Author Topic: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s  (Read 27871 times)

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #100 on: 01/04/2024 11:48 am »
Though going back to Guenter's question/comment https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=59075.msg2554686#msg2554686 about what might have existed commercially in 2008 I see there is a helpful RAND report from 2017 on what was possible   even then (exploiting the maritime Automatic Identification System) and the more specifically RF spectrum mapping of more recent ventures like HE360 and Umbra

https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE200/PE273/RAND_PE273.pdf
« Last Edit: 01/04/2024 11:49 am by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #101 on: 01/23/2024 03:19 pm »
What are the chances of the commercial reference just being a flub that got carried over from a pre existing memo on IMINT.

The commercial reference  is to today's satellites, not those of 2008, I didn't make this clear in my original post which is why I corrected it, see also grab below from Scolese memo.

Hence I'd say it's much more likely to be true than a flub. See Hawkeye 360 https://www.he360.com/, Umbra https://umbra.space/ (which operates as a passive RF sensor as well as active SAR) etc etc. Umbra's antenna patents are online for those with more technical expertise than me to ponder.

By the way, not only are Umbra's antenna patents online, Hawkeye 360's direction finding method is a publicly patented thing, see https://patents.google.com/patent/US9661604B1/en  and https://patentimages.storage.googleapis.com/9e/24/7d/933c942ba50ffa/US9661604.pdf  .

Not that this is necessarily the same as what PARCAE did, but it emphasises the change in the climate of secrecy around all this.

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #102 on: 02/07/2024 01:15 pm »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4736/1

The Missing Link: Found
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, February 5, 2024

Jodrell Bank Observatory is a research facility southeast of Liverpool in the center of England. It was first established after World War II and gradually expanded to include a number of radio telescopes, the most prominent being a 76-meter (250-foot) dish, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. The observatory has been the site of numerous scientific discoveries, including the study of pulsars and other exotic stellar objects. Jodrell Bank also achieved a certain amount of fame during the early years of the space age when it collected the signals from Soviet planetary spacecraft, particularly lunar missions.

Jodrell Bank was truly unique during the first decade or so of the space age because although it was a British facility that occasionally listened in on Soviet spacecraft, the Soviet Union and its allies also sent researchers there, and even asked for assistance in detecting their own spacecraft. The observatory played a role in both Cold War competition and cooperation. But it also had a darker, more mysterious side.

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #103 on: 02/07/2024 01:37 pm »
The "missing link" was a satellite signal that the NSA knew existed, but could not find after decades of searching.

Note that this article connects with the STONEHOUSE article:

https://thespacereview.com/article/4580/1

And this is relevant:

James Burke, “The Missing Link,” Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 22, Winter 1978.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #104 on: 02/07/2024 02:48 pm »
The "missing link" was a satellite signal that the NSA knew existed, but could not find after decades of searching.

Note that this article connects with the STONEHOUSE article:

https://thespacereview.com/article/4580/1

And this is relevant:

James Burke, “The Missing Link,” Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 22, Winter 1978.

Jim Burke's 1984 article "The Missing Link Revealed"  is also relevant, though a bit of a challenge to read through the redactions: https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB501/docs/EBB-40.pdf

Says first intercept was in November 1983. Also mentions that SETI equipment somewhere was diverted to the search, though not clear where.

« Last Edit: 02/07/2024 02:53 pm by LittleBird »

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #105 on: 02/07/2024 10:22 pm »
Jim Burke's 1984 article "The Missing Link Revealed"  is also relevant, though a bit of a challenge to read through the redactions: https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB501/docs/EBB-40.pdf

Says first intercept was in November 1983. Also mentions that SETI equipment somewhere was diverted to the search, though not clear where.


Good reminder. What I'd like to see is a photo of that trailer with the NASA logo outside of Jodrell Bank. I'm sure people took photos, although whether any remain is another question.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #106 on: 02/08/2024 09:57 am »
Jim Burke's 1984 article "The Missing Link Revealed"  is also relevant, though a bit of a challenge to read through the redactions: https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB501/docs/EBB-40.pdf

Says first intercept was in November 1983. Also mentions that SETI equipment somewhere was diverted to the search, though not clear where.


Good reminder. What I'd like to see is a photo of that trailer with the NASA logo outside of Jodrell Bank. I'm sure people took photos, although whether any remain is another question.

Interestingly, even though it's heavily redacted one can see the 1984 Burke article is talking about the role of diverted *US* SETI equipment in the search. I'm wondering if that might be the first iteration of Berkeley's SERENDIP, which begin in 1980 or a prototype of its Mark II. This would, I guess, be in addition to whatever NSA had in trailer at Jodrell ? Or was a wideband SETI receiver "borrowed" and taken to UK by NSA ... which would be a truly great yarn ?

[Edit: I was also interested to see that the role of SETI equipment in the search was anticipated in the 1978 Burke article, see last grab below, from https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB501/docs/EBB-28.pdf in the Electronic Brifing Book here: https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB501/ ]
« Last Edit: 02/08/2024 03:03 pm by LittleBird »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #107 on: 02/09/2024 06:52 pm »
It looks like the John Rylands Archives at Manchester have the Cold War Lovell papers:

https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/rylands/

which will contain some interesting things: https://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2009/05/20/200509_sir_bernard_lovell_cold_war_feature.shtml




Offline Emmettvonbrown

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #108 on: 02/12/2024 10:51 am »
It was a very good reading and an eye opener. I knew some play havoc with undersea cables, but I did not knew weird things were happening in GEO too.

Weird things have been happening in GEO for a lot longer than you imagine.

Bouncing off this. Seems space sleuths have found the X-37B hanging around in a Molniya orbit.  I can't help thinking it is there to "interact" with russian assets there...  comsats and others.
Which would be a kind of "symmetrical answer" (Cold War style)  to the Soviets spying GEO spysats.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tit_for_tat
« Last Edit: 02/12/2024 10:53 am by Emmettvonbrown »

Offline Jim

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #109 on: 02/13/2024 01:20 pm »

Bouncing off this. Seems space sleuths have found the X-37B hanging around in a Molniya orbit.  I can't help thinking it is there to "interact" with russian assets there...  comsats and others.
Which would be a kind of "symmetrical answer" (Cold War style)  to the Soviets spying GEO spysats.

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


No.   Molniya orbit is 63 degrees.  X-37 is at 59.    Molniya orbits are like spirograph art, unless they are in the exact same orbit, they will never be close to anything.
« Last Edit: 02/13/2024 01:21 pm by Jim »

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #110 on: 03/13/2024 11:14 am »

Bouncing off this. Seems space sleuths have found the X-37B hanging around in a Molniya orbit.  I can't help thinking it is there to "interact" with russian assets there...  comsats and others.
Which would be a kind of "symmetrical answer" (Cold War style)  to the Soviets spying GEO spysats.

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



No.   Molniya orbit is 63 degrees.  X-37 is at 59.    Molniya orbits are like spirograph art, unless they are in the exact same orbit, they will never be close to anything.

With hindsight this is a strong argument against the suggestions in Av Leak (in late 80s iirc) that JUMPSEAT was eavesdropping on  Molniya. It might actually have been easier to do it from CANYON in GEO.

Offline LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #111 on: 03/17/2024 11:58 am »
Interesting peek at NSA's NSOC (established 1972) as it exists today:


Offline Michael S

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #112 on: 04/15/2024 06:52 pm »
“A short history of radioactive enamel caps for brighter, whiter teeth?”

Offline hoku

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #113 on: 04/15/2024 06:58 pm »
My next TSR article should be online later today. It is about this subject:
Intelsat V?

Offline Targeteer

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #114 on: 04/15/2024 07:55 pm »
You're imaginative, I'll give you that. But you should think more literally.

Should be online in a few hours.

I got it, eventually :)
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline StraumliBlight

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #115 on: 04/15/2024 08:19 pm »
My next TSR article should be online later today. It is about this subject:

FARRAH satellites?

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #116 on: 04/15/2024 08:47 pm »
My next TSR article should be online later today. It is about this subject:

FARRAH satellites?

Yeah. You win a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax or a chance at what is behind Door Number Three...

(I took down the earlier posts to return us to our regularly-scheduled broadcast.)

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #117 on: 04/16/2024 01:25 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4776/1

FARRAH, the superstar satellite
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, April 15, 2024

The Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, has a large viewing gallery overlooking its restoration hangar. Whereas some museum artifacts spend years in the restoration hangar, many others cycle through quickly for a cleaning and minor repair work before returning to storage or display. Recently a surprising one showed up in the hangar, a half-scale model of a formerly top-secret signals intelligence satellite from the Cold War known as FARRAH. FARRAH was named after actress Farrah Fawcett, who rocketed to fame in the late 1970s after appearing on a poster in a swimsuit and then being cast as one of the angels in the popular TV show “Charlie’s Angels.” Unlike Farrah Fawcett, whose poster reportedly sold six million copies, no previous images of a FARRAH satellite have been released, so this was the satellite’s first public, albeit low-key, debut, 42 years after it was launched.

At least two and possibly up to five FARRAH satellites were built, starting in the early 1980s. They were among the last in the family of Program 989 satellites that operated in low Earth orbit and primarily detected signals emitted from Soviet ground-based radars. Program 989 started in the early 1960s under a different designation and satellites continued to operate probably until 2007, with about three dozen launched over 30 years. Most of the satellites were about the size of a large suitcase with multiple deployed antennas from their sides. They were ejected from other satellites soon after those satellites reached their operational orbits. The last few Program 989 satellites—possibly still using the FARRAH designation—were apparently much larger, shaped like tuna cans, and initially scheduled for launch from the Space Shuttle but later shifted to a few Titan II launches before the program ended in the early 1990s.


Offline Targeteer

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #118 on: 04/16/2024 04:09 am »
https://thespacereview.com/article/4776/1

FARRAH, the superstar satellite
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, April 15, 2024

The Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, located near Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC, has a large viewing gallery overlooking its restoration hangar. Whereas some museum artifacts spend years in the restoration hangar, many others cycle through quickly for a cleaning and minor repair work before returning to storage or display. Recently a surprising one showed up in the hangar, a half-scale model of a formerly top-secret signals intelligence satellite from the Cold War known as FARRAH. FARRAH was named after actress Farrah Fawcett, who rocketed to fame in the late 1970s after appearing on a poster in a swimsuit and then being cast as one of the angels in the popular TV show “Charlie’s Angels.” Unlike Farrah Fawcett, whose poster reportedly sold six million copies, no previous images of a FARRAH satellite have been released, so this was the satellite’s first public, albeit low-key, debut, 42 years after it was launched.

At least two and possibly up to five FARRAH satellites were built, starting in the early 1980s. They were among the last in the family of Program 989 satellites that operated in low Earth orbit and primarily detected signals emitted from Soviet ground-based radars. Program 989 started in the early 1960s under a different designation and satellites continued to operate probably until 2007, with about three dozen launched over 30 years. Most of the satellites were about the size of a large suitcase with multiple deployed antennas from their sides. They were ejected from other satellites soon after those satellites reached their operational orbits. The last few Program 989 satellites—possibly still using the FARRAH designation—were apparently much larger, shaped like tuna cans, and initially scheduled for launch from the Space Shuttle but later shifted to a few Titan II launches before the program ended in the early 1990s.

Like many, I had that poster.  Like I've stated before, the focus on Army exploitation of these systems seems a little misplaced.  Identifying and located mobile SAMs was far more important to the Air Force and presumably the Navy aircraft and not so much to Army helicopters.  I've detailed the deployable receive suites that every Tactical Air Force unit had in the late 90s and I maintained one for the 388th Fighter Wing.  Still waiting for more details to be declassified... :)
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #119 on: 04/16/2024 11:14 am »
Like many, I had that poster.  Like I've stated before, the focus on Army exploitation of these systems seems a little misplaced.  Identifying and located mobile SAMs was far more important to the Air Force and presumably the Navy aircraft and not so much to Army helicopters.  I've detailed the deployable receive suites that every Tactical Air Force unit had in the late 90s and I maintained one for the 388th Fighter Wing.  Still waiting for more details to be declassified... :)

In a previous article I believe that I published some TENCAP spending numbers. Army way outspent the other services.

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