SeeSat-L cooperation, was Re: Milstar

Philip Chien (
Mon, 10 Feb 1997 01:04:58 -0500

>> wrote
>>> All of us are here to learn and share our experience.  It is not,
>>     however, unreasonable to expect someone to do their homework before
>>     they put up wild speculation.  Bruno, check out things on your own
>>     first, then ask intelligent questions, the answers to which may teach
>>     all of us something.<
>>Agreed, but without somewhat provocative questions and suppositions I
>>would not have got so many replies so quickly. Thanks to all of you
>>who replied and in particular to you, Jeff! (Bjoern Gimle) added:

>I fully support Bruno on this. My ideas - and questions - are often
>not very carefully considered or investigated, before I post them,
>but luckily I can't recall being flamed publicly.

My only observation is the concerns that some folks on Seesat are using the
information obtained here for their own commercial uses, whether it's part
of their work, or for profit.

There have been people here who try to get others to speculate on the
identity of classified payloads - and it's really stretching the charter of
this group to claim that it's got anything to do with satellite

And IMHO somebody who does use information obtained here on Seesat for a
professional purpose (e.g. writing a book, research for a commercial
project, information for use as a 'industry source', etc.) without first
obtaining the permission of the party which posted that information -- with
proper credit and compensation for that person's time and knowledge, is a
pretty crappy and unethical thing to do.  Not to mention a violation of the
U.S. and international copyright laws.  But that's besides the point.

As most of you know I am a professional writer in the aerospace community,
and write about visible satellites as part of my work.  I have _NEVER_ used
any information which I've obtained via Seesat without first obtaining the
permission of the author.  Case in point - Mike McCants observations of
Telstar 401 will be appearing in the March/April issue of "Satellite
Times", with his permission and proper attribution.

Yes, it would certainly have been feasible for Bruno to do his own research
on Milstar, but his query about whether or not Milstar was an Elint
satellite was a quite legitimate one.

and to answer the follow-up question -

Bruno Tilgner <> asked:

>There remains one question (I don't know if i'ts an intelligent one):
>How come the US can place a satellite into a part of the geostationary
>belt that isn't theirs, or is it?

Well, my personal opinion is that the first country to put a satellite in
to geosynchronous orbit "owns" the entire geosynchronous belt as an
extended piece of their territory since it always remains in the same
position relative to the Earth's surface.  ;-)

Of course if the ownership of the geosynchronous belt was dependent on who
originally came up with the concept, then it would all be British
territory. ;-))

But seriously ...

There was a "Bogata" conference where communications representatives from
13 equatorial nations got together in Columbia and declared that they
'owned' the space in the Clarke belt above their countries as part of their
sovereign territory.  There were threats that they would use their military
force to protect their terrirtory if necessary - which was rather amusing
if you think about it ...

Nobody "owns" outerspace, or any particular slot in the geosynchronous
belt.  By international agreements the International Telecommunications
Union (ITU) coordinates satellite operations to avoid interference.  The
key concern is C and Ku band communications satellites.  These have to be
spaced at adequate separations to avoid adjacent satellite interference.
Physical separation in the geosync belt is rarely a major consideration,
some slots have up to six operational satellites (Astra).  With the 2
degree spacing common in the United States for broadcast satellites there
is room for about two dozen satellites.  And there are a couple of other
portions of the world with limited 'space' in the geosync belt.

As a rule military satellites operate on frequencies where there isn't any
interference with commercial satellites.  I believe the Milstar web pages
have their frequency bands, so you can look that up yourself.  (or check
out my "Satellite Times" article on Milstar about a year ago).

Many military satellites do violate international laws by operating in
bands which are supposed to be used for other purposes.  In George Smoot's
book "Wrinkles in Time" he describes a radio telescope at the South Pole
which received a signal from space which was almost certainly one of the
early NOSS White Cloud satellites.  But it's quite legal for the US Air
Force to park a Milstar satellite in the Eastern hemisphere.  And if you
think about it, any global communications system must have satellites
around the world!  And there are Russian/Soviet "spy" satellites in
geosynchronous orbit over the U.S!  (well over the equator south of the
U.S., but you knew what I meant).

What's amusing is the recent revalations from the Department of Defense
that they've been operating satellites at the 20-30 Ghz. range in
geosynchronous and Molniya slots.  One of the key reasons for the
announcement was to forestall commercial companies like Teledesic which are
filing applications to use those frequencies for space communications!

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