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SB-WASS - Consolidated Program

The Draft Roles and Missions Report of the Joint Chiefs of Staff notes <1>

"The newest national space satellite system will consolidate the missions, facilities and infrastructure of two existing satellites. This will facilitate the closure of six ground stations and consolidate operations at one site, eliminating significant facility expenses."

The term "national space satellite system" would appear to be an expansion of the term "national system," which in the past has been the euphemism for National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) intelligence satellites. The "two existing satellites" referred to are almost certainly ( 95 % confidence ) low altitude broad area surveillance signals intelligence systems.

The result is almost certainly that a decision has been made to consolidate the two Wide-Area surveillance programs. The JCS Draft Report mentions that six ground stations will be closed. This is approximately consistent with the closure of the five known ground stations (Guam; Diego Garcia; Adak, AK; Winter Harbor, ME; Edzell, Scotland) of the Classic Wizard network, which are operated by the Naval Security Group Command that support the NOSS/White Cloud satellites. It may be that there is a sixth ground station which has not been previously identified. The nine ground stations of the satellite control network operated by the 2nd Space Tracking Group of the Air Force 50th Space Wing support a wide variety of spacecraft in addition to low altitude intelligence payloads. Thus it would be implausible that six of these stations would be closed.

In 1994, Martin Marietta was awarded the prime contract for this program.

Requirements for this program are apparently part of the responsibilities of the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Development Plan, (Space Portion), a product of SMC/XRT, the Concept Development and Technical Planning Office (XRT) of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), located at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. The requirements identified as Space Based Radar (AWACS-B) are apparently part of this program.

The Naval Electronic System Command funded research into spaceborne radar in 1985-1986 to identify the optimum radar architecture for air surveillance. After an extensive study weighing various advantages and disadvantages, the Navy concluded that the choice of frequency for a satellite air surveillance radar quickly can be narrowed to a choice between the 1215-1400 MHz and 3 GHz bands.

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Source: ISR Roadmap

This spacecraft would appear to be the basis for the National User Mission-B requirement indentified in the National Mission Model. The Mission-B requirement calls for a 17,000 pound payload to be placed into a nominal 100 NM 63-degree inclination orbit from either the Cape or Vandenberg. The first Mission-B launch is planned for FY2002 from Vandenberg using an Atlas [apparently the Technology Flight Demonstration on the SMC/ISR viewgraph], with the first EELV flight in FY2004 probably launching the first operational spacecraft in this series. Subsequent launches are planned at two-year intervals.

The December 2002 draft of program decision memorandum I proposed a number of changes to the Air Force's fiscal year 2004/2009 budget. The PDM proposed restoring funds to the Air Force's Space-Based Radar program, which were also trimmed in its FY-04 POM. In 2001 Wolfowitz allocated more than $1 billion to the SBR effort, which Pentagon leaders have said is one of their key transformational initiatives. The same amount was reallocated in this draft POM, again aligning the program to OSD's schedule. Air Force officials, including Secretary James Roche, have said they view SBR as one of a "portfolio" of systems that will contribute to a global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance network that will enable the service to strike targets in record time. However, officials in OSD view SBR as a transformational capability that, if properly managed and aggressively pursued, could revolutionize warfighting.

As of mid-2003 the Request For Proposal for the new Space-Based Radar program was not to be issued until future customers of the space-based mobile ground target tracking system form a consensus on an operational concept. That concept of operations will dictate how much the system will cost and how contractors choose to bid on the effort.

The United States launched on 01 March 2017 classified reconnaissance satellite on an Atlas V carrier rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the state of California. The United Launch Alliance launched the Atlas V 401 for the country's NROL-79 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office at 9:49 PT (17:49 GMT). The NROL-79 mission is classified and the purpose and final orbit altitude of the satellite are secret. The National Reconnaissance Office develops space-based reconnaissance systems for US intelligence. The NROL-79 mission could be a pair of Naval Ocean Surveillance Satellite spacecraft used by the US Navy.


1. Joint Chiefs of Staff, JCS Roles & Missions Report, Department of Defense, 199 , pages III-35 & 36.

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