's pages correctly, in that they both had 2 not 1 cameras.

Block 4A, from Sep 66 seems to have been the first DMSP with two cameras: https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/dmsp-4a.htm while the first dual camera civilian mission seems to have been Tiros 9, earlier, in Jan 65. So in one way at least Tiros was testing out stuff for DMSP, as well as DMSP furnishing technology for NASA/ESSA.

Was the extent to which RCA was sharing technology between its two closely related series one of the incentives to move DMSP management from NRO to whiter Air Force, all other things being equal ?

 

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #61 on: 04/18/2022 01:28 pm »
DMSP Block 5D-1.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #62 on: 04/18/2022 02:15 pm »
DMSP Block 5D-1.

Looking back I see that a version of that with a few people surrounding it was apparently first photo Aviation Week published of DMSP, in May 1976.

You haven't seen any of a 5D-1 on its Thor though, right, i.e. on pad or in prep but without shroud ?

« Last Edit: 04/18/2022 02:39 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #63 on: 04/18/2022 03:11 pm »
You haven't seen any of a 5D-1 on its Thor though, right, i.e. on pad or in prep but without shroud ?

This is all I have. But I have not been looking hard.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #64 on: 04/18/2022 05:34 pm »

- Upload this list once ready, which can even be done multiple times over a single CONUS overflight to allow for updated forecasts right up until the satellite exits contact


There are only two CONUS AFSCN stations and it is in a polar orbit so only one station pass.
Were none of the RTSs able to forward commands?

Don't know what they were able to do in the era under discussion, but it seems that commanding of DMSP was indeed something the Automated RTS stations were going to be able to do when the AW&ST article below was written in late 1980s. The way article is written seems to me to imply that was a new feature ?
« Last Edit: 04/18/2022 05:36 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #65 on: 04/18/2022 06:28 pm »
Working on the Block 5D-1 section of my article and I didn't realize that the 5D-1 was a bit of a mess. The satellites were much larger and more sophisticated than the 5C, and added a bunch more redundancy. Despite that, their lifetimes don't appear to have been better than the satellites they replaced. (The devil could be in the details there, however.)

The first satellite tumbled in orbit. The third satellite drifted out of position and was not usable for the NRO mission providing weather data over the Soviet Union. The fourth satellite suffered electrical problems and got wonky. Then USAF launched the fifth satellite, which they were keeping on the ground as a spare, and its Thor-Burner launch vehicle suffered a separation failure--third stage did not separate and it fell into the Pacific Ocean. This all combined with a delay in development of the 5D-2 satellites and resulted in a several-year gap during which the US had no military weather satellites in orbit.

One of the things uncovered by an Air Force investigation was that they kept turning over program managers. I think they had five of them in six years. Now maybe that was because they were all screwing up, or maybe the Air Force was just constantly putting people in that position and then pulling them out for other assignments. Anyways, that seems like a recipe for disaster. And then they got their disaster.


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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #66 on: 04/18/2022 09:35 pm »
Working on the Block 5D-1 section of my article and I didn't realize that the 5D-1 was a bit of a mess. The satellites were much larger and more sophisticated than the 5C, and added a bunch more redundancy. Despite that, their lifetimes don't appear to have been better than the satellites they replaced. (The devil could be in the details there, however.)

The first satellite tumbled in orbit. The third satellite drifted out of position and was not usable for the NRO mission providing weather data over the Soviet Union. The fourth satellite suffered electrical problems and got wonky. Then USAF launched the fifth satellite, which they were keeping on the ground as a spare, and its Thor-Burner launch vehicle suffered a separation failure--third stage did not separate and it fell into the Pacific Ocean. This all combined with a delay in development of the 5D-2 satellites and resulted in a several-year gap during which the US had no military weather satellites in orbit.

One of the things uncovered by an Air Force investigation was that they kept turning over program managers. I think they had five of them in six years. Now maybe that was because they were all screwing up, or maybe the Air Force was just constantly putting people in that position and then pulling them out for other assignments. Anyways, that seems like a recipe for disaster. And then they got their disaster.

Interesting analysis from Wayne Eleazar of the last launch failure here in a old TSR article:

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/1287/1

One gets the impression from the 1985 5D-2 report you posted  of a programme that was already an essential national asset in both military and wider civilian domains, with a very broad remit and range of sensors, but whose launch services at least, according to Eleazar, were being run on a shoestring. My hasty reading of these may well not be fair, and may not reflect  how the satellite part was managed, but it is certainly a topic worth your time in part 4, imho.

I'd also be interested in understanding how the Integrated Spacecraft System aspect worked, in which the spacecraft played a role in controlling the upper stages iirc.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #67 on: 04/18/2022 10:40 pm »
Did those failures (the last 4C and the last 5D-1, as well as the tumbling first 5D-1) get reported in Aviation Week?

I don't want to go too far down this rabbit hole and turn my last article into a major research project. However, just looking at the failures and the complexity of the satellite and some of the management arrangements, it looks sorta weird. I get the impression that this was a complex spacecraft and program, but that USAF was not treating it with high priority. They seemed to be acting like this was a mature program and rather boring, so no need for special attention.

If you just look at the 5D-1 compared to the 4C, you can see that it was a much bigger and more complex spacecraft. You'd think they would be extra careful about that. But the fact that in the mid-1970s they were just blowing through program managers like prunes through a goose, well, it doesn't seem like they recognized the complexity of the program they were developing.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #68 on: 04/19/2022 06:59 am »
Did those failures (the last 4C 5C and the last 5D-1, as well as the tumbling first 5D-1) get reported in Aviation Week?
Re: Launch failures, the last  5D-1 and resulting shortage of satellites did (see first two grabs), last 5C I can't see anything.

Re: The tumbling and the work of Aerospace in fixing it did, see third grab. This episode was also covered in an article in Aerospace's Crosslink magazine about 15 years ago iirc, which you may have, and in the 1980s book Star Wars: The New High Ground by Thomas Karas. It was evidently something which raised the profile of Aerospace considerably. [Edit: Turns out the mention in Karas was not much detail.]

Quote

I don't want to go too far down this rabbit hole and turn my last article into a major research project. However, just looking at the failures and the complexity of the satellite and some of the management arrangements, it looks sorta weird. I get the impression that this was a complex spacecraft and program, but that USAF was not treating it with high priority. They seemed to be acting like this was a mature program and rather boring, so no need for special attention.

If you just look at the 5D-1 compared to the 4C, you can see that it was a much bigger and more complex spacecraft. You'd think they would be extra careful about that. But the fact that in the mid-1970s they were just blowing through program managers like prunes through a goose, well, it doesn't seem like they recognized the complexity of the program they were developing.

I do so hope you'll use that phrase.

Most intriguing thing I found was the last pair of grabs, exerpts from a 1974 preview of the 5D in Aviation week. This sounds like they absolutely did recognise the complexity, and alludes to the austerity of the prior operation and the highly variable lifetimes of sats. It pins hopes on new tech as far as I can see. [Edit: And while redundancy per se may or may not have helped, the programmability of the computers on 5D-1 did iirc play a role in rescuing the first 5D-1.]

I find it intriguing that RCA apparently didn't adapt clone the existing, flown,  TIROS-M/ITOS bus for Block 5D, but went to the higher level of complexity of 3 axis stabilisation. [Edit: actually  maybe they did adapt it, but added complexity. Stabilisation of TIROS-M had already added the true Earth-pointing that kevin-rf was talking about upthread: "The ITOS dynamics and attitude control system maintained desired spacecraft orientation through gyroscopic principles incorporated into the satellite design. Earth orientation of the satellite body was maintained by taking advantage of the precession induced from a momentum flywheel so that the satellite body precession rate of one revolution per orbit provided the desired 'earth looking' attitude. Minor adjustments in attitude and orientation were made by means of magnetic coils and by varying the speed of the momentum flywheel". See https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/noaa_itos-a.htm ]

It's also interesting that once the bugs were worked out the 5D-1 was used as the basis not only for 5D-2 and 3 but also begat a long-lived series for NOAA.
« Last Edit: 06/30/2022 04:44 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #69 on: 04/19/2022 01:14 pm »
I am still intrigued by why they went through so many program managers in such a short time. There were probably several reasons. But the fact that it happened indicates that senior leadership was not paying close attention to the program and ensuring stability. After it happened a few times, somebody should have stepped in and found the right person and made sure they stayed in the job.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #70 on: 04/19/2022 04:42 pm »
Perhaps I misunderstood ITOS vs. DMSP Block 5A to C:

I find it intriguing that RCA apparently didn't adapt clone the existing, flown,  TIROS-M/ITOS bus for Block 5D, but went to the higher level of complexity of 3 axis stabilisation. [Edit: actually  maybe they did adapt it, but added complexity. Stabilisation of TIROS-M had already added the true Earth-pointing that kevin-rf was talking about upthread: "The ITOS dynamics and attitude control system maintained desired spacecraft orientation through gyroscopic principles incorporated into the satellite design. Earth orientation of the satellite body was maintained by taking advantage of the precession induced from a momentum flywheel so that the satellite body precession rate of one revolution per orbit provided the desired 'earth looking' attitude. Minor adjustments in attitude and orientation were made by means of magnetic coils and by varying the speed of the momentum flywheel". See https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/noaa_itos-a.htm ]

I am now wondering how Block 5A (1970-1) through C (1974-6) were stabilised, and thinking maybe they were already more like ITOS (1970-6) than Tiros/ESSA/TOS. This would make sense,  as they were direct contemporaries, I was perhaps fooled by the fact that they look like drums or hatboxes not the box-like ITOS. See Cargill Hall's description below:
« Last Edit: 06/30/2022 04:45 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #71 on: 04/22/2022 12:00 pm »
I'm not sure how much I am going to go into this subject, but most of the early DMSP satellites were launched out of SLC-10 at Vandenberg. That site is preserved as a museum. It's an interesting site because for a long time it was manned by Air Force personnel, not contractors. I would have to look at a list, but I think that almost all the launches from SLC-10 were DMSP.

More later as I think about this.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #72 on: 04/22/2022 03:05 pm »
I'm not sure how much I am going to go into this subject, but most of the early DMSP satellites were launched out of SLC-10 at Vandenberg. That site is preserved as a museum. It's an interesting site because for a long time it was manned by Air Force personnel, not contractors. I would have to look at a list, but I think that almost all the launches from SLC-10 were DMSP.

More later as I think about this.

Definitely worth mentioning imho that until about 1975 iirc the Thor launch teams rotated back and forth between Vandenberg and the other half of the 10th Aerospace Defense Squadron looking after the  Project 437  Thor ASAT on an atoll in the Pacific-see the Austerman history that you posted back in the day:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=17046.0;attach=133523  (see pp 38-39 in particular)

Still one of the strangest episodes of the Cold War in space, I feel. [Edit: Like you I read all this long ago, in Austerman and the excellent Stares book. So in fact I didn't recall correctly, and although the two halves of 10 ADS remained joined until 437 finally wound down, this process was well underway from 1968-69. It sounds as if the 90 day rotations had stopped well before 1975, and in fact more like 1972. See grabs below from Austerman. It's also interesting that DSAP is mentioned, which was a term which made DMSP's role less clear than its later name, and may have made it easier to justify the programmatic and budgetary link between the two efforts ?]
« Last Edit: 04/23/2022 05:27 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #73 on: 04/24/2022 07:14 pm »
Many of the DMSP launches went out of SLC-10 at Vandenberg (in fact, without counting them myself, I would not be surprised if a majority of them launched from that site). There is a book on that launch complex:

https://www.amazon.com/Space-Launch-Complex-Vandenbergs-Landmarks/dp/146713631X

It's worth getting.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #74 on: 04/25/2022 10:04 pm »
The fifth Block 5D-1 mission had a launch failure in 1980. This was a big deal, because it left the military without weather satellite coverage. They had to use NOAA's satellites, which was less than ideal and also embarrassing--the USAF had insisted for years that it needed its own weather satellites, and now they didn't have any and they used civilian ones instead.

Here is a launch report.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #75 on: 04/26/2022 09:14 am »
The fifth Block 5D-1 mission had a launch failure in 1980. This was a big deal, because it left the military without weather satellite coverage. They had to use NOAA's satellites, which was less than ideal and also embarrassing--the USAF had insisted for years that it needed its own weather satellites, and now they didn't have any and they used civilian ones instead.

Here is a launch report.

Interesting. Why was the constellation so fragile ? As there were two DMSPs (evening and morning), had the other one already failed or did it fail in short order ?

Love that document by the way, especially the pages where they've gone to town with the Computer Modern Data 70 Letraset --- very Andromeda Strain ...
« Last Edit: 04/27/2022 04:29 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #76 on: 04/26/2022 11:32 am »
Interesting. Why was the constellation so fragile ? As there were two DMSPs (evening and morning), had the other one already failed or did it fail in short order ?

I'll discuss that in my part 4 article. But they already had problems with the fourth satellite. Number 5 did not reach orbit, and number 4 failed soon thereafter.


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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #77 on: 04/28/2022 03:14 am »
Interesting. Why was the constellation so fragile ? As there were two DMSPs (evening and morning), had the other one already failed or did it fail in short order ?

There is something curious in Cargill Hall's history that I have not been able to figure out. It would probably require obtaining internal memos from the program office (assuming that they still exist--the Air Force mostly throws stuff out).

The Block 5D-1, which first entered service in the mid-1970s, was a lot bigger than the Block 5C (the two satellites also looked nothing alike). A major reason for that size increase was to add redundancy to improve lifetime. Yet is you look at the satellite lifetimes in Cargill's history, the four 5D-1 satellites that reached orbit didn't have lifetimes any better than their predecessors. I could probably add them up and get an average for each Block. So what happened there? Maybe some of that is artificial, and the 5Cs were kept operational longer out of necessity. But it is rather curious.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #78 on: 04/28/2022 01:01 pm »
Interesting. Why was the constellation so fragile ? As there were two DMSPs (evening and morning), had the other one already failed or did it fail in short order ?

There is something curious in Cargill Hall's history that I have not been able to figure out. It would probably require obtaining internal memos from the program office (assuming that they still exist--the Air Force mostly throws stuff out).

The Block 5D-1, which first entered service in the mid-1970s, was a lot bigger than the Block 5C (the two satellites also looked nothing alike). A major reason for that size increase was to add redundancy to improve lifetime. Yet is you look at the satellite lifetimes in Cargill's history, the four 5D-1 satellites that reached orbit didn't have lifetimes any better than their predecessors. I could probably add them up and get an average for each Block. So what happened there? Maybe some of that is artificial, and the 5Cs were kept operational longer out of necessity. But it is rather curious.

Maybe the way they managed 5C (as described in Av Leak 1974 article) didn't scale to the demands of 5D, and the involvement of Aerospace in 5D (apparently not long before first 5D-1) didn't make much difference to reliability until the 5D-2 era ?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #79 on: 04/28/2022 05:29 pm »
Maybe the way they managed 5C (as described in Av Leak 1974 article) didn't scale to the demands of 5D, and the involvement of Aerospace in 5D (apparently not long before first 5D-1) didn't make much difference to reliability until the 5D-2 era ?

Do we know for sure that Aerospace was not involved until 5D?

Aerospace would point out that they were instrumental in saving the first 5D mission when it tumbled.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #80 on: 04/28/2022 10:47 pm »
Continuing to work on this, I just noticed that Cargill Hall's history lists a Block 4A and 4B, but does not indicate what the difference was between them. There were four of each, the last 4B ended up in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #81 on: 04/29/2022 08:57 am »
Maybe the way they managed 5C (as described in Av Leak 1974 article) didn't scale to the demands of 5D, and the involvement of Aerospace in 5D (apparently not long before first 5D-1) didn't make much difference to reliability until the 5D-2 era ?

Do we know for sure that Aerospace was not involved until 5D?

Aerospace would point out that they were instrumental in saving the first 5D mission when it tumbled.

Sorry, I should have said that although they were indeed involved from early on,  they weren't fully responsible for general systems engineering and integration (GSE/I) until a few months after 5D-1 first launch. This is pointed out, by Aerospace themselves, in same Crosslink article that talks about their role in recovery from 5D-1 tumbling (grabs below, I think you have this one).

Before then AF was doing its own systems engineering on 5C etc  if I've read the 1974 Av Leak piece (excerpted upthread) correctly.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #82 on: 04/29/2022 09:01 am »
You haven't seen any of a 5D-1 on its Thor though, right, i.e. on pad or in prep but without shroud ?

This is all I have. But I have not been looking hard.

Turns out there's a nice B&W photo of what looks to me like a 5D-1 in its shelter w/o shroud in Joe Page's book that you recommended. I'm assuming this is a 5D-1 because of the box plus solar panels appearance and the overall size ?
« Last Edit: 04/29/2022 12:37 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #83 on: 04/29/2022 01:26 pm »
Turns out there's a nice B&W photo of what looks to me like a 5D-1 in its shelter w/o shroud in Joe Page's book that you recommended. I'm assuming this is a 5D-1 because of the box plus solar panels appearance and the overall size ?

It would have to be. 5D-2 launched on Atlas, right?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #84 on: 04/29/2022 01:28 pm »
Sorry, I should have said that although they were indeed involved from early on,  they weren't fully responsible for general systems engineering and integration (GSE/I) until a few months after 5D-1 first launch. This is pointed out, by Aerospace themselves, in same Crosslink article that talks about their role in recovery from 5D-1 tumbling (grabs below, I think you have this one).

Before then AF was doing its own systems engineering on 5C etc  if I've read the 1974 Av Leak piece (excerpted upthread) correctly.

That's a very good catch. If accurate, it could also indicate something bigger--Air Force treated DMSP special. They kept out the contractors and handled as much of it in house as they could, from launch to operations. This would indicate that they were handling systems engineering in-house as well. And that may have bit them on the butt, twice. It may have hurt them with the first satellite, which went tumbling, and the last one, which ended up in the Pacific.

There was an investigation after the launch failure. I wonder if it dove into those issues?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #85 on: 04/29/2022 03:36 pm »
Turns out there's a nice B&W photo of what looks to me like a 5D-1 in its shelter w/o shroud in Joe Page's book that you recommended. I'm assuming this is a 5D-1 because of the box plus solar panels appearance and the overall size ?

It would have to be. 5D-2 launched on Atlas, right?
Yes, and as far as I can tell all the earlier ones (5C and before) look drum-like when seen from that angle. Reason I am unsure is that it looks a bit smaller than the pics of 5D-1 vertical at RCA. And there were one or two non DMSP launches by Thor Burner-2, e.g  Space Test Program. [Edit: Comparing it with the colour pic of a 5D-1 below it seems it is indeed a DMSP.]
« Last Edit: 05/04/2022 02:20 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #86 on: 04/29/2022 03:42 pm »
Sorry, I should have said that although they were indeed involved from early on,  they weren't fully responsible for general systems engineering and integration (GSE/I) until a few months after 5D-1 first launch. This is pointed out, by Aerospace themselves, in same Crosslink article that talks about their role in recovery from 5D-1 tumbling (grabs below, I think you have this one).

Before then AF was doing its own systems engineering on 5C etc  if I've read the 1974 Av Leak piece (excerpted upthread) correctly.

That's a very good catch. If accurate, it could also indicate something bigger--Air Force treated DMSP special. They kept out the contractors and handled as much of it in house as they could, from launch to operations. This would indicate that they were handling systems engineering in-house as well.
The 1974 Av Leak article, see https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=55957.msg2361184#msg2361184, says of 5C "Systems engineering is done largely in house, by military people".

Quote
And that may have bit them on the butt, twice. It may have hurt them with the first satellite, which went tumbling, and the last one, which ended up in the Pacific.

There was an investigation after the launch failure. I wonder if it dove into those issues?

It must have done, but I didn't see anything in Av Leak at a quick browse. I think reading those Crosslink articles would be worth your time though, as they will probably talk about it, at least obliquely. Edit: I think you can draw your own conclusions from the way the Crosslink piece goes on to describe the management of the subsequent 5D-2 missions, see grab below, which ...
« Last Edit: 04/29/2022 05:58 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #87 on: 04/29/2022 11:30 pm »
It must have done, but I didn't see anything in Av Leak at a quick browse. I think reading those Crosslink articles would be worth your time though, as they will probably talk about it, at least obliquely. Edit: I think you can draw your own conclusions from the way the Crosslink piece goes on to describe the management of the subsequent 5D-2 missions, see grab below, which ...

This history, which I posted earlier up-thread, goes into the investigations. Because the classified parts of this history were deleted, most of what remains concerns the Block 5D-1 and 2, up to 1982.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #88 on: 04/30/2022 08:53 am »
Re the in house management of DMSP before 5D, and the blue suit launches:

Sorry, I should have said that although they were indeed involved from early on,  they weren't fully responsible for general systems engineering and integration (GSE/I) until a few months after 5D-1 first launch. This is pointed out, by Aerospace themselves, in same Crosslink article that talks about their role in recovery from 5D-1 tumbling (grabs below, I think you have this one).

Before then AF was doing its own systems engineering on 5C etc  if I've read the 1974 Av Leak piece (excerpted upthread) correctly.

That's a very good catch. If accurate, it could also indicate something bigger--Air Force treated DMSP special. They kept out the contractors and handled as much of it in house as they could, from launch to operations. This would indicate that they were handling systems engineering in-house as well. And that may have bit them on the butt, twice. It may have hurt them with the first satellite, which went tumbling, and the last one, which ended up in the Pacific.

There was an investigation after the launch failure. I wonder if it dove into those issues?

and the investigations:

It must have done, but I didn't see anything in Av Leak at a quick browse. I think reading those Crosslink articles would be worth your time though, as they will probably talk about it, at least obliquely. Edit: I think you can draw your own conclusions from the way the Crosslink piece goes on to describe the management of the subsequent 5D-2 missions. 

This history, which I posted earlier up-thread, goes into the investigations. Because the classified parts of this history were deleted, most of what remains concerns the Block 5D-1 and 2, up to 1982.

A couple of things seem noteworthy. One is that Cargill Hall's history appears to say (first grab below) that Aerospace were involved *in support* of systems integration before 5D but after 1965, if I've read him correctly, but he seems to hold up the small NRO SASP-run programme pre-1965 as the model of efficiency and economy. He obviously feels this lean approach was lost when the programme went to SAMSO (numerous comments to thie effect in the history) but it isn't clear to me how he thinks the problems that came with increased size and broader scope could have been avoided with a different approach.

The other thing that strikes me is that the value of blue suit launch operations, and in-house systems engineering seem to be different issues. It's not clear if people saw them as such or whether there was a tendency to blur them together ? The former seems to have been mainly tied to the Program 437 ASAT, and presumably became harder to justify when this finally died. The value of the latter seems to be more about perceived economy, which may well have been crucial in keeping autonomy for the programme against the pressures to merge with civilian metsats but seems anyway unlikely to have persisted into the 80s unless 5D-1 had been a great success. Interestingly the Hall history notes, second grab below, that some had indeed foreseen that 5D-1 wouldn't improve reliability and thus foresaw the gap in coverage, well before it happened.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2022 10:38 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #89 on: 04/30/2022 11:37 am »
A couple of things seem noteworthy. One is that Cargill Hall's history appears to say (first grab below) that Aerospace were involved *in support* of systems integration before 5D but after 1965, if I've read him correctly, but he seems to hold up the small NRO SASP-run programme pre-1965 as the model of efficiency and economy. He obviously feels this lean approach was lost when the programme went to SAMSO (numerous comments to thie effect in the history) but it isn't clear to me how he thinks the problems that came with increased size and broader scope could have been avoided with a different approach.

He got that from Tom Haig, the first Program 35/417 program director. I interviewed Haig back in the 1990s and he had trouble hiding his scorn for Aerospace. He also seemed to view them as a bit of a crutch. He did not like how heavily involved they were with the ICBM and space programs. He thought that the Air Force should have technical expertise among their officer corps and use that.

Now that worked for a small, focused program like the early weather satellite, which only had one instrument (then two). It could also probably work in the NRO at that time, because they had greater stability than USAF and did not move their officers around a lot. But once the program got bigger and more complicated, and the development times became longer, that just was not going to work. The reason General Schriever brought Aerospace in to support the ICBM program in the first place (when they were still Ramo-Wooldridge) was because Schriever knew he needed more technical expertise than he had in his own service organization.

I'd have to look it up, but I think the development time for the Block 4 was about 2-3 years. Same for the Block 5A, B and C. That meant that USAF could keep the same program manager in place for three years and handle the program. The Block 5D-1, however, was about five years in development (I think it started around 1971 and launched in 1976, but the plan had been to launch it in 1974). That means at least two program managers cycled through the office before it flew.

I don't want to stretch the argument too far, but look at the period 1975-1980 when they had SIX program managers. At that point it does not matter if those Lieutenant Colonels running the program have Ph.D.s in electrical engineering and alchemy, they're not around long enough to understand the program. And at that point, you really need some form of stability attached to the program, and Aerospace Corporation would have (I think) provided that. They had the technical experts who stayed in their jobs year after year and understood the spacecraft. So Haig's model (endorsed by Cargill Hall in his history) did not apply anymore.

I think that there is probably an interesting managerial study that somebody could write about NRO. NRO, from what I understand, took care of its people. It also tended to keep them in their jobs longer. That created greater program stability. And arguably it should have allowed them to achieve greater success. It would be interesting to compare that to how the USAF did space.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #90 on: 04/30/2022 11:43 am »
The other thing that strikes me is that the value of blue suit launch operations, and in-house systems engineering seem to be different issues. It's not clear if people saw them as such or whether there was a tendency to blur them together ? The former seems to have been mainly tied to the Program 437 ASAT, and presumably became harder to justify when this finally died. The value of the latter seems to be more about perceived economy, which may well have been crucial in keeping autonomy for the programme against the pressures to merge with civilian metsats but seems anyway unlikely to have persisted into the 80s unless 5D-1 had been a great success. Interestingly the Hall history notes, second grab below, that some had indeed foreseen that 5D-1 wouldn't improve reliability and thus foresaw the gap in coverage, well before it happened.

I think there was also a culture thing here, and it might be worth pulling on the thread to untangle it. The winged USAF had Air Force officers flying planes. The ICBM Air Force had officers manning silos. But the space Air Force had contractors launching the rockets. It also had contractors often working in the ground stations.

My guess is that this bothered people in the Air Force space program at the time. Maybe they got kidded about it by the other parts of the service, that they were not actually doing the operations, they were simply managers and not operators. I think that this Blue Suit operation was a source of pride for them. They were launching the rocket. They were working the ground station. And they had a small program office without a lot of contractors. So they probably held onto that longer.

I also suspect that once the launch rate started to drop in the 1970s, this really was not sustainable. Fewer launches means less experience among the people doing the launches. And if you split them so that only Air Force personnel are doing those DMSP launches, and then contractors are launching the other rockets, you've further reduced the experience base (each person gets their hands on fewer launches). By the late 1970s, the launch rate had dropped so much (somebody probably has a graph that shows this), that it made no sense to keep a separate Blue Suit operation.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #91 on: 04/30/2022 02:11 pm »
The other thing that strikes me is that the value of blue suit launch operations, and in-house systems engineering seem to be different issues. It's not clear if people saw them as such or whether there was a tendency to blur them together ? The former seems to have been mainly tied to the Program 437 ASAT, and presumably became harder to justify when this finally died. The value of the latter seems to be more about perceived economy, which may well have been crucial in keeping autonomy for the programme against the pressures to merge with civilian metsats but seems anyway unlikely to have persisted into the 80s unless 5D-1 had been a great success.

I think there was also a culture thing here, and it might be worth pulling on the thread to untangle it. The winged USAF had Air Force officers flying planes. The ICBM Air Force had officers manning silos. But the space Air Force had contractors launching the rockets. It also had contractors often working in the ground stations.

My guess is that this bothered people in the Air Force space program at the time. Maybe they got kidded about it by the other parts of the service, that they were not actually doing the operations, they were simply managers and not operators. I think that this Blue Suit operation was a source of pride for them. They were launching the rocket. They were working the ground station. And they had a small program office without a lot of contractors. So they probably held onto that longer.

The blue suit launch team does also seem to have been a very important aspect of the Thor 437 ASAT, which both caused nervousness at the highest political levels (first grab) and high esprit de corps among the crews (second grab, both from Austerman history of 437). As far as I can tell the blue suit aspect of DMSP launches just came from their commonality with 437, unless it was already there prior to the Thor Altair/Thor Burner  launches ? [Edit: Hall history does explain who performed the Scout launches, the 6595th Aerospace Test Wing, part of Systems Command, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/6595th_Aerospace_Test_Wing but this doesn't seem to be "blue suit" in the same sense, because  it was performing other Vandenberg space launches as well as far as I can see.]
« Last Edit: 05/01/2022 04:34 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #92 on: 05/04/2022 07:22 am »
You haven't seen any of a 5D-1 on its Thor though, right, i.e. on pad or in prep but without shroud ?

This is all I have. But I have not been looking hard.

Turns out there's a nice B&W photo of what looks to me like a 5D-1 in its shelter w/o shroud in Joe Page's book that you recommended. I'm assuming this is a 5D-1 because of the box plus solar panels appearance and the overall size ?

Another nice pic of a 5D-1 in the SLC10 launch shelter is on archive.org where Joe has preserved the visitors brochure https://archive.org/details/space-launch-complex-ten-brochure/page/n3/mode/2up

This is a screen grab but Joe or one of your other contacts might have the original ?

« Last Edit: 05/04/2022 09:27 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #93 on: 05/05/2022 08:53 pm »

The blue suit launch team does also seem to have been a very important aspect of the Thor 437 ASAT,

But it wasn't.  Douglas had launch teams out at Johnston Island.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #94 on: 05/06/2022 06:06 am »

The blue suit launch team does also seem to have been a very important aspect of the Thor 437 ASAT,

But it wasn't.  Douglas had launch teams out at Johnston Island.

Interesting. And interesting that the histories of DMSP and 437 (the main ones I've seen being Hall and Austerman respectively, examples below) played that aspect down. [Edit: I see there are photos of Douglas personnel at JI for the pre-437 operation Dominic, see http://14mev.blogspot.com/2014/04/operation-dominic-johnston-island-s3.html and last grab below. Are there any such pics from the 437 flights per se ?]

So when Hall, first grab, is talking about the arguments over the Thrust augmented Thor vs the Atlas as the vehicle for 5D-2, would the former really have been more "blue suit", as he claims ? And if not, what was the argument about ?
« Last Edit: 05/06/2022 10:42 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #95 on: 06/13/2022 11:20 pm »
I'm finishing up my DMSP series. Part 3 will be on TSR any minute now. Part 4 is finished and undergoing final editing and will be up a week from today.

Part 3 covers 1961-1965. Part 4 covers 1965 to 1982, as the USAF recovered from a series of bad misfortunes.
« Last Edit: 06/13/2022 11:21 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #96 on: 06/14/2022 08:09 am »
I'm finishing up my DMSP series. Part 3 will be on TSR any minute now. Part 4 is finished and undergoing final editing and will be up a week from today.

Part 3 covers 1961-1965. Part 4 covers 1965 to 1982, as the USAF recovered from a series of bad misfortunes.

A really nice piece, now at: https://thespacereview.com/article/4403/1

Interesting re
Quote
The Program 417 classification level was reduced, but its origins in the secretive NRO were not revealed until decades later,
though, that the AW&ST piece from 1969 actually revealed the origins of 417 in SAFSP and that it had been transferred to SAMSO. But the full significance of that would not have been known except to insiders.

« Last Edit: 06/14/2022 10:10 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #97 on: 06/14/2022 10:54 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4403/1

Dark Clouds: The secret meteorological satellite program (part 3)
The National Reconnaissance Office finally builds top secret weather satellites

by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, June 13, 2022

On Vandenberg Space Force Base, a couple of kilometers up from the cragged coast of the Pacific Ocean along the dusty Delphy Road—named for a Navy destroyer that sank just offshore in 1923—is a flat patch of compressed ground. The buildings, infrastructure, and cabling are all gone, and there’s no longer any indication that this used to be Space Launch Complex 5, the site of several highly classified rocket launches. SLC-5—or “Slick-5” as it was called—used to be a Scout rocket launch site, and in the early 1960s, Air Force officers watched the long, skinny Scouts rise up from this location, arc out over the water, and far too often splash their top secret payloads into the Pacific Ocean. Some of the early rockets launched from that site carried highly classified weather satellites designed to support other equally secret reconnaissance satellites launched from locations just a few kilometers north of SLC-5. Putting the satellites in orbit proved to be difficult to accomplish in those early days, and the Air Force officers responsible for the Scout’s secret payloads cursed the NASA rocket they were forced to use, vowing to find a better alternative. But they also persevered in their mission to orbit weather satellites that they considered vital to collecting intelligence on the Soviet Union.
« Last Edit: 06/14/2022 12:32 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #98 on: 06/18/2022 01:20 am »
I was going to run my last DMSP article on The Space Review on Monday. However, I was recently contacted by somebody who worked on the program in the 1970s and I want to see if he can provide some first-hand information.

USAF really messed up the program in the second half of the 1970s. The new satellites, the Block 5D-1, didn't perform well. And then the fourth satellite was acting up in 1979 and USAF prepared the fifth 5D-1 for launch and then the rocket failed. The Block 5D-2 was way behind schedule. That left USAF without a weather satellite in orbit for over two years. It was a major screwup.

One subject that I don't have info about, but which I would like to know more, is the DMSP's transition to shuttle. In 1978 the USAF was considering a Block 6 satellite. This was apparently going to be a shuttle launched version. But I don't have any info about it. In 1979 they decided to cancel Block 6 and go with a Block 5D-3 version. But the plan (I don't understand this) was to not launch on shuttle until 1990. I don't know why, when they would have to launch every two years, it was going to take a decade before they did a shuttle launch.

I'm also curious about the initial specifications for the 6 and the D-3. Somewhere maybe in the files of the Los Angeles program office, there may be a report on the transition plan for the shuttle.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #99 on: 06/18/2022 06:51 am »
I was going to run my last DMSP article on The Space Review on Monday.

i.e. article #4 in the series ...

Quote
However, I was recently contacted by somebody who worked on the program in the 1970s and I want to see if he can provide some first-hand information.

[...]

I'm also curious about the initial specifications for the 6 and the D-3. Somewhere maybe in the files of the Los Angeles program office, there may be a report on the transition plan for the shuttle.

I look forward to article #5 (or should that be block 5) :-)

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #100 on: 06/18/2022 11:36 am »
I've been trying to find good photos for the article, with only limited success. There are no good photos of the Block 4 and 5A, B and C satellites. One Block 4B was donated to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, so there should be good photos of that (I have not contacted the museum to ask if they have any). The photos of the 5A, 5B and 5C are grainy and just awful. I don't know why that is. There aren't even many good photos of the 5D-1 and 5D-2, even though the program was more open.

Of course, just because this stuff is not on the internet does not mean that no good photos exist. They may even have been published somewhere in print. But I think it is somewhat telling that the official history did not have good photos.

Here are a couple of decent launch vehicle photos.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #101 on: 06/19/2022 06:51 pm »
I look forward to article #5 (or should that be block 5) :-)

I'm not planning anything more past part 4, which takes the story up to 1982. I don't have good sources beyond that, and I don't want to do new research. It would be interesting to know about USAF plans to transition various spacecraft to using the shuttle. There were probably a lot of studies done about that in the late 1970s. They did launch DSCS III and DSP from the shuttle. But what about plans to launch GPS and DMSP from the shuttle? What were they going to do with the Space Test Program? There must have been a lot of work on that, but we haven't seen much of it.

I have picked up some info about plans to switch the classified spacecraft to the shuttle.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #102 on: 06/20/2022 07:48 am »
I look forward to article #5 (or should that be block 5) :-)

I'm not planning anything more past part 4, which takes the story up to 1982. I don't have good sources beyond that, and I don't want to do new research. It would be interesting to know about USAF plans to transition various spacecraft to using the shuttle. There were probably a lot of studies done about that in the late 1970s. They did launch DSCS III and DSP from the shuttle. But what about plans to launch GPS and DMSP from the shuttle? What were they going to do with the Space Test Program? There must have been a lot of work on that, but we haven't seen much of it.

As I am sure you know I was gently teasing, but there are some nice impressions of GPS on shuttle which I remember seeing at the time. Fact that Rockwell were building both may well have ensured this of course. Thumbnail below, higher res versions are on web.
 
« Last Edit: 06/20/2022 07:49 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #103 on: 06/20/2022 12:25 pm »
That was done by an artist named Ted Brown, who did a lot of shuttle concept art in the early 1980s:

https://e05.code.blog/category/artist/ted-brown/

« Last Edit: 06/20/2022 09:42 pm by Blackstar »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #104 on: 06/21/2022 12:11 pm »
That was done by an artist named Ted Brown, who did a lot of shuttle concept art in the early 1980s:

https://e05.code.blog/category/artist/ted-brown/

When I first come across his work I wa amazed to see just how many of the classic images are his, including pics I recognise from Frontiers of Space and a Turnill cover among others.  There was a lovely photo of him painting a shuttle at KSC which NASA ran in its picture of the day series.

Interesting that 1981 shuttle pic has no less than 3 payloads, one on a Boeing IUS and two Navstar-type GPS payloads on mystery upper stages. In the end Navstar and early GPS used SVS on Atlas ?
« Last Edit: 06/21/2022 09:21 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #105 on: 06/28/2022 01:41 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4412/1

Dark Clouds: The secret meteorological satellite program (part 4)
The Air Force finally gets its weather satellite

by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, June 27, 2022

On the evening of July 14, 1980, a Thor-Burner rocket lifted off from its pad only a few hundred meters from the rocky Pacific coast at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It arced out over the ocean, heading south. As it climbed, at least for awhile, all looked fine. Soon its first stage shut down and the second stage started to separate.

To ground controllers back at Vandenberg, the numbers on their computer screens started to look wrong. The second stage engine was firing, but the rocket was not gaining the required velocity. And soon it was all over: the satellite began to lose altitude until it fell into the ocean far downrange. The loss was a big deal, because the satellite on board was heading to space to replace the Air Force’s only remaining weather satellite, a satellite that had been badly malfunctioning for months and was on its last legs. A month later that sick satellite in orbit failed completely, and with the replacement satellite smashed to pieces in the ocean, the US military was without a weather satellite for the first time in a decade and a half.

The road to disaster is often paved with bad decisions. Many bad decisions had led the Air Force space program to the unfortunate situation it found itself in by summer 1980. But those decisions had compiled by the late 1970s to produce a situation that was not inevitable, but certainly was not surprising.

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #106 on: 11/12/2023 11:00 pm »
Got this.


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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #107 on: 11/13/2023 10:28 am »
That was done by an artist named Ted Brown, who did a lot of shuttle concept art in the early 1980s:

https://e05.code.blog/category/artist/ted-brown/

When I first come across his work I wa amazed to see just how many of the classic images are his, including pics I recognise from Frontiers of Space and a Turnill cover among others.  There was a lovely photo of him painting a shuttle at KSC which NASA ran in its picture of the day series.

Interesting that 1981 shuttle pic has no less than 3 payloads, one on a Boeing IUS and two Navstar-type GPS payloads on mystery upper stages. In the end Navstar and early GPS used SVS on Atlas ?

What is 'SVS'?

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #108 on: 11/13/2023 11:06 am »
That was done by an artist named Ted Brown, who did a lot of shuttle concept art in the early 1980s:

https://e05.code.blog/category/artist/ted-brown/

When I first come across his work I wa amazed to see just how many of the classic images are his, including pics I recognise from Frontiers of Space and a Turnill cover among others.  There was a lovely photo of him painting a shuttle at KSC which NASA ran in its picture of the day series.

Interesting that 1981 shuttle pic has no less than 3 payloads, one on a Boeing IUS and two Navstar-type GPS payloads on mystery upper stages. In the end Navstar and early GPS used SVS on Atlas ?

What is 'SVS'?

Solid fuel upper stage. e.g. https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau_det/atlas-ef_sgs-1.htm and
https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_lau/atlas_sd.htm
but there'll be others who know more about it.

SVS stands for Stage Vehicle System, and  was built by Fairchild:

Quote
The system employed a spin-stabilized, tandem pair of solid rocket motors (mounted atop the ATLAS F) to boost each 1,720-pound GPS satellite into orbit.
From a USAF history, the Cape, via https://spp.fas.org/military/program/cape/cape3fn.htm

It seems to have been followed by SGS-2 which was McDonnell Douglas, this may explain why SVS is also sometimes called SGS-1:
Quote
As far back as 1978, the Air Force was aware that Block II NAVSTAR satellites would be 200-400 pounds heavier than Block I spacecraft, and Fairchild's original stage vehicle system would not be able to handle the heavier payloads. Consequently, the Space and Missile Systems Organization advertised for a more powerful stage vehicle in October 1978, and it issued a formal Request For Proposal (RFP) on 25 January 1979 for two Space Guidance System II (SGS II) upper stages with an option to deliver and launch five more vehicles by July 1983. McDonnell Douglas was the only contractor to respond to the RFP by the closing date (13 March 1979), and the company was awarded the initial SGS II contract on 14 June 1980. McDonnell Douglas experienced nozzle defects and stability problems with the SGS II's Thiokol Star 48 solid rocket motors, but, with the Aerospace Corporation's help, the contractor resolved its difficulties in 1983. ATLAS E launch vehicles equipped with SGS II upper stages were used to boost the NAVSTAR 9, 10 and 11 satellites into their transfer orbits in 1984 and 1985
again from "The Cape" as above.

« Last Edit: 11/14/2023 05:40 am by LittleBird »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #109 on: 11/13/2023 02:13 pm »
That was done by an artist named Ted Brown, who did a lot of shuttle concept art in the early 1980s:

https://e05.code.blog/category/artist/ted-brown/

When I first come across his work I wa amazed to see just how many of the classic images are his, including pics I recognise from Frontiers of Space and a Turnill cover among others.  There was a lovely photo of him painting a shuttle at KSC which NASA ran in its picture of the day series.

Interesting that 1981 shuttle pic has no less than 3 payloads, one on a Boeing IUS and two Navstar-type GPS payloads on mystery upper stages. In the end Navstar and early GPS used SVS on Atlas ?

What is 'SVS'?

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=27664.msg2424795#msg2424795
« Last Edit: 11/13/2023 02:14 pm by Jim »

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Re: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)
« Reply #110 on: 11/27/2023 09:44 pm »
https://spacenews.com/as-military-weather-satellites-near-end-of-life-dod-turns-to-partners-for-data/

As military weather satellites near end of life, DoD turns to partners for data
The U.S. military still relies on 1960s-era DMSP satellites

Sandra Erwin November 21, 2023   

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force is on track to launch at least two weather monitoring satellites next year while determining a long-term replacement for its aging fleet that currently supplies essential yet insufficient environmental monitoring.

In the coming years, some capacity will come from U.S. military-owned satellites but DoD planners and weather analysts for the most part will use data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Europe’s Eumetsat, the Japan Meteorological Agency and other partners, officials said Nov. 20.

Col. Patrick Williams, director of weather for the U.S. Air Force, said the military can no longer rely on the aging Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) constellation. Only two are still functioning, and their limited observational capabilities are insufficient for modern military missions, Williams said at a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies event.


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