Author Topic: Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP)  (Read 27666 times)

Offline 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 ?

 

Offline Blackstar

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

Offline LittleBird

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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 »

Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline LittleBird

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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 »

Offline Blackstar

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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.


Offline LittleBird

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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.

Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline LittleBird

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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 »

Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline LittleBird

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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 »

Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline LittleBird

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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 »

Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline LittleBird

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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 »

Offline Blackstar

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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.


Offline Blackstar

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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.

Offline LittleBird

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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 ?

Offline Blackstar

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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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