Author Topic: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions  (Read 8612 times)

Offline Blackstar

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We don't have a thread here devoted to the space missions of the SDI program. We should have one, so I'm starting it.

I'll try to put SDI-related documents and reports in this thread. Feel free to do the same.

« Last Edit: 07/01/2023 01:19 am by Blackstar »

Offline hoku

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #1 on: 07/01/2023 09:18 am »
Since the DELTA 180 article also addresses the "Midcourse Space Experiment" (MSX), which was ultimately launched in 1996, it is worth mentioning that the Air Force Research Lab actually carried out a Galactic Plane Survey, and published a catalog of astronomical sources identified, see attachment with some info on the MSX "Spatial InfraRed Imaging Telescope" (SPIRIT III). Their rationale for carrying out an astronomical survey was that bright infrared sources might confuse targeting sensors, hence better map their location and brightness.

They also advertised their survey at conferences, and handed out MSX mugs with an image of the survey - though 25 years clearly have taken their toll on my souvenir mug  ;)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midcourse_Space_Experiment

Offline hoku

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #2 on: 07/01/2023 12:54 pm »
... and for context, here are the YouTube links to Reagan's pre-briefing announcement of SDI to "High Levels Defense officials", followed by his "Address to the Nation", both on March 23, 1983:

Any guess on the origin of the "aerial photographs" shown in his address?



Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #3 on: 07/01/2023 02:34 pm »

Any guess on the origin of the "aerial photographs" shown in his address?


SR-71. I have a vague recollection that it was a special flight ordered to gather imagery for this purpose.


Offline hoku

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #4 on: 07/02/2023 08:56 am »

Any guess on the origin of the "aerial photographs" shown in his address?


SR-71. I have a vague recollection that it was a special flight ordered to gather imagery for this purpose.
Thanks. I'd been wondering if the US still dared to fly U-2s over Cuba in the 1980s.

Reagan concludes the discussion of the "aerial photographs" with the teaser "I wish I could show you more without compromising our most sensitive intelligence sources and methods." This might indicate that satellites were watching the Caribbeans as well (two KH-11should have been operational in early 1983).

Offline hoku

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #5 on: 07/03/2023 05:34 pm »
SDI chronology 1983 to 1988 by the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and a PBS/Forntline timeline of missile defense 1944 to 2002. Any other (official?) SDI histories or chronologies?

How many of the bilateral memoranda of understanding (with Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, UK, ...) resulted in space missions? There was STS-39 with SPAS-II IBSS doing the "Infrared Background Signature Survey". What else?

https://aerospace.org/sites/default/files/policy_archives/SDI%20Chronology%201983-88.pdf
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/missile/etc/cron.html

https://catalog.archives.gov/id/22572400

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #6 on: 07/03/2023 09:00 pm »
Here is a GAO report on the Zenith Star program. Zenith Star was a big laser satellite. It got canceled while still in development.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #7 on: 07/03/2023 09:05 pm »
A GAO report on the Homing Overlay Experiment. HOE was tested in 1983 and 1984 and the last test was successful. In 1993, information became available indicating that the Army made the target much more detectable in order to produce a successful test (i.e. they cheated). There were allegations that the Army had lied to Congress about this. The GAO report found that although there was a "deception" effort associated with the program, it did not happen for the fourth test.

As an aside, looking at the HOE entry on Wikipedia damaged my Zen. No, George Lucas did not sue Ronald Reagan over use of the Star Wars name, and the Wiki citation for that claim is about as solid as tomato soup.

Offline hoku

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #8 on: 07/04/2023 04:58 am »
A GAO report on the Homing Overlay Experiment. HOE was tested in 1983 and 1984 and the last test was successful. In 1993, information became available indicating that the Army made the target much more detectable in order to produce a successful test (i.e. they cheated). There were allegations that the Army had lied to Congress about this. The GAO report found that although there was a "deception" effort associated with the program, it did not happen for the fourth test.
<...>
I'd guess the initial tests were more about getting the search, targeting, and interception techniques and algorithms tested and tuned. From the DELTA 180 article posted above:
"During the approval cycle, some cooperation by the target was requested to help ensure success of both the approval process and the intercept. The response was manifest in the form of a corner reflector that provided (as it turned out, very desirable) target enhancement."
and
"The primary original purpose of the Delta 180 Program was to understand the problems of tracking and guidance for a space intercept."

Edit: Another possibility is that adding "target enhancements", i.e. the (apparent) requirement of "cooperative targets", provided some level of plausible deniability when questioned by the Soviets if these tests were all in accordance with the ABM treaty (see attached excerpt from Matthew Bunn's "Foundation for the Future: The ABM Treaty and National Security", which discusses this issue in some detail.).

https://scholar.harvard.edu/matthew_bunn/publications/foundation-future-abm-treaty-and-national-security
« Last Edit: 07/04/2023 05:36 am by hoku »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #9 on: 07/08/2023 01:21 pm »
I realise that I only have one book on SDI, the fascinating "Star Warriors" by William Broad-though you can't please 'em all: https://www.commentary.org/articles/gerald-steinberg/star-warriors-by-william-j-broad/- and I've only read one or two more, of which one based on Michael Charlton's interview series for the BBC "The Star Wars History" https://archive.org/details/fromdeterrenceto0000char/page/n167/mode/2up was by far the most memorable (because of its remrkable list of talking heads-see second and third grabs).

And I see this is mainly an official document and  report thread, so I'll repress the urge to chime in, except to mention the set of declassified/unclassified docs, originally collected as a microfich iirc, at https://archive.org/details/MilitaryInSpace/Space-001/

It spans a very long period from 50s to 90s iirc, and I think some of the OTA reports in it may be useful.

I suspect that as ever the intersections between programmes will be the most fertile areas for new hstory, see e.g. the attached AW&ST item from 1988.
« Last Edit: 07/09/2023 02:54 pm by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #10 on: 07/10/2023 08:08 am »
While not an official report this 2003 history seminar on the UK's response to SDI is fascinating:

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/assets/icbh-witness/sdi.pdf

Offline Jim

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #11 on: 07/10/2023 02:47 pm »
LACE/RME
Delta 180 VSE
Delta 182 TVE
Delta 183 Delta-Star
MSX
MSTI(s)
Starlab
Starbird
AFP-675 CIRRIS
SKIRT
CLEMENTINE


Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #12 on: 07/10/2023 03:36 pm »
LACE/RME
Delta 180 VSE
Delta 182 TVE
Delta 183 Delta-Star
MSX
MSTI(s)
Starlab
Starbird
AFP-675 CIRRIS
SKIRT
CLEMENTINE



Thanks for that list. Should it include LOSAT-X?

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/2700/1


Offline Jim

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #13 on: 07/10/2023 03:51 pm »
LACE/RME
Delta 180 VSE
Delta 182 TVE
Delta 183 Delta-Star
MSX
MSTI(s)
Starlab
Starbird
AFP-675 CIRRIS
SKIRT
CLEMENTINE



Thanks for that list. Should it include LOSAT-X?

https://www.thespacereview.com/article/2700/1



I forgot about that one.

Offline Vahe231991

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #14 on: 07/11/2023 03:40 am »
... and for context, here are the YouTube links to Reagan's pre-briefing announcement of SDI to "High Levels Defense officials", followed by his "Address to the Nation", both on March 23, 1983:

Any guess on the origin of the "aerial photographs" shown in his address?



The aerial photographs of Cuba, Grenada, and Nicaragua you mention were taken by the SR-71 Blackbird in the early 1980s.

Offline Hog

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #15 on: 07/12/2023 02:32 pm »
... and for context, here are the YouTube links to Reagan's pre-briefing announcement of SDI to "High Levels Defense officials", followed by his "Address to the Nation", both on March 23, 1983:

Any guess on the origin of the "aerial photographs" shown in his address?


The aerial photographs of Cuba, Grenada, and Nicaragua you mention were taken by the SR-71 Blackbird in the early 1980s.
Same answer as Blackstar's post #3 of this very thread.  Did your post add value?? (I mean value to the forum, not your "post count" or "posts per day ratio" or whatever your usual necroposting motivations are.)
Paul

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #16 on: 07/13/2023 06:54 pm »
Monday evening I will have an article in The Space Review about the Delta 180 mission. That mission, also known as the Vector Sum Experiment, was launched in September 1986 and the interceptor spacecraft collided with the Delta II upper-stage in a head-on intercept. It also carried various sensors for imaging both the interceptor and a ground-launched rocket.

The mission was classified, but one week after the test, SDIO held a press conference and talked about it extensively. They released a lot of photos. Several of the photos I have were originally classified "Secret" and then have "Unclassified" stamped over them, which is kinda cool. Gives it a neat Cold War feeling.

There are some interesting questions about this mission. A big one I have is if the government would have gone public if the mission had failed. All the pre-mission information does not say anything about an actual interception, so they could have kept the mission goals secret if they had not done an intercept. In fact, if all they had done was gather sensor data, they still could have claimed that it was successful. That said, the mission was an amazing bit of systems engineering and management--it was less than two years from a "go" decision to the launch.

I have a lot of great photographs of hardware and the test during this experiment, but I'll only use about half of what I have for this article. I really wanted to write a well-illustrated article for Space Chronicle, which runs high-quality color photos, but I got tired with how BIS treats its writers. I may run something in Quest, but they don't do color photos, which is disappointing.


Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #17 on: 07/13/2023 07:00 pm »
While not an official report this 2003 history seminar on the UK's response to SDI is fascinating:

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/assets/icbh-witness/sdi.pdf

Aaron Bateman's upcoming book is going to delve into this in greater detail. He has information on how Thatcher and her government responded to SDI. Naturally it was complicated. Thatcher was interested in cooperating for several reasons, not necessarily because she shared Reagan's vision for SDI. But maintaining a good relationship with the United States and access to American technology and particularly intelligence information was important to Thatcher.

Thatcher was much more in favor of cooperating with the United States on missile defense, but she had members of her government who were opposed and who actively sought to undermine her. A few weeks ago I heard a former UK scientist who was involved in the work say that he had been told by a senior government official to not do what the prime minister had ordered.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #18 on: 07/13/2023 07:21 pm »
While not an official report this 2003 history seminar on the UK's response to SDI is fascinating:

https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/assets/icbh-witness/sdi.pdf

Aaron Bateman's upcoming book is going to delve into this in greater detail. He has information on how Thatcher and her government responded to SDI. Naturally it was complicated. Thatcher was interested in cooperating for several reasons, not necessarily because she shared Reagan's vision for SDI. But maintaining a good relationship with the United States and access to American technology and particularly intelligence information was important to Thatcher.

Thatcher was much more in favor of cooperating with the United States on missile defense, but she had members of her government who were opposed and who actively sought to undermine her. A few weeks ago I heard a former UK scientist who was involved in the work say that he had been told by a senior government official to not do what the prime minister had ordered.

I look forward to it. That 2003 seminar I linked to produced a proceedings book of about 100 pages which really does make fascinating reading. Particpants include Heseltine, Charles Powell, Roy Domett and numerous others whose names will mean somthing to Brits of a certain age. It was run by the doyen of strategy academics in the UK, Lawrence Freedman: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Freedman

One intriguing vignette is that she was a keen reader of Aviation Week---one can almost hear that familiar voice saying "Now Gen Abrahamson, is it really true that you can ..." ?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) space missions
« Reply #19 on: 07/17/2023 11:45 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4622/1

Smashing satellites as part of the Delta 180 Strategic Defense Initiative mission

by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, July 17, 2023

In September 1986, two American satellites smashed into each other high in the skies over the Pacific Ocean, creating a spectacular shower of sparks and streaks, and making a powerful statement. This was no accident, but a deliberate test as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)—nicknamed “Star Wars” by opponents and the media—and one of the most impressive examples of rapid spacecraft development of the Cold War.

The mission was designated Delta 180, named after the vehicle number of the Delta II rocket that launched it into space. Although it was an incredible rapid engineering accomplishment—going from program start to successful space intercept in less than 18 months—it was also a project with substantial domestic and international political impact. Delta 180 was intended to silence critics of the Star Wars program in the United States, but also to provide negotiating ammunition before the Reykjavik Summit in October, where President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev met to discuss nuclear disarmament. The Reykjavik Summit ran into a significant stumbling block when Reagan refused Gorbachev’s demand to abandon SDI, raising the provocative question of whether Delta 180 had bolstered Reagan’s resolve, and maybe prevented him from achieving greater success at the summit.

Tags: sdi reagan sr-71 
 

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