Author Topic: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"  (Read 47062 times)

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #40 on: 08/14/2009 12:33 AM »
I found my schematic of the SDS antenna deployment sequence.  I'm posting a couple of frames here, showing the last steps in the antenna deployment.

This is the SDS-2 version, which I believe was based on the Intelsat VI bus.

Offline iamlucky13

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1660
  • Liked: 102
  • Likes Given: 93
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #41 on: 08/17/2009 11:45 PM »
So it is reasonable to assume that if there had been an EVA on any of those secret missions, we would have known about it?

I would say so, although not just because of Jim's terse counter of my idle speculating...On the basis of fundamentals, there's no reason why the UHF couldn't be set up running at low enough power to be picked up at 100 meters but too weak for any reasonable sized antenna 200 miles below. The signal would be at most 10^-7 as strong at the ground.

My take is that it doesn't seem worth that effort to hide such an EVA. That an EVA takes place tells no one much meaningful about the payload.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32197
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10849
  • Likes Given: 321
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #42 on: 08/18/2009 12:58 AM »

..On the basis of fundamentals, there's no reason why the UHF couldn't be set up running at low enough power to be picked up at 100 meters but too weak for any reasonable sized antenna 200 miles below.

The hardware on the shuttle isn't changed out willy nilly or tweeked for a off nominal use.  Qualification of a unique UHF transeivers on the orbiter and EMU's would have be noticed.  Especially when it was a big deal for secure TV and TAGS


Offline iamlucky13

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1660
  • Liked: 102
  • Likes Given: 93
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #43 on: 08/18/2009 08:11 AM »
Makes sense. That's the knowledge of the system I figured you had that made my speculation not worth pursuing very far.

Offline aurora899

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 309
  • Oxford, UK
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #44 on: 09/05/2009 09:02 AM »
Great article in the August 2009 issue of Air & Space Smithsonian, written by Michael Cassutt.
It describes the shuttle missions dedicated solely to Department of Defense.

I managed to find a sole copy of "Air & Space" in Oxford's main newsagent. It was hidden behind the astronomy magazines, which is not unreasonable - until you discover that "Spaceflight" magazine is with the aircraft and aviation journals on the other side of the shop!
Anyway, a great article by Michael. Very informative and peppered with a number of humorous anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed the one about storing the secret checklist at the end of STS-4, which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't read it yet!
I always throught it ironic that the ranking MSE, David Vidrine, was the one non-USAF guy! Didn't he secretly train with the 41-C (Solar Max) crew but got pulled from the flight a few weeks beforehand because it had no military value?
« Last Edit: 09/05/2009 09:03 AM by aurora899 »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #45 on: 09/05/2009 02:14 PM »
Go back to your newsagent and buy that issue of Spaceflight...

I don't have an answer about Vidrine (Mike will), but I've worked with Kathy Thornton and asked her about her selection for a classified mission where I think she was the only civilian.  In her case it was simply because she had the security clearances.

Offline Ben E

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 999
  • Liked: 10
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #46 on: 09/05/2009 03:12 PM »
Yes, I seem to recall that Vidrine was doing 'research' in support of future DoD satellite retrieval/repair missions - eg Landsat 4, which had a similar bus to Solar Max. I think the Landsat repair was originally scheduled for 1987, presumably on a Vandenberg flight.

Offline Skylon

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 381
  • Liked: 0
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #47 on: 09/05/2009 03:39 PM »
Go back to your newsagent and buy that issue of Spaceflight...

I don't have an answer about Vidrine (Mike will), but I've worked with Kathy Thornton and asked her about her selection for a classified mission where I think she was the only civilian.  In her case it was simply because she had the security clearances.

Musgrave was a civilian on STS-33 (and later STS-44) as well. Granted, he had served in the US Marines in the 1950's.

A quick look at Thornton's bio, has me guessing she got her clearance from the following job:

Quote
In 1980, she returned to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was employed as a physicist at the U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32197
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10849
  • Likes Given: 321
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #48 on: 09/05/2009 03:51 PM »
Go back to your newsagent and buy that issue of Spaceflight...

I don't have an answer about Vidrine (Mike will), but I've worked with Kathy Thornton and asked her about her selection for a classified mission where I think she was the only civilian.  In her case it was simply because she had the security clearances.

Musgrave was a civilian on STS-33 (and later STS-44) as well. Granted, he had served in the US Marines in the 1950's.

A quick look at Thornton's bio, has me guessing she got her clearance from the following job:

Quote
In 1980, she returned to Charlottesville, Virginia, where she was employed as a physicist at the U.S. Army Foreign Science and Technology Center.

That doesn't mean a NRO clearance.  Background investigation is the key.

Offline Jester

  • Administrator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 6976
  • SpaceShip Earth
  • Liked: 3220
  • Likes Given: 112
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #49 on: 09/05/2009 06:36 PM »
I first published the articles in Spaceflight magazine.  Jenkins later asked to borrow them.  In all honesty, I FOIA'd them on a whim, after reading a typically crappy Phil Chien article where he wrote something like "no photos have ever been released of the DSCS III deployment." 

When I read that I instantly thought "Well, did you ever _try_ to get the photos?"  (My opinion of Chien was that he was a lazy researcher, which was later confirmed when he got fired from a magazine for making up sources.)  So I quickly sent off a FOIA request for DSCS III photos.  I have to admit that I was completely shocked when I got two photos in the mail only a couple of months later.  It was really fast.  So I published them.  Later I learned that at least one other photo, a little later in the deployment, was also released.  The one posted above is, I think, the fourth.

Hi-Res 51J payload pics are available on L2 ;)
maybe thanks to your FOIA request, dont know....

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #50 on: 09/05/2009 09:05 PM »
Thornton worked a NATO job.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #51 on: 09/05/2009 09:07 PM »
Hi-Res 51J payload pics are available on L2 ;)
maybe thanks to your FOIA request, dont know....

Those are nice.

My FOIA was over a decade ago.  Lots could have been declassified since then.  I kicked the door open so others could walk through it...

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #52 on: 09/05/2009 09:11 PM »
And now, if only I could get STS-36 and 38 deployment photos...

Offline Michael Cassutt

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 377
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Liked: 41
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #53 on: 09/05/2009 09:33 PM »
Great article in the August 2009 issue of Air & Space Smithsonian, written by Michael Cassutt.
It describes the shuttle missions dedicated solely to Department of Defense.

I managed to find a sole copy of "Air & Space" in Oxford's main newsagent. It was hidden behind the astronomy magazines, which is not unreasonable - until you discover that "Spaceflight" magazine is with the aircraft and aviation journals on the other side of the shop!
Anyway, a great article by Michael. Very informative and peppered with a number of humorous anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed the one about storing the secret checklist at the end of STS-4, which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't read it yet!
I always throught it ironic that the ranking MSE, David Vidrine, was the one non-USAF guy! Didn't he secretly train with the 41-C (Solar Max) crew but got pulled from the flight a few weeks beforehand because it had no military value?

Thanks for the kind words.

Vidrine was indeed a navy officer -- though, as with all the first cadre MSEs, he was assigned to NRO.  (Had his assignment gone forward, he would have been transferred to the Air Force.  He told me that paperwork was ready to be signed when the assignment vanished.)

And when I say assignment, I should call it "potential assignment".  He was the MSE assigned to track satellite servicing, repair and related activities -- the Solar Max mission was NASA's, but the whole concept was part of the Air Force/NRO-NASA relationship on the shuttle program.  The Air Force/NRO had the right to add a PS to the crew.

But in March/April 1983, Maj. Gen. Ralph Jacobson succeeded Gen. Jack Kulpa as head of Special Projects (NRO) Los Angeles, where the MSE program was based.  He was not convinced that having "observer" payload specialists was worthwhile, certainly not on the Solar Max mission, and told Vidrine he wasn't going to fly.  I'm not sure of the date, but it was prior to October 1983, the L-minus-6 months point where a PS needed to join the crew.

It wasn't a case of such a flight having "no military value," just insufficient value to the overall NRO space mission to justify the time and expense.... and possibly the exposure of the NRO's central role in the MSE program.

Vidrine didn't "train in secret," he worked largely from Los Angeles and as I recall, might have sat in on a single sim.  (There were rumors in the space press in 1983 that an "Office of Naval Research observer" might be added to the Solar Max crew....)

Michael Cassutt

Offline Michael Cassutt

  • Regular
  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 377
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Liked: 41
  • Likes Given: 3
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #54 on: 09/05/2009 09:37 PM »
Thornton worked a NATO job.

There was nothing exotic about the assignment of civilians -- Thornton or Musgrave -- to "military" shuttle crews.  While it had certainly been practice to give priority to active duty officers in the astronaut office, it was never policy.  Indeed, had NASA flown the number of military missions projected in the pre-Challenger manifests, you'd have seen quite a few civilians in those crews.

(Dave Griggs was originally assigned as PLT of STS-33.  Although a naval reserve officer, he was a civilian, too.)

It couldn't have been too difficult to clear a civilian astronaut or three for these missions, given the original NASA background checks, the priority this process would have, and the time available.

Michael Cassutt

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #55 on: 09/05/2009 10:10 PM »
It couldn't have been too difficult to clear a civilian astronaut or three for these missions, given the original NASA background checks, the priority this process would have, and the time available.

Good point.  When you think about it, they could perform their job the entire time they were awaiting a clearance, unlike some other government positions where you have to be cleared before you're hired.

Offline Ben E

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 999
  • Liked: 10
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #56 on: 09/06/2009 10:50 AM »
Also, I seem to recall that when the 51A crew (Hauck, Walker, Allen, Fisher, Gardner) were assigned in late 1983, they were detailed to either fly a civilian mission or a DoD mission. Allen and Fisher were both civilians, too.

However, the issue of which civilians had the required DoD clearance is certainly of interest. With the sheer number of DoD flights planned in 1987, would more civilian astronauts have needed extra clearance? Thagard, for example, was ex-military, as were van Hoften and Lounge. Would civilians like them have been considered?

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32197
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10849
  • Likes Given: 321
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #57 on: 09/06/2009 02:33 PM »
And now, if only I could get STS-36 and 38 deployment photos...

what about 33 and 27?

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 32197
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 10849
  • Likes Given: 321
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #58 on: 09/06/2009 02:37 PM »
Also, I seem to recall that when the 51A crew (Hauck, Walker, Allen, Fisher, Gardner) were assigned in late 1983, they were detailed to either fly a civilian mission or a DoD mission. Allen and Fisher were both civilians, too.

However, the issue of which civilians had the required DoD clearance is certainly of interest. With the sheer number of DoD flights planned in 1987, would more civilian astronauts have needed extra clearance? Thagard, for example, was ex-military, as were van Hoften and Lounge. Would civilians like them have been considered?

Being ex military has nothing to do with getting clearances.  The process is the same for civilian or military

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11192
  • Liked: 2633
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: "Inside the Secret Space Shuttles"
« Reply #59 on: 09/06/2009 02:55 PM »
And now, if only I could get STS-36 and 38 deployment photos...

what about 33 and 27?

Yeah, those are nice, but I think 36 and 38 were the most... unusual.

Tags: