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Milstar 1

With the end of the Cold War, the Milstar satellite became increasingly controversial, due to its high cost and uncertain requirements.(1) The initial Milstar schedule called for the first satellite to be launched on a Titan 4 Centaur from the Eastern Test Range in 1991, with one satellite launched each year thereafter,(2) and polar Milstar launches beginning in 1996 from the Western Test Range.(3) The constellation was planned to consist of four active (and one spare) satellites in geosynchronous equatorial orbit, as well as three active (and one spare) satellites in geosynchronous polar orbit, with a tenth spacecraft procured as a ground spare in anticipation of a launch failure.(4) The Ground Test Vehicle (which was not planned for launch)(5) three Block I spacecraft, as well as the first two upgraded Block II spacecraft, were financed with development funds, while subsequent spacecraft were to be financed out of the procurement account.(6) The cost of reaching a full operational capability was been estimated to be as high as $22 billion, with each spacecraft costing about $800 million.(7) The Bush Administration requested approximately $1 billion for Milstar in the 1990 budget submission, but the House Appropriations Committee approved only $400 million, and called for cancellation of the program following completion of the three satellites then under contract.(8)

The Milstar space segment was subsequently planned to consist of a constellation of six satellites in a mixture of low- and high-inclination orbits. A low-inclination orbit would place the satellites in positions to cover the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Ocean areas and North and South America. Satellites in the high-inclination orbit would cover the polar regions, Europe, Africa, and western Asia.Milstar will be capable of both EHF and ultra high frequency (UHF) transmissions to take advantage of existing air- and ground-based terminals. The Milstar system will serve the strategic needs of US nuclear-capable forces and the priority needs of mobile tactical forces.(9) Milstar has been specifically designed to overcome shortfall characteristics of existing satellite communications systems. Concepts for survivability in a hostile space environment have shaped the design of this military communication system.

The original Milstar program, initiated in the early 1980s, was designed to provide low-data-rate (LDR) communications for strategic and tactical military forces, primarily during a nuclear conflict. The highest-priority users were expected to be strategic and nonstrategic nuclear forces, with tactical naval, ground, and air forces having a lower priority. The original design included many special features intended to allow the system to survive and operate during a nuclear conflict.(10)

Milstar will be the most advanced military communications satellite system to date. The operational Milstar satellite constellation will be composed of four satellites positioned around the Earth in geosynchronous orbits plus a polar adjunct system. Each satellite will weigh approximately 10,000 pounds and have a design life of 10 years, with solar panels generating 8,000 watts of power. The first Milstar satellite (LDR-only) was delivered in March 1993 and was launched in early 1994 aboard a Titan IV expendable launch vehicle. The second Milstar 1 was launched in 1995.

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