Radio Tracking of Stealth Satellites

John Pike (johnpike@fas.org)
Sun, 30 Jun 1996 13:20:15 -0400

On Usenet [sci.space.policy et al] walkuere@amaranth.com wrote:

> problem in creating a LO space platform would be hiding the "care and feeding"
> telemetry signals.  Follow the trail of telemetry bread crumbs and viola, a
> space platform appears. 

Under normal circumstances this would be correct, since the [S-band] telemetry,
tracking and control signals are reportedly not difficult for even amateur
SIGINT operators to track [it is said that the SDS-2 spacecraft may be
monitored in this fashion].

It is a bit difficult to imagine that NRO would go to all the trouble to
make AFP-731 adequately stealthy in every other regard, and then overlook
this obvious problem. However, it might be an interesting exercise for
some folks to see if there are stray SGLS signals coming from our posited
1000x5000 km x 63* orbit, just to be sure.

OTOH, in principle one could simply pass the TTC traffic at another frequency
[EHF, probably] via SDS-2, and then have it go to ground from SDS-2 via the
normal channel, eliminating the need for a special TTC link for this bird.
Such a bent-pipe with frequency conversion would not seem overly difficult,
at least not compared with all the other things that would be needed to
"hide" a vehicle of this size.

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Perhaps someone might drop this into the hearsat channel to see if they can
address this issue in greater detail.

____________________________

John Pike
Director, Space Policy Project
Federation of American Scientists
307 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002
V 202-675-1023,   F 202-675-1024,  http://www.fas.org/