Space


MISTY / AFP-731

Follow-on ADVANCED CRYSTAL

The Stealth Reconnaissance Imaging Spacecraft

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

04-26-07

Disclaimer

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.

“Misty” Photo Imaging Spacecraft

 The MISTY low observables spacecraft program was initially justified on the basis that it would help the Reagan Administration catch the USSR cheating on arms control. The analog was to the first KH-11, which the US believed [correctly or not] the Soviets hadn't recognized as a photoreconnaissance satellite until Kampiles sold them the operators manual, and which allowed the United States to peek into some buildings at Sary Shagan that were normally closed up when the earlier KEYHOLEs went overhead. The enthusiasm for nuclear war fighting programs of the early 1980s might have been of equal or greater importance. Such programs as the B-2 stealth bomber, Continuity of Government, and the formation of the DDX/K Group strategic counter-C3 at NSA all occurred at around that time, and were all characterized by the same ultra-blackness as the ZIRCONIC programs. It may have been argued that MISTY would give the US a survivable Trans-SIOP reconnaissance capability. The Follow-on Advanced Crystal “Misty” spacecraft is believed to have an orbital placement mass at an estimated 29,000 lbs with the launch mass on the order of 36,700-37,300 lbs and a dry mass of 22,500 lbs. The Titan-4B capacity to polar orbit out of VAFB is 36,700-38,800 lbs. It is 13.25 feet in diameter or about the size of a city bus and is believed to be shorter at perhaps 34-36 feet than the ADVANCED Crystal’s 43 feet making the telescope barrel shorter providing for a wider field of view.

“Misty” Spacecraft Launches

LV Vehicle Date Designation
STS-36 Misty-1 28, Feb. 1990 USA-53/AFP-731
Titan-4B Misty-2 22, May 1999 USA-144
Delta-4 heavy up-rated EELV Misty-3 2008-2010  

For the later third generation shorter version (Follow-on Advanced Crystal - Misty) and standard longer fourth generation version modification (Modified Advanced Crystal) were launched on the Titan-4B is believed to have utilizing the standard 50 foot shroud with the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) for the Modified Advanced Crystal and the same shorter 50 foot shroud for Misty which may or may not have used the twenty six foot long Titan Payload Adapter (TPA). There is however still the mystery of what the shroud length was for the launch of Misty-2 out of VAFB. No clear images of the shroud have been made available from the press coverage or the USAF.

Misty-1 was launched on STS-36 and was apparently deployed from the Shuttle payload bay by the Stabilized Payload Deployment System (SPDS) by rotating the spacecraft out of the payload bay and releasing it side ways in an off set near vertical angle between 80 and 65 degree. (Ref. Guy L. King and Ted Tsai, Mechanical Design and Analysis Branch, Structures and Mechanics Division, LBJ Space Center, Houston, Texas, The Design and Analysis of a Double Swivel Toggle Release Mechanism for the Orbiter Stabilized Payload Deployment System) N89-23895

Third Spacecraft Being Prepared

The third modified Advanced Crystal-Misty-3 is known to be under construction at Lockheed Martin to bridge the gap between it and the Future Imagery Architecture photo imaging spacecraft. Boeing lost the FIA photo imagining spacecraft to Lockheed Martin because of program delays and cost overruns creating considerable delay in that program. This and several other kinds of existing spacecraft are being built to bridge the FIA gap because of scheduling development issues that have already occurred.

Historic Flight Heritage

AFP-731 (1990-019B 20516 USA-53) was launched on 28 February 1990 by the Space Shuttle Discovery on flight STS-36, into an orbit with an initial inclination of 62 degrees. On 3 March 1990 this spacecraft executed a small maneuver to raise its altitude, and on 7 March it executed a much larger maneuver, which raised its inclination to 65 degrees, and its altitude to a roughly circular orbit at 811 kilometers.

This astronomically brilliant object, readily visible to the unaided eye, suddenly vanished early in November 1990, leading to considerable speculation regarding its fate. It remained unseen until 1996-97, when spotted by Russell Eberst, in chance sightings, as a very faint object, visible only in binoculars - an indication of its optical stealth capability. The new observations revealed that it had maneuvered in November 1990 to decrease its altitude to 736 km, and increase its inclination to 66.1 deg.

Its lower altitude decreased the interval between its repeating ground tracks from 9 days to 3 days, more typical of U.S. IMINT spacecraft, apparently to optimize its support of the looming Operation Desert Storm. Its increase in inclination appears to have been intended to compensate for the lower altitude, to preserve the ability to image as far north as 76 N, to maintain surveillance of the strategically important southern island of Russia 's Novaya Zemyla arctic islands.

USA-144 (1999-028A / 27544) was launched in May 1999. There are a number of strong similarities between the launch of AFP-731 and USA 144. Within a few weeks after the launch observers tracked an object from that launch in a 63.4 deg, 2700 x 3100 km orbit. From the rate at which SRP (solar radiation pressure) is perturbing the orbit, the object's area to mass ratio (A/m) can be determined to be about 0.09 m 2/kg at least an order of magnitude greater than that of most payloads and rocket bodies, and more consistent with debris than a payload.

Launched from VAFB in May 1999 aboard a Titan IVB with no upper stage, USA 144 probably has an IMINT mission, but its orbit is a mystery. Hobbyists continue to track an object from that launch in a 2700 km x 3100 km, 63.4 deg orbit, but detailed orbital analysis reveals significant Solar Radiation Pressure perturbations, from which Ted Molczan deduced an area to mass ratio of about 0.1 m^2/kg, 10 to 20 times that of a payload, and more akin to debris. It appears to be no more than 5 to 10 m across, and only a few hundred kilograms in mass. Molczan suspects that the real USA 144 may be the second U.S. LEO stealth IMINT satellite. The first one was Misty (aka USA 53 and AFP-731), shuttle-deployed in 1990. If USA 144 is Misty-2, then it is likely to be in a 700 to 800 km, quasi 65 deg orbit. The orbits are low-drag, so orbit maintenance maneuvers are not required.

Misty-1 remained in orbit for at least 7.5 years, so if USA 144 is Misty-2, then it may have at least a few more years of useful life.

“Misty”, AFP-731 Spacecraft Description

The spacecraft is believed before orbital insertion to weigh 36,700 lbs with a body diameter of 13.25 feet. It length is believed to be shorter than the ADVANCED Crystal’s 43 feet making the telescope barrel shorter providing for a wider field of view. After orbit insertion the “Misty” s pacecraft mass may be close an estimated 36,300-37,300 lbs for the Titan-4B at orbital insertion with an 8 to 10 year life capability. It parking orbit mass is estimated at 29,000 lbs with a end of mission dry weight of 22,500 lbs Titan-4B capacity to polar orbit out of VAFB is 36,700-38,800 lbs. In general the spacecraft mass is believed to be lighter than the Advanced Crystal spacecraft mass because of its orbital placement and mission requirements. It probably burn off at least two propellant tanks worth of its original six tanks worth of 11,660 lbs of propellant.

The shorter off set telescope is a Lockheed, Perkin-Elmer Corporation design verses the suggest imagery telescope optics designer used on the KH-11 KENNON, and Hubble telescope design heritage. Misty shorter telescope uses a large front flat black colored photo shutter window that allows for a wider field of view.

The two curved body hugging solar arrays consist of three segments each measuring 96.7 x 79.1 inches and are attached to a deploying boom mechanism that allows the panels to be rotated in one plane to track the sun. Lockheed is the curved solar array vendor as seen in the Lockheed solar array vendor document (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Solar Arrays – Fact sheets 10-85) and from both the (Ref. President G. W. Bush (Senior) NARA Presidential Library Crystal RECSAT model display.) The Solar arrays are made of battle hardened Gallium Arsenate. Lockheed Martin is the lead systems integrator under the NRO’s lead design bureau specifications configuration control requirements.

There are the usual Navigation, orientation, earth, horizon and sun sensors of Lockheed utilized that can be seen in Lockheed Vendor documents (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Fact Sheet, Earth/Horizon Sensors1-90, & Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. Space News advertisement).

The Misty-Follow-on Advanced Crystal shorter third generation version provides a wide area field of view for the battle field while the longer fourth generation Modified Advanced Crystal version is designed to focus on points of interest through its high resolution CCD imagery. Misty is a nuclear war, laser and battle hardened spacecraft design. The third and fourth generation Bus-1 may have been redesigned with four instead of six new fuel tanks and satellite payload self support during launch eliminating the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) bucket barrel heritage issues of hardware already built. (Ref. Ed Eubanks and John Gibb, Lockheed Missile & Space Company, Inc, Sunnyvale, California, The Development of a Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle Interface For an STS Deployable Payload [N90-22086] NASA). They may no longer utilize the bucket for the third and fourth generation Misty launches.

That is however not as certain as there is still the mystery of what the shroud length was for the Titan-4B launch carrying Misty-2 out of VAFB. It must be assumed that Misty is a derivation on the Advanced Crystal spacecraft design heritage wise. Therefore the use of a derivation on the Bus-I propulsion module must be assumed as being of the highest probability. Bus-1 did complete the three required STS Shuttle safety reviews. (Ref. p. 48 Space Station Redesign Team Final Report) W hat has become apparent is that the Bus-1 derivation flown on the advanced Crystal was originally designed to fly on but never was flown on Shuttle except for Misty-1. It was always flown on the Titan-4A and Titan-4B within the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) bucket barrel. This is because it was originally designed to fly on shuttle but was later transferred to Titan-4A, 4B with considerable effort. Misty was indeed flow with a derivation of the Bus-1 propulsion support module on it first launch on Shuttle STS-36. It may very well turn out that Misty when flown on the Titan-4B was indeed launched in the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) contrary to previous suggestions making it a full 66-76 foot shroud with a jettison able less than 50 foot section up front.

Both the Modified Advanced Crystal and the Follow-on Advanced Crystal-Misty may utilize a possible radar imaging and or Thematic Mapper imaging view finder auxiliary system of TRW and Perkin-Elmer Corporation.

This is in addition to the primary offset imaging equipment utilizing the front viewing apparatus that utilize a black painted louver photo window that works very similar to the way modern SLR camera’s work today for nuclear and laser battle hardening and not a old KH-11, KENNON, Hubble telescope type flip back nose lid. The so called stealth Misty first flat black colored black body spacecraft utilized some flat Black, silver foil lines with gold and silver foil trim which lights up like a light bulb in the sky under normal solar lighting except for the apparent cloaking stealth external devices that scatters its solar light reflection brightness back into space giving it low visibility to the unaided eyes of viewers on the ground if the device is pointed in the right direction. The shape and physical properties of the skin of the Misty vehicle is largely responsible for it being radar stealthy. The Misty spacecraft in fact is capable of deploying its stealth Mylar balloon like sub skin that in part makes it quite stealthy in most cases that is not a separate balloon in front of the spacecraft.

The exception being according to Ted Molczan that it does shed two major pieces of short life debris in it initial orbit that are apparently design to counterbalance the mass of the large curved gallium arsenide solar arrays wrapped tightly around the spacecrafts telescope section during the spacecrafts launch and two additional short life of several weeks possible decoy sub satellites (after shedding some of the Bus-1 service module skin) in the subsequent orbit and finally when its elaborate masquerades is completed it kicks out a sub satellite decoy that launched itself into a higher masquerade orbit where it inflates for pre battle field war planning. In that last maneuver as the decoy sub-satellite fires away it goes stealth through a maneuver into another poorly defined orbit of perhaps 700-800 kilometer at a 65 degree inclination much lower than the balloon satellite orbit. The top, side bays for the decoy sub satellites can be seen in the Bus-1 literature along with it navigation star trackers and attitude control thruster racks (ref. NASA Space Station Redesign Team Final; Report), (ref. Boeing Historian Office provided unclassified Lockheed document “Bus-1 Implementation Concept for Space Station Alpha”). The two main thrust chambers of the Bus-1 module are also prominently displayed. All of the misty satellite buses carry deployable decoys and radar, light reflecting cloaking devices and mission specific packages. It almost certainly carries Passive – store dump SIGINT – COMINT packages in addition to communication dishes both for satellite to satellite and up, down links. Misty has not replaced the Advanced Crystals but has augmented its operations.

Speculating on the Bus-1 Modification for Advanced Crystal , and Misty-2, 3?

Misty-Follow-on Advanced Crystal with the derivative precursor to the Bus-1 concept for Space Station Freedom was used on the Crystal and was developed and produced by Lockheed later Lockheed Martin based on the Bus-1 document from Boeing’s history office. (Ref. Boeing Historian Office provided unclassified Lockheed document “Bus-1 Implementation Concept for Space Station Alpha”) On Misty the spacecraft lead was NRO/Lockheed but the Bus was changed either from Bus -1 derivative which I have no certain evidence of or it was a Lockheed Martin modified bus designed for the purpose later considered for use on the ISS based on the ISS Node-X, (Ref. Node-X Design Concept - Alternate propulsion module Assessment team-NASA) (dry Node-X = 17,967.1 lbs, with its propulsion elements dry equaling 11,301.4 lbs wet 18,100.6 lbs) Alternate propulsion module or service module which was a reverse engineering design to adapt to ISS for adaptation to shuttle flight of the original Lockheed service module from the available circumstantial evidence. Misty-2 also may have introduced the self supporting Bus that did not use the Trunnion’s and associated structures design for shuttle adaptation but this is not established and remains suspect.. This bus supports both the instrument section and the telescope without fairing or Titan Payload Adapter very different from the previous Advanced Crystal, & Misty-1 design. So this is maybe perhaps a third generation development modification. This also implies that the six propellant tanks of the original Bus-1 design was changed to four tanks with a propellant mass/volume increase as seem in the MSFC ISS Node-X designs which seems very similar to the Bus-1 design.

The Misty spacecraft apparently incorporate many of the 8X concepts desired. Between the Misty-1 and subsequent Misty-2 the redesigned of the telescope barrel to be shorter length became apparent and in so doing lightened the payload allowing for the VAFB Titan-4B launch. In so doing this they in fact fulfilled the 8X design desires for a wider field of view optics adaptation. This is believed to explain why 8X has disappeared from open discussion being absorbed with in the Misty program.

Both the Modified Advanced Crystal and the Misty are expected to be launched on the EELV in spite of Senate intelligence committee member’s objections to Misty $5 billion a copy high cost. The reason they are needed is because of the delays in the FIA-Boeings next generation follow-on system. How many more of these large spacecraft will be produced is in my mind questionable based on what smaller systems can do with in the FIA in spite of its delays and expected technical problems that are a NRO USAF have transferred from Boeing to the original RECSAT developers Lockheed to Lockheed Martin for redesign development.

Lockheed Martin is the lead systems integrator under the NRO’s lead design bureau specifications configuration control requirements. Lockheed is the curved solar array vendor as seen in the Lockheed solar array vendor document (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Solar Arrays – Fact sheets 10-85) and from both the President G. W. Bush (Senior) NARA Presidential Library Crystal RECSAT model display. The Solar arrays are made of battle hardened Gallium Arsenate. The off set folding telescope is a Lockheed, Perkin-Elmer Corporation design verses the suggest imagery telescope optics designer used on the KH-11 KENNON, and Hubble telescope design heritage. There are the usual Navigation, orientation, horizon and sun sensors of Lockheed utilized that can be seen in Lockheed Vendor documents (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Fact Sheet, Earth/Horizon Sensors1-90, & Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. Space News advertisement).

Misty Cost

The variant of advanced Crystal called Misty-Follow-on Advanced Crystal satellite program cost ballooned from $5 billion original program cost to $9.5 billion for Fiscal 2006/7 (Ref. Wash. Post, Dec. 11, 2004, pp. 1& A14 & Dec. 16, 2004, p. A3). It must be adapted to the EELV heavy lift Delta-4 already flown or the Lockheed-Martin Atlas-5 heavy lift booster concept yet to fly.

The USAF has indicated that the Boeing Delta-4 heavy falls slightly short of the required payload performance for the NRO payload that is apparently the new heavy Misty-3 spacecraft that is expected to be launch between 2008 and 2010. The expected cost of the up-rating of the Delta-4 heavy booster to meet the payload to orbit performance requirements modifications is estimated at around about $200 million if it was adopted.(Ref. http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2006/RAND_MG503.pdf the Rand corp. National Security Space Launch Report, 2006, as of August 2005) The Titan-4B was used at its maximum payload capacity for the launches of Misty-2 and Delta-4 greatly exceeds the payload capacity of the Titan-4B so the mass of the Misty-3 spacecraft must indeed be quite a bit heavier than previous generation of Misty but that is dependent on the actual intended launch site CCAFS or VAFB. That is because CCAFS launch site would require quite a performance hit due to the flight path requirements to meet Misty’s orbital insertion requirements keeping the payload in a similar mass relationship to the two previous Misty spacecraft verses a launch from VAFB. If this spacecraft has been designed to use a James Webb derivation type telescope then perhaps it will be launched from the VAFB but in all probability it will be launched from CCAFS indicating it is the standard design with some updates. Ultimately the new added cost involved here may be related to the development of a TPA for the Delta-4 heavy Payload Adapter and shroud revisions for the Advanced Crystal and the Follow-on Advanced Crystal “Misty” payloads.

Ted Molczan expanded on these issues. – “The foundation for most of my conclusions is RAND 's National Security Space Launch Report, released in Aug. 2006. Figure 1.3, on pg.7 (37th page of the pdf file), shows the annual number of NSS (National Security Space) launches in the manifest, broken down by vehicle type, including EELV Heavy. Elsewhere, it is stated, that the table is based in part upon 'National Reconnaissance Office, Office of Space Launch, "NRO Launches (9/2005 thru 12/2015)," briefing to Panel, September 14, 2005', so this information was already one year out of date when RAND published its report.”

“Also, there is valuable clarification on pg.33 (63rd page of the pdf):”

"The manifest outlined in Appendix A reflects a modest requirement for six heavylift missions post-2010. One is an NRO mission now scheduled in 2015, and the other five are Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) missions scheduled to be launched between 2013 and 2018. The satellites for these missions are early in their design phase, and their masses are best estimates at this time. Therefore, given the state of design for the satellites and their associated launch schedules, a basic question to be addressed is, "Will the Atlas V (55x) lift capability satisfy the post-2010 heavy-lift requirements, and if not, what is the proper course of action to be taken?" Currently, the U.S. Air Force indicates that the Boeing Delta IV Heavy falls slightly short of meeting the performance needed for an NRO mission scheduled to launch before 2010. The Air Force is confident that modifications to the Delta IV will provide sufficient lift. The cost of these modifications to attain the required performance improvement is estimated to be on the order of $200 million ."

The following statement on pp.6-7 suggests that spending the $200 million for the Delta IV-Heavy performance upgrade was possible solution under study, and not necessarily adopted.”

"... the production capacity for Delta IV, with one possible exception, can satisfy the entire projected NSS launch demand. The exception involves the requirement to increase the Delta IV Heavy lift capability to accommodate a single NRO payload. The best solution to this requirement is currently under study."

“So, taking all of the above into consideration, below is my interpretation of the EELV Heavy NSS manifest as of Aug'2005. Payloads shown in brackets; those with a ? Indicate my guess.”

2005 2 USAF (DSP-23), NROL-26 (GEO ELINT?)

2006 1 NRO (Advanced KH?)

2007 1 NRO (Misty?)

2010 1 NRO (GEO ELINT?)

2013 1 USAF (TSAT-1)

2014 1 USAF (TSAT-2)

2015 1 NRO (GEO ELINT?)

2016 1 USAF (TSAT-3)

2017 1 USAF (TSAT-4)

2018 1 USAF (TSAT-5)

“Since the performance of the Delta IV-H far exceeds that of the Titan IV-B, this would appear to be a new payload. Perhaps it is the successor to the Misty 1 and 2 stealth sats. Misty 1 appears to have been about the only payload that required just about all of the T-IVB's performance, so this new bird must be heavy indeed.”

Two advanced Misty spacecraft have been identified as launched Satellite with a third and probable fourth and maybe perhaps a partial fifth back up satellite to maintain the two satellite constellation now requiring a retro fit to the 4 th satellite while the 3 rd. one is completed, cost about $1.3 Billion per launch, satellite and booster based (Ref. AW&ST, Oct. 15, 2001, p. 45. & Oct. 8, 2001, p. 68) divided into $5 billion for the first (3.8462) 3.85 or 4 satellites minus the Titan-4A/B launch cost = $5B/3.85 or 4 = $1,298,701,298.70 or $1.25B – $361M = $937,701,298.70 or $889 Million each but has risen $4.5B/3.84 or 4 – $102 million for EELV launch equals about $1,066,831,168.83 or $1,125 Billion each minus EELV cost about $102 million which equals a net increase of perhaps about $2,004,532,467.53 or $1,912,000,000 Billion for each spacecraft. That is more than double the original spacecraft cost. The 0.85 ie the 4 th spacecraft would be complete except for the special add on packages for current issues and improved systems which may have also been retro fitted to the third spacecraft etc. The spacecraft contract cost for this series was so great the U. S. government must have required that major elements of the total system should be broken up among several major systems contractors much like the Nuclear industry had to break up contractors between the Turbine and the Reactor equipment with several separate vendor contracts in order to avoid anti trust monopoly court fights as well as to redistribute the wealth more widely. Some have estimated that the Misty spacecraft has skyrocketed to an exorbitant cost of $5-10 billion a one off copy. If this is the case one need but remember that the entire Apollo-Saturn manned lunar program cost on the order of $20-22 billion at that period and that between two and four of these spacecraft could pay for such a program then no wonder Congress has raised alarm bells over this and its true worthiness to the national security of the nation. How many more of these large spacecraft will be produced is in my mind highly questionable in its justification.



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