8X Enhanced Imaging System

8X EHIS - Enhanced Imaging Spacecraft Concept

By © Charles P. Vick 2005-7 All Rights Reserved



The opinions and evaluations stated here in are only the author’s and cannot be construed to reflect those of any Government agency, company, institute or association. It is based on public information, circumstantial evidence, informed speculation, and declassified U.S. intelligence community documents, official US government documents and histories, oral histories, interviews and engineering analysis. As with all data regarding the intelligence programs of the US intelligence community, this analysis is subject to revision--and represents a work in progress.

8X EHIS - Enhanced Imaging System Spacecraft

The 8X Enhanced Imaging System [EIS] was initially conceived as a modification of the Advanced Crystal platform to provide broad based imaging of an entire battle area, responding to criticism of available imaging during Gulf War One. [1] It would have the ability to image large swaths of land at high resolution. The 8X, under development by Lockheed Martin Corp., would reportedly weigh as much as 20 tons at launch.

One of the biggest criticisms of intelligence community support to war fighters during the 1991 Gulf War was the absence of broad-area imagery intelligence coverage. The military wanted to be able to image the entirety of Iraq simultaneously. The 8X project was an attempt to address this requirement for broader coverage by the military. The approach taken was to modify an existing system without having to develop an all-new spacecraft.

The November 1994 issue of Aerospace America contained an article ("The Space Business and National Security, an Evolving Partnership") by DDCI Adm. William Studeman which is remarkable for its candor:

"Desert Storm did reveal some key shortfalls, the most important of which can be tied to an inability to move data with absolute efficiency and to provide the necessary total coverage of the battlefield. A major one, of course, is the inability of low-orbit imaging satellites to consistently dwell or to acquire synoptic imagery in sufficient quantities to meet intensive tactical demands. Similarly, because of bandwidth demands of other architecture issues, we are plagued by problems with the dissemination of imagery.

"In looking to the future we have kept these shortfalls in mind and have developed strategies that should overcome them. A main issue, though, is cost. We are carefully weighing the tradeoffs that will allow us to provide -- in a resource constrained environment -- collection assets that most effectively address these deficiencies and other needs of military leaders and policy makers."

There are only two ways of doing this: increase the number of satellites in low orbit or place satellites into significantly higher orbits. Buying large numbers of satellites would be very expensive. Higher orbits are slower and provide longer time-over-target. This can provide either persistent coverage of one area or scanning a much larger area. Current spacecraft could probably operate at altitudes in excess of 5000 km with a resolution of about 1 meter, about that provided by commercial systems.

8X Cost

Under development by 1995, by one report the project was estimated to cost $1.5 billion. A budgetary battle ensued between Director of Central Intelligence Woolsey and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chair DeConici. DCI Woosley argued that the current generation of satellites (KH-11/12) (Advanced Crystal) could be modified to perform the task, and SSCI Chair objected that the program was a waste of money, especially when not all of the current generation had yet been launched. [1]

The 8X concept was estimated at the time it was in consideration to cost about $1 Billion dollars total for each spacecraft before being absorbed into the Misty program. It was to utilize both radar, and nuclear and laser battle hardening, optical imaging with a wider field of view and a higher orbit much like that believed utilized by the then estimated $1.5 Billion dollars per Misty spacecraft (Ref.-1-Wash Post Oct 5, 1995, p. A14).

Looking For the Spacecraft Possibilities

The last Titan IV is set for launch in the Fall of 2005 [launched Titan-4B AC-5 Dec. 19, 2005 .] The unprecedented use of a 76 ft fairing on a VAFB T-IVB has led to speculation that the payload is probably a resurrected 8X going into an elliptical, criticial inclination, sun synchronous, 3-hour, ~ 35 deg latitude of apogee. The time of year poses no obvious constraint, so they can launch whenever they get their ducks in line. The Delta IV Payload Planners Guide (PPG), dated October 2000 includes a mission profile "Delta IV Medium-Plus (5,4)" Sequence of Events for a LEO Mission ( Western Range )". At SECO-2, the orbit is 633 km by 7604 km, inclined 116.6 deg. Such an orbit would be ideal for the 8X concept: it would be sun-synchronous, with latitudes of perigee and apogee remaining constant. Note that 180 deg minus 63.4 deg = 116.6 degrees -- the retrograde version of the familiar Molniya inclination. The apogee of this orbit would always be over 58.5 deg N.

One or both of this orbit's following characteristics might have given rise to the "8X" moniker: it makes 8 revolutions per day; its apogee is about 8 times that of a standard KeyHole orbit.

However the payload was misinterpreted for what was the 26 foot Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) with its 50 foot shroud equaling 76 feet for the Advanced Crystal imaging spacecraft.

Design Requirement and the Available Technology Suggestions

NRO discussion of large telescopes that unfold in space was a loud hint of the technology they are studying for Imaging spacecraft. There are in fact several types of unfolding mirrors for power or telescopes design the technology of which is presently being developed openly. Much can be suggested on the potential 8X concepts based on the available technologies that have evolved to maturity in the last decade and the new technologies being considered that are reasonably possible. Among those new available developing technologies is the James Webb space telescope technologies applied to a larger diameter reconnaissance optical system for full battle field application. One has to realize that the same laws of Physics still apply to the advanced optics and thus the attempts at size reduction have run into considerable trouble. Further reducing the required spacecraft overall physical design except for the structures mass and reduced optics sub systems has also proven difficult. The considerable development in miniaturizing systems for such a 8X EHIS spacecraft have made good progress but also have their limits in practical physical application. Certainly the durability of the application of improved propulsion technologies and materials technology for spacecraft has improved the potential operational life time of such a concept. Today the stealth and cloaking technologies have certainly improved so if the total system can indeed be reduced from the Advanced Crystal or Misty design size and mass then this will become a viable reality with a size an mass cut by about half. But even these technologies could undergo considerable improvement based on their limited understood technological state of today. The reflective but thermally controllable spacecraft technologies projected image reflected back could potentially be changed to reflect the opposite side view from just placing a screen between the undesirable verses that which is desired that is invisibility to the observer both optically, thermally and radar wise. These technologies are making slow but certain progress but much like the balloon dish developments related to creating a constellation of much smaller SIGINT satellites dishes and structures that hold great promise do have their initial but learning failures that ultimately lead to successful developments. This kind of effort takes a lot of pushing of the basic sciences to push the basic technologies to finally accomplish the breakthroughs and to keep them coming.

Certainly the design technologies seen in the Boeing, Orbital Express literature brochures for two satellites rendezvous propellant and component transfer. It has been described as being very small and finally making stealth black body spacecraft possible so that the FIA could actually do its imagery mission. It would also be battle hardened for nuclear war and laser or ASAT attack with the ability to defend itself or go on the offensive. The fueling operation is to provide for propellant transfer or propellant service module or component replacement or modernization replacement to give the spacecraft high maneuverability to carry out and extend it mission and even upgrade it repeatedly. This by definition is not Misty or 8X as known but is by definition the FIA spacecraft’s of Boeing that may also resemble the Microsat systems design more battle hardened etc. So on the one hand we have considerable miniaturization but growing optics that precludes mass and size reduction to the level desired. This clearly created a potential conflict for the 8X program which presumable was designed as follow-on to the modified Advanced Crystal and Follow on Advanced Crystal “Misty” class RECSAT verses FIA miniaturization. There also remain launch vehicle cost as well as launch vehicle design limits that confine the payload limitations. In all probability the larger expensive optical system considered under 8X may very well be out dated and out mode-ed because of FIA technological developments and deployment strategy developments.

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