Re: NOSS & Spysats (Cont'd)

John Pike (johnpike@fas.org)
Wed, 22 May 1996 15:15:11 -0400

>the switch to boosters was prompted by security reasons rathar than access 

No, I think that security had very little to do with it.

The one point that has only recently penetrated my numb skull about the
initial buy of the 10 Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicles [aka T-34D7 =
T-4], which was in play by around 1984ish, was that they were all Centaur
upper stage, and that we are now seeing T-4s flying with 76 & 86 foot
shrouds, containing payload and upper stage stacks that could not have been
accomodated in the 60 foot STS payload bay. So it is clear, in retrospect,
that early in the Reagan administration a decision was made to proceed with
SIGINT payloads that were too large to fly on the Shuttle, and post 51-L
USAF and NRO decided to drop STS completely.

>the US has introduced stealth into its mission planning (at least
>in the form of altitude and plane changes).

I don't think that it is so much stealth as it is the fact that our powers
of observation are too limited to elucidate what they are up to. I think
that the AFP-731 missing in action has a lot to do with wanting a wider area
IMINT capability from MEO, and not too much to do with the difficulty of
tracking the thing or reverse-engineering its mission.

>I too have heard that NOSS is passive,

This is certainly the case.

>but it is also probable that it does
>have RF emissions for groundstation keeping;

Yes, and it might be interesting to sit near Bad Aibling in Germany or
Misawa in Japan [the two overseas ground stations for the new system] and
hear what one could hear. The problem is that they are almost certainly
coming down at EHF, and this might present something of a hardware challenge
for the ordinary citizen, though perhaps not.

>I don't think these big birds (mostly radarsats) make
>power transmissions over the US because their targets are foreign assets;

There has been enough CORONA imagery released of US targets to lead one to
believe that Lacrosse would operate over the US, though probably in areas
like White Sands where monitoring would be difficult. Lacrosse was almost
certainly used in the recent Roving Sands exercise.
 
>since the majority of groundstations are probably in the US, I would expect to
>find other transmissions.

It *would* be interesting to listen in at Ft Belvoir or Buckley.

>I'm pretty sure that military SAR transmissions are
>encrypted;

This is certainly the case. I think that the main areas of interest would
simply be to establish downlink frequency and bandwidth and such. This could
at a minimum say something about system throughput capacity, but since both
Lacrosse [via TDRSS] and Keyhole [via DSCS? and SDS-2] are using data relay
satellites, I am not too sure how much product is coming directly to the
ground readout stations -- probably not much at all.

>I also wish to thank Bart for maintaing this medium so that we can all get 
>together in nearly real-time.

I second the motion.

 

____________________________

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