Philip Chien (
Wed, 5 Feb 1997 17:08:38 -0500

Bruno Tilgner <> asked:

>>Nope, just a plain o'le comsat.  Well, the world's largest geosync comsat
>and some pretty nifty capabilities.  Given the amount of unclassified
>documentation and photographs I have of it, I'd highly doubt that it's got
>any ELINT functions which I'm not aware of.<

>OK, but whose satellite is [Milstar]? Certainly not EUTELSAT's, certainly
>not any
>of the European PTTs', most probably not INTELSAT's. That leaves practically no
>potential owner in this part of the world.

It's U.S. Air Force.  And yes that does make it military.  But the military
needs unclassified satellites along with classified ones.  Milstar's sort
of half-way in between, its overall mission and location in space is
unclassified, but some of its aspects are classified.

>And why these gigantic dimensions? Ordinary comsats don't need antennas that
>large but they would be perfectly suited to monitoring wireless communications.

Not for monitoring wirless communications, but to contact small terminals,
especially in-the-field (e.g. battlefields).  It's giant because it was
built during the Cold War when the military could have practically anything
it wanted, just by asking and bringing up the Soviet Union.

Very sophisticated digital capabilities.  Any authorized user can just pick
up a handset and get an almost instantaneous channel to the satellite, and
then call anywhere in the world.  The satellite automatically allocates
priorities among different users as required.  I saw a demo at the Milstar
DFS-2 launch (obviously using the DFS-1 satellite).

Even if they did try to 'hide' the satellite's location in orbit, I could
easily have worked it out myself just by looking at which direction the
antenna was pointed!

There's a bit of information available on Milstar on the Air Force and
Lockheed-Martin web pages.

Philip Chien, KC4YER
Earth News - space writer and consultant
note new E-mail address -