Author Topic: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1960s  (Read 183333 times)

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1960s
« Reply #460 on: 12/04/2023 09:05 pm »
Those are interesting finds. I'll have to think about them and maybe summarize a bit here, but one thing it indicates is that apparently the COMINT mission for RHYOLITE was suggested right from the start, not after it was flying. Maybe it only was incorporated into a later satellite, but the potential for doing COMINT was recognized from the beginning.

Also amusing to see the rivalries. As some of my other research on the low altitude satellites has indicated, there were always tensions with NSA. It seems like other agencies did not like NSA and didn't trust them.

Not all new, just a bit clearer in latest versions, but definitely an interesting story. [Edit: Though I see that the names RUNWAY and RAINFALL did not appear in the earliest releases, and the material about latter on page 409 was completely redacted, see e.g. 2007 version at https://documents.theblackvault.com/documents/nsa/cold_war_ii.pdf . There has been at least one intermediate version.]

Have a look at the pages I posted from Butterworth as well https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40314.msg2511718#msg2511718
as taken together with the Johnson history they do I think indeed show COMINT as being part of the RHYOLITE story, though it’s admittedly not ultra clear yet.

[Edit: And see also the 1970 Lew Allen memo https://www.nro.gov/Portals/135/documents/foia/declass/NROStaffRecords/442.PDF   in a previous post of mine, reposted below, that refers to Perry and what appears to be a failed bid to do what sounds like the COMINT mission, how all this joins up remains unclear for the moment.]
« Last Edit: 12/05/2023 04:02 pm by LittleBird »

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1960s
« Reply #461 on: 03/17/2024 10:02 am »
Interesting to see this symposium. No sats yet as far as I can see, but some interesting stuff on ground based antennae such as the famous Wullenweber https://onthesquid.com/2013/05/the-elephant-cage-antenna/ used at Chicksands among other sites. Perhaps early SIGINT sats might feature in a future such event ?




Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1960s
« Reply #462 on: 05/10/2024 03:28 pm »
Moving a couple of posts about CANYON's upper stage(s) here as they fit better than in the re-usable Agena thread. First a question to Jim


Ok. For an agena related q, can we return to that pic upthread of a reusable agena with a kick stage. Does anyone know if any of the Agenas flown to GEO actually used a kick stage or would this have had to be a new development? Several docs from late 60s mention it as an option but as far as i know it was never actually done ?

Not a separate one.  There were some integrated into the spacecraft


Looking at the rather Hughes 3xx series-like
satellite in the shuttle cargo bay in the pic that Blackstar posted, do we know how that would have circularised its orbit (assuming its bound for GEO not HEO) ?

buried SRM


… And  Rhyolite and its successors presumably used the liquid (and apparently pintle injector based) TRW multi mission stage as a space craft.

So thinking of what else NRO might have wanted to use an Ascent Agena derived tug to GEO for, what about Canyon and its successors? Does going to an inclined synchronous rather than a stationary orbit mean that you don’t need a kick stage, just a second burn of the Agena (or transtage) at high altitude?


And was the kick stage in the Lockheed studies mainly about planetary missions that needed a very high initial injection velocity?

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1960s
« Reply #463 on: 05/10/2024 03:39 pm »
Second post, responding to Jim with some open source evidence that CANYON separated from its Agena after apogee burn.


So thinking of what else NRO might have wanted to use an Ascent Agena derived tug to GEO for, what about Canyon and its successors? Does going to an inclined synchronous rather than a stationary orbit mean that you don’t need a kick stage, just a second burn of the Agena (or transtage) at high altitude?


And was the kick stage in the Lockheed studies mainly about planetary missions that needed a very high initial injection velocity?

Canyon would have needed an apogee boost system either like Rhyolite or like Hughes.
Inclined synchronous is not much different than stationary, just a little less delta V
Transtage always did the apogee boost.
I don't think Ascent Agena ever did a second burn.


Thanks Jim. I defer to your knowledge of course but if Canyon had a kick stage wouldn’t its Agenas still be in GTO, as Rhyolite’s still are-unless decayed by now ? In 2017 the ESA DISCOS tables showed Canyon’s in synchronous inclined orbits like the satellites themselves, a striking difference from Rhyolite’s. I had a post mentioning this in the  Rhyolite thread-link is https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=37169.msg2294863#msg2294863

[As an aside, it's surprisingly difficult to find these ESA  tables anywhere other than astronomer.ru or some rather malware infested sites like docslib. There is fortunately at least one edition (1999's) behind a paywall in a journal https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1013399804776  though and 2017's  is  on Researchgate so i will append some grabs later to illustrate the difference between RH and C.


Compare for example, in first grab, Canyon 1 with Hughes' ATS 3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATS-3  which was also Atlas-Agena D launched and had an internal AKM.  Unlike Canyon 1 the ATS  has no Agena along with it, having left it in GTO I assume.

See also Rhyolite 1 in second grab-behaving like a system with a built in AKM as we now think it did indeed have.]
« Last Edit: 05/11/2024 09:51 pm by LittleBird »

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1960s
« Reply #464 on: 05/14/2024 01:11 am »
A little bird pointed me at Wikipedia (always a reliable source) and the entry on the ATS-6, and it says this about the antenna:

“It weighed 182 lbs at launch and stowed into a toroidal volume (doughnut shaped) approximately 6 feet in diameter and 10 inches thick”


So it's not impossible to believe that there was also a 30-foot diameter dish that was perhaps only 4 feet in diameter and 20 inches thick that fit inside the smaller payload shroud for CANYON. (the ATS-6 payload shroud was about twice the diameter of the CANYON payload shroud.)

Also, it turns out that the ATS-6 antenna was built by Lockheed, and Lockheed built CANYON. So there's a possibility that Lockheed developed the dish technology for the earlier program and then used it for ATS-6.

Bumping this old post because

i) a full size ATS 6 antenna is now on display at NASM, see first pic below and the YouTube link as well as the links at
https://airandspace.si.edu/whats-on/exhibitions/one-world-connected - there's nothing like standing underneath it to feel what a thirty foot diameter means, though of course we already had pics (second grab). [Edit: It also illuminates (pun v much intended) the size of RHYOLITE, which from an early, and now declassified estimate, would have had to have been at least double this diameter-possibly too big to fit the gallery !]]

ii) it turns out that the ATS 6 dish's technology was indeed originally from a classified project, and was declassified for its use by NASA. See attached, from a document compiled by Canada's SPAR aerospace in the 70s when they were looking at advanced antennae for a new comsat. Full original doc follows it [Edit: abstract is at https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.884823/publication.html and link to online pdf on  Canadian Govt site  is at  https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2020/isde-ised/Co24/Co24-411-1975-eng.pdf]

ATS 6 antenna folded into a 5 foot inner radius torus, so might have _almost_ been narrow enough to fit under the CANYON shroud- this seems to have been slightly hammerhead in shape (last grab).

Quote
One could envision CANYON as looking like ATS-6 but with a smaller box. But the ATS-6 satellite was built by Fairchild, not Lockheed, and therefore we would not expect the two satellites to look the same.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ATS-6

« Last Edit: 05/19/2024 04:09 am by LittleBird »

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