Author Topic: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s  (Read 23659 times)

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #20 on: 06/24/2023 07:02 am »
For a wider context this new podcast talks to former British Army intelligence officer Michael Smith talks about the close relationship between the US & UK intelligence agencies including the NSA & GCHQ. He touches on signals intelligence sharing but obviously a half hour podcast he cannot go into as much detail as the book will. It made me laugh that so close can the relationship be that they’ve even ignored presidents in the past who’ve temporarily asked them to suspend intelligence sharing. His argument being that the real special relationship is between the intelligence agencies not politicians.

https://shows.acast.com/american-history-hit/episodes/the-cia-mi6-the-real-special-relationship

Here’s the book itself.

https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Real-Special-Relationship/Michael-Smith/9781471186813

Interesting. To file next to Bamford's The Puzzle Palace, Aid's The Secret Sentry and Aldrich's GCHQ among other less officlally endorsed books, as well as Behind the Enigma by John Ferris. I was pleased to see Sir John Scarlett's long preface is included in the Kindle sampler as well as some of the book itself iirc.
I wonder if books like this have to be cleared by all the agencies he writes about both in the US & UK.

In case of former members of Intelligence Community and, I think, former serving military, in UK and US, I think so, Blackstar could tell us about latter. And there have been interesting consequences if they don't ask, of course, e.g. the Peter Wright case as hoku says, or the Marchetti and Marks book, which with hindsight is actually first mention I've seen of geostationary spy sats-before Boyce and Lee affair. Without checking I am not sure to what extent the late Mathhew Aid had to have his book approved: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/intelligence/2018-09-10/remembering-matthew-m-aid-1958-2018

In case of journalists in US, no, as far as I know, but some have had different degrees of co-operation with e.g. NSA at different points in their careers, e.g. James Bamford who enjoyed quite a good relationship with Haden esp post 9-11 which surely had cooled somehat by the time of this: https://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff-nsadatacenter/

And third main group, academics like Aldrich (who is in UK), I think would be similar to journalists, at least in the US-though I don't know how the constitution protects them. My impression is that it is rather complicated in practise, a key thing being people's need to retain sources who will speak to them the next time. Jeff Richelson for example was exceptionally well connected and interviewed both Wheelon and McMillan for his books.

Last book I mentioned, Ferris, is the official history of GCHQ, but is slow going: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/oct/21/behind-the-enigma-by-john-ferris-review-inside-britains-most-secret-intelligence-agency



« Last Edit: 06/24/2023 12:58 pm by LittleBird »

Offline Star One

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #21 on: 06/24/2023 11:37 am »
For a wider context this new podcast talks to former British Army intelligence officer Michael Smith talks about the close relationship between the US & UK intelligence agencies including the NSA & GCHQ. He touches on signals intelligence sharing but obviously a half hour podcast he cannot go into as much detail as the book will. It made me laugh that so close can the relationship be that they’ve even ignored presidents in the past who’ve temporarily asked them to suspend intelligence sharing. His argument being that the real special relationship is between the intelligence agencies not politicians.

https://shows.acast.com/american-history-hit/episodes/the-cia-mi6-the-real-special-relationship

Here’s the book itself.

https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Real-Special-Relationship/Michael-Smith/9781471186813
Peter Wright's (somewhat controversial) memoir "Spycatcher" offers some nice insights into the early (1950s to 1970s) TEMPEST-style ELINT/SIGINT employed by the UK and FVEY, and into the special relationship between US/UK agencies.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Wright_(MI5_officer)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spycatcher
I have a very vague memory of seeing Peter Wright being interviewed on TV at the time about the book, I think it was by Terry Wogan on his evening chat show.

Offline Star One

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #22 on: 06/24/2023 11:40 am »
For a wider context this new podcast talks to former British Army intelligence officer Michael Smith talks about the close relationship between the US & UK intelligence agencies including the NSA & GCHQ. He touches on signals intelligence sharing but obviously a half hour podcast he cannot go into as much detail as the book will. It made me laugh that so close can the relationship be that they’ve even ignored presidents in the past who’ve temporarily asked them to suspend intelligence sharing. His argument being that the real special relationship is between the intelligence agencies not politicians.

https://shows.acast.com/american-history-hit/episodes/the-cia-mi6-the-real-special-relationship

Here’s the book itself.

https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Real-Special-Relationship/Michael-Smith/9781471186813

Interesting. To file next to Bamford's The Puzzle Palace, Aid's The Secret Sentry and Aldrich's GCHQ among other less officlally endorsed books, as well as Behind the Enigma by John Ferris. I was pleased to see Sir John Scarlett's long preface is included in the Kindle sampler as well as some of the book itself iirc.
I wonder if books like this have to be cleared by all the agencies he writes about both in the US & UK.

In case of former members of Intelligence Community and, I think, former serving military, in UK and US, I think so, Blackstar could tell us about latter. And there have been interesting consequences if they don't ask, of course, e.g. the Peter Wright case as hoku says, or the Marchetti and Marks book, which with hindsight is actually first mention I've seen of geostationary spy sats-before Boyce and Lee. Without checking I am not sure to what extent the late Mathhew Aid had to have his book approved: https://nsarchive.gwu.edu affair/news/intelligence/2018-09-10/remembering-matthew-m-aid-1958-2018

In case of journalists in US, no, as far as I know, but some have had different degrees of co-operation with e.g. NSA at different points in their careers, e.g. James Bamford who enjoyed quite a good relationship with Haden esp post 9-11 which surely had cooled somehat by the time of this: https://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff-nsadatacenter/

And third main group, academics like Aldrich (who is in UK), I think would be similar to journalists, at least in the US-though I don't know how the constitution protects them. My impression is that it is rather complicated in practise, a key thing being people's need to retain sources who will speak to them the next time. Jeff Richelson for example was exceptionally well connected and interviewed both Wheelon and McMillan for his books.

Last book I mentioned, Ferris, is the official history of GCHQ, but is slow going: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/oct/21/behind-the-enigma-by-john-ferris-review-inside-britains-most-secret-intelligence-agency
Thanks for that. I forgot to say in the podcast Smith talks about going around an NSA station he doesn’t say which one, and encountering British people working there. He said you only knew when they opened their mouths and you heard their accents.

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #23 on: 08/02/2023 10:23 am »
Interesting to see NRO being more upfront than ever about what looks v much like SIGINT in a recent 1 minute promo video.

I assume this is a generic satellite rather than a real one but it is surely for "hearing" rather than "seeing" ?




Online Blackstar

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #24 on: 08/02/2023 01:21 pm »
They clearly used Juno for inspiration. I think a previous video used Voyager.


Offline leovinus

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #25 on: 08/02/2023 09:59 pm »
Vaguely relevant NSA oral history which mentions POPPY, WRANGLER, ELINT,  Desert storm stuff
https://www.governmentattic.org/50docs/NSAohiREDACTED_OH-2007-09.pdf

Offline Jim

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #26 on: 08/07/2023 03:57 pm »
They clearly used Juno for inspiration. I think a previous video used Voyager.



Maybe TACSAT-3

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TacSat-3

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #27 on: 08/07/2023 04:13 pm »
Vaguely relevant NSA oral history which mentions POPPY, WRANGLER, ELINT,  Desert storm stuff
https://www.governmentattic.org/50docs/NSAohiREDACTED_OH-2007-09.pdf

One interesting thing is that the anonynmous interviewee talks about his first posting (first grab), at Adak (see YouTube video) and  says he was the first person to detect the signal from the HEN HOUSE radar (second grab), in what must have been early 60s.

« Last Edit: 08/07/2023 04:14 pm by LittleBird »

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #28 on: 08/18/2023 11:56 am »
They clearly used Juno for inspiration. I think a previous video used Voyager.

This one, yes ?


Had some nice exploded view images (I'm old enough that I find nifty graphics like this, well, nifty ;-)).

Also interested to see they had a v small  generic "KH-11" and a larger and afaik accurate SDS/QUASAR.


Online Blackstar

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #29 on: 09/01/2023 10:26 pm »
This could also be posted in the HEXAGON thread, but we gotta start somewhere.

Post-mission report for HEXAGON mission 1208. A few things stand out to me. I'll go with the easier one first.

This mission had two subsatellites for deployment: TOPHAT 2 and an ARPA satellite. We now have the mass for TOPHAT 2, which I don't think we had before. I'll be compiling the masses for a few other satellites because of this.

But here's the other thing: what else was on HEXAGON that was deleted? I'd note that this category is deleted for all the released mission reports, so it seems like it was carried on all of them. And yet it is still classified. Some possibilities:

-threat warning system
-countermeasures (chaff?)
-an additional SIGINT payload?

Anyway, there you go. Something to chew on.

Online Blackstar

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #30 on: 09/01/2023 10:34 pm »
And here is another one. This now gives us the mass of the MABELI satellite, 435 pounds.

I've written about MABELI before. It was designed to go after the main beams of Soviet anti-ballistic missile radars.

https://www.thespacereview.com/archive/4091-1.html


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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #31 on: 09/01/2023 10:39 pm »
And so you don't have to go searching, here are the mission reports for 1201, 1202, 1203, 1204, 1205, 1206, 1208, and 1209. There is no released report for 1207 yet.

I'll also drop these into the HEXAGON thread.

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #32 on: 09/01/2023 10:47 pm »
Now here's where things get a bit funky...

HEXAGON mission 1204 carried a subsatellite. But it was not a Program 989 satellite. Instead, it was a Program 801 subsatellite. What was Program 801? We don't know. But now we do know that the satellite weighed 149 pounds--a lot less than the other Program 989 satellites, huh?


Update: it has been brought to my attention that the mass listed inside the report probably includes some equipment that is not part of the satellite. Instead, you have to look at the mass properties table. Based upon that, the subsatellite weighed 129 pounds.
« Last Edit: 09/02/2023 01:26 am by Blackstar »

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #33 on: 09/01/2023 10:51 pm »
And here is the report for HEXAGON mission 1206. No subsatellite, but it flew a SOLO mission after all the reentry vehicles were used up. What was the SOLO mission?

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #34 on: 09/01/2023 10:55 pm »
HEXAGON mission 1209 carried the RAQUEL subsatellite, and an S3 satellite. As you can see, RAQUEL was heavier than TOPHAT 2. S3 was heavier than RAQUEL.

These satellite masses are significantly higher than the mass for the Program 801 satellite.

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #35 on: 09/01/2023 11:07 pm »
Last one for now. HEXAGON mission 1203 carried the URSALA subsatellite.


Offline hoku

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #36 on: 09/02/2023 08:58 am »
This could also be posted in the HEXAGON thread, but we gotta start somewhere.

Post-mission report for HEXAGON mission 1208. A few things stand out to me. I'll go with the easier one first.

This mission had two subsatellites for deployment: TOPHAT 2 and an ARPA satellite. We now have the mass for TOPHAT 2, which I don't think we had before. I'll be compiling the masses for a few other satellites because of this.

But here's the other thing: what else was on HEXAGON that was deleted? I'd note that this category is deleted for all the released mission reports, so it seems like it was carried on all of them. And yet it is still classified. Some possibilities:

-threat warning system
-countermeasures (chaff?)
-an additional SIGINT payload?

Anyway, there you go. Something to chew on.
Nice!

Performance Evaluation Team Reports for 1203 and 1204 mention "Survivability System(s)" among the payloads. For 1204 they use plural, thus maybe they added a 2nd system?

The Flight Test Analysis Engineering Report for 1209 lists a "[REDACTED] B-3 System" as a Tertiary Payload.

Some of the PETs include redacted items in the timeline of the SOLO missions, thus these super-secret payloads might have been exercised also after the completion of the primary mission?
« Last Edit: 09/02/2023 08:59 am by hoku »

Offline hoku

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #37 on: 09/03/2023 06:03 am »
And here is the report for HEXAGON mission 1206. No subsatellite, but it flew a SOLO mission after all the reentry vehicles were used up. What was the SOLO mission?
According to PET 1206: Lots of engineering tests, 4 [REDACTED] (single revolution/single orbit?) tests, possibly involving the STC (Satellite Test Center). Glossary has one of the "S" items redacted.

Anyone who might want to guess which acronym could be missing between "SCF" and "SETS"?

Online LittleBird

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #38 on: 09/03/2023 08:53 am »
And here is the report for HEXAGON mission 1206. No subsatellite, but it flew a SOLO mission after all the reentry vehicles were used up. What was the SOLO mission?
According to PET 1206: Lots of engineering tests, 4 [REDACTED] (single revolution/single orbit?) tests, possibly involving the STC (Satellite Test Center). Glossary has one of the "S" items redacted.

Anyone who might want to guess which acronym could be missing between "SCF" and "SETS"?

If any of the late HEXAGONs had readout experiments, which I think was discussed in a thread here, could it be SDS ?
« Last Edit: 09/03/2023 08:54 am by LittleBird »

Offline hoku

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Re: Satellite signals intelligence in the 1970s-1990s
« Reply #39 on: 09/03/2023 01:30 pm »
Now here's where things get a bit funky...

HEXAGON mission 1204 carried a subsatellite. But it was not a Program 989 satellite. Instead, it was a Program 801 subsatellite. What was Program 801? We don't know. But now we do know that the satellite weighed 149 pounds--a lot less than the other Program 989 satellites, huh?


Update: it has been brought to my attention that the mass listed inside the report probably includes some equipment that is not part of the satellite. Instead, you have to look at the mass properties table. Based upon that, the subsatellite weighed 129 pounds.
Do we know which mission the "Navy navigation satellite" flew on?

edit: note the spelling in the table head of the attached excerpt: "Communist Countries and Missile East".  ;)
« Last Edit: 09/03/2023 01:34 pm by hoku »

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