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The seeds of American rocket science sprouted haphazardly in a climate of apathy and ridicule. Due to a lack of interest in research and development before World War II, America's early rocket pioneers found few, if any, financial sponsors. Thus, European rocketeers took a substantial lead in rocket science.
Robert Goddard, the earliest and arguably the greatest American scientist in rocketry, was born in 1882. Inspired by the writings of H. G. Wells, Goddard began experimenting with solid-propellant rockets during World War I and, with the help of the Smithsonian Institution,l published his first thesis on rocket propulsion, "A Method of Obtaining Extreme Altitudes" in 1919.2 He began experimenting with liquid rocket engines in 1923.
Goddard conducted more than 100 static tests, 48 live flight tests, and developed the first functional gyroscopic attitude control system for rockets. Other firsts included the first liquid propellant rocket in 1926 and pressure and pump feed systems. These were tremendous accomplishments by amateur standards, which is the way he should be rated when compared to the highly organized German efforts of the same period. His one-man-show methods were totally outdated by 1940, and his secrecy left his later and most important writings unpublished.3
Goddard was not the only American interested in rockets. The American Interplanetary Society (AIS), founded in 1930, sponsored liquid propellant rocket experiments on a farm in New Jersey. AIS changed its name to the American Rocket Society (ARS) in 1934.4 Of greater significance than ARS's rocket experiments was the founding of Reaction Motors, Incorporated (the first American private firm devoted to rocketry) by four ARS members.5
During World War II, the Allies became increasingly aware of the tremendous technological edge the Germans had in rocket development.6 The Allies began laying plans as early as 1942 to plunder German technology after the war, and a new type of military unit, the scientific intelligence unit, appeared in British and US services.7 The Soviets also demonstrated an interest in German technologies, and all these units worked to uncover as many Nazi secrets as possible because their respective governments were anxious to create their own rocket programs.8 In the United States too, there was high-level government interest in German rockets. The National Defense Research Committee became the Office of Scientific Research and Development, a very powerful organization with direct access to the president. Headed by Vannevar Bush, chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA),9 this organization worked loosely with similar British organizations gathering scientific intelligence.10 Towards this end, the British and Americans on one hand and the Soviets on the other tried to keep as much of this information from each other as possible.11
Late in the war, the Germans used their rockets as vengeance weapons against the Allies. The German's greatest achievement, the A-4 or V-2--the first medium-range ballistic missile--had a length of 46.1 feet and a 56,000-pound-thrust engine powered by alcohol and liquid oxygen. Driven by its liquid propellant engine, the V-2 had a range of approximately 200 miles. Its warhead consisted of 2,000 pounds of amatol. For the most part, the V-2 and the earlier V-1 Buzzbomb had little immediate effect, but Hitler's weapons did exact a vengeance of sorts after the war by touching off a major international competition to secure the spoils of the Peenemunde rocket center.12
On 11 April 1945, US Army intelligence units reached the Mittelwerke, the secret underground V-2 factory in the Harz Mountains.13 (The Germans had moved production of the V-2 there after Allied bombing heavily damaged Peenemunde.14) As part of Operation Hermes (an American plan to secure rocket expertise), US personnel searched for German scientists to help with US rocket development and to get them out of the area before the Soviets arrived.15 (Both Peenemunde and the Mittelwerke were in the Soviet zone of occupation.) The Army immediately shipped enough parts to the US to assemble 100 V-2s for testing at White Sands Proving Grounds (now White Sands Missile Range [WSMR]) in New Mexico.16 Then on 2 May 1945, the Peenemunde rocket group (including Maj Gen Walter Dornberger, military chief of the rocket program, and Wernher von Braun, the chief scientist) surrendered to the US Seventh Army. By 30 September 1947, the US had recruited and contracted 457 German scientists and technicians who helped put the US in space faster than might otherwise have been possible.17
As World War II ground to a close, President Harry S Truman was faced with a decision that was to have far graver consequences for the postwar world than German V-2 development. This was the decision to use the atomic bomb in an effort to end the war against Japan quickly and at a lower cost in American lives than an invasion would require. The atomic bomb was to have a significant effect on the cold war between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union after World War II. The cold war manifested itself as a series of political, military, and propaganda confrontations characterized by limited wars, wars by proxy, the nuclear arms race, and the threat of nuclear war. In the end, the cold war encouraged competition, both friendly and unfriendly, and helped accelerate the pace of the coming space race.
In 1946, the US government began Project MX-774 to research and develop a 5,000-mile-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Convair, the prime contractor, flew three experimental vehicles in 1948, largely at its own expense. These vehicles tested such advanced concepts as gimbal-mounted engines, separable nose cones, and stainless steel skin rolled so thin that it had to be inflated to keep its unsupported structure from collapsing (the balloon tank concept).18
Also in 1946, another US program, Project Bumper, began. This program gave the US much needed experience in the handling and design of large rockets and involved launching captured German V-2 rockets. Sixty-four V-2 rockets flew from White Sands, some as modified two-stage upper-atmospheric test vehicles employing the WAC-Corporal second stage. Two V-2s were launched from the Long Range Proving Ground (now the USAF Eastern Test Range on Cape Canaveral, Florida). The US Navy even launched a V-2 from an aircraft carrier, the USS Midway.19
The Hermes Project, the first major US ballistic missile program, was based at Fort Bliss, Texas. German scientists led by von Braun tested many rocket components and concepts. The Hermes Project laid the groundwork for what was to come. After Hermes ended in 1950, von Braun and his team moved to the Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama, and worked for the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.20
Meanwhile, many top US military and scientific leaders, including Gen Henry H. ("Hap") Arnold, Vannevar Bush, Theodore von Karman, Hugh L. Dryden, and the Army Air Force Scientific Advisory Group, were skeptical of mating nuclear weapons with long-range missiles. In December 1945, Dr Bush told a congressional committee: "In my opinion, such a thing is impossible, I don't think anybody in the world knows how to do such a thing [put nuclear weapons on long-range missiles] and I feel confident it will not be done for a very long time to come.''21
As a result of such expert testimony, US ICBM research stopped in 1947. The argument was strong. No existing rocket could carry the atomic bomb of the day which weighed 10,000 pounds. Also at that time there was no way to guide such a weapon to a target halfway around the world.22 Experts said it would take at least 10 years to develop the systems necessary to make such a missile practical.23 The Air Force opted to design and test a number of cruise missile weapons that could carry the "bomb" better and farther with existing technology.24 Of these, only the Snark cruise missile reached the deployment stage in the late 1950s, and the Air Force deactivated it in 1961 after the Atlas ICBM came on line.25 In the meantime, development continued on shorter-ranged weapons, while the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) tried to make nuclear weapons smaller.
In 1946, the RAND Corporation first proposed a military satellite system. A 2 May 1946 RAND study stated that a "satellite offers an observation aircraft which cannot be brought down by an enemy who has not mastered similar techniques," but mastering the techniques to build such a vehicle proved to be difficult.26 Electronics of the day were the roadblock as they were based on vacuum tubes. Electronic components were large, heavy, and needed lots of power. In 1948, a major breakthrough occurred when Bell Telephone Labs invented the transistor. The transistor was smaller and lighter than tubes and made lighter electronics possible for the first time. Likewise, an extremely important breakthrough in the 1950s would be development of long-range boosters. These boosters coupled with upper stages would be able to launch heavy satellites.27
From the RAND recommendations, the Air Force initiated Operation Feedback in April 1951. This program researched the possibility of using satellites for military observation and other purposes. Operation Feedback was the first US military satellite program. By 1954 it was the plan for weapon system (WS)-117L, a full-scale research and development (R&D) effort for space observation.28
At the time of the 1952 presidential election, technology was changing rapidly. The testing of the first US hydrogen bomb on 1 November 1952 and the first Soviet H-bomb detonation the next August changed the outlook for ICBM development. The new H-bomb, smaller and more powerful than the A-bomb, could be carried by a smaller, less accurate rocket.29Due to this breakthrough, the US restarted its ICBM programs in 1954.
As these programs started again, concern about a thermonuclear-armed and potentially hostile Soviet Union became more intense. Because of the closed nature of the Soviet state, little concrete information was available on its state of readiness, military capabilities, or intentions. US military planners could not even draw up a reasonable war plan because they did not know the location of Soviet military targets. Lack of solid information on Soviet intentions meant that a misunderstanding might trigger a nuclear war, while the same lack of knowledge left the US vulnerable in a surprise attack.
Because of a fervent desire to avoid "a nuclear Pearl Harbor," President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed Open Skies to the world in July 1955.30 Written by Nelson Rockefeller with inspiration from Henry Kissinger, Open Skies proposed that the US and USSR exchange information on their military establishments and allow uninhibited overflights of their territory for verification. This proposal would lessen the fear of a surprise attack. Although highly regarded by the European community, Open Skies was rejected by the Soviets.31
The scientific scene changed along with the world military picture in the early 1950s. The big event of the decade was the International Geophysical Year (IGY), a worldwide scientific extravaganza lasting from 15 July 1957 through 31 December 1958. During the IGY, scientists coordinated high altitude scientific research activities on a worldwide scale. The United Nations Special Committee for the IGY invited world governments to launch satellites in the interests of global science.32
However, in launching a satellite, there was more at stake for the US than just science. There were such goals of high national importance as establishing the legality of overflight in accordance with Eisenhower's Open Skies or Freedom of Space doctrine and being first in space.33
On 28 July 1955, the US announced its intention to launch a satellite during the IGY. The US program would follow National Security Council (NSC) recommendations (laid out in NSC Directive 5520, dated 26 May 1955) and was not to interfere with existing military missile development programs. The NSC recommendations created a de facto separation of the US space effort into military and civilian sectors.34 The Soviets also announced the intention to launch a satellite and claimed that they would better any attempt made by the US. No one took them seriously at the time.35
The Stewart Committee (formed by the assistant secretary of defense to review proposals and pick a US satellite program for launch related to IGY) reviewed Project Vanguard, a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) proposal based on the Viking upper atmospheric research rocket. The scientific (nonmilitary) nature of the rocket pleased the committee as did the NRL's scheme for tracking the satellite, a radio network called Minitrack. In August 1955, the Stewart Committee chose Vanguard for the IGY based almost completely on its separation from the military. Thus, the committee seemed to ignore the national goal of being first in space. Von Braun's promise to launch his group's satellite, Orbiter, in 90 days did not sway the committee.36 The government sanctioned the IGY program in the hope of legalizing satellite overflight with a civilian scientific satellite with no military or political implications.37
By late 1955, the changing political and military situation relegated Vanguard to the back burner. To match newly revealed Soviet missile programs, Eisenhower made the US ICBM programs a top priority, and to gain intelligence on the Soviet R&D effort, did the same with the US spy satellite program.
Meanwhile, the Glenn L. Martin Company (now Martin Marietta), the Viking builder, logically became the Vanguard contractor.38 It also got the contract for the Titan I ICBM shortly after the Vanguard program started. Martin moved its best people to the military project leaving the Vanguard program with little support.39 Vanguard became a bureaucratic orphan because the armed services had little interest in a nonmilitary project.
Martin finished the Vanguard vehicle design in February 1956 and began construction shortly thereafter. Martin and NRL conducted a number of successful flight tests from December 1956 through October 1957 and scheduled launch of a small test satellite for December 1957.40
At this time, the Soviets were making considerable headway with a missile development program drawing heavily on German expertise obtained after World War II. Years ahead of US expectations, the Soviets created the world's first ICBM, the SS-6 Sapwood. Development of this missile began in 1955 as an attempt to redress the perceived arms imbalance brought on by US preponderance in manned bombers.41 Designed before the technology breakthroughs, the primitive, first-generation nuclear bomb the SS-6 was to carry dictated its immense size.42 News of the Soviet missile tests leaked to the West and caused the first twinges of what became the missile gap scare.
After a successful test flight on 3 August 1957, the Soviets announced that they alone possessed an ICBM.43 However, the missile did not reach initial operational capability (IOC) until 1959, by which time US ICBMs had rendered it obsolete.44 Although some Western reaction to these events was understandably grim, most experts did not take the threat seriously. This view changed radically on 4 October 1957 when the Soviets stunned the world with the launch of Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite. Since the Soviets had no aversion for interlacing the military with space, they used their new SS-6 ICBM as the booster allowing faster development than with the US's "from scratch" approach. Shock swept across the US, even though the Soviets had made numerous claims that they were very nearly ready to launch their satellite. Now many scientists, engineers, and military officials were convinced the rocket that put the 184-pound Sputnik into orbit had serious military potential. The launch seemed to validate Soviet claims of a massive military launch capability including ICBMs. If nothing else, Sputnik aided Eisenhower' s attempts to legalize satellite overflight since no nation protested the overflight of its territory by the Soviet satellite.
The launching of Sputnik pushed Vanguard to the forefront of US public attention while it was still an underfunded and highly experimental system. Without the launch of Sputnik, the subsequent failure of Vanguard would probably have left little impression on the nation. Unfortunately, because of the Soviet success, the country expected Vanguard to work immediately.
On top of these expectations, the media whipped the public into a frenzy over the Sputnik launch.45 Then a 9 October White House press release, misinterpreted by the press, seemed to indicate that the December Vanguard test flight was an operational launch when the statement said it was just another test.46 Finally on 3 November, the Soviets launched Sputnik II, the first bio-satellite, with the dog Laika aboard. The 1,200-pound Sputnik II was "proof" that the Soviets possessed a fully capable launch system. Thus expectations for Vanguard ran even higher.
On 6 December 1957, with the whole world watching, Vanguard exploded on the launch pad.47 This disaster became the symbol of failure for the US space program. The Soviets took advantage of the propaganda opportunity by offering to assist the US through the UN program for technological assistance to primitive nations.48
After the Vanguard failure, the US government seemed to scramble for a quick solution to this embarrassment and chose to go with a modified version of von Braun's Project Orbiter. In fact, this decision had been made in November, well before the failure. The Juno launch vehicle, topped by a small scientific satellite called Explorer I lifted off on 31 January 1958, and the US had a satellite. Explorer I discovered the presence of radiation belts around the Earth, undoubtedly the most important discovery of the IGY.49
The Sputnik launch and the Vanguard fiasco were tremendous blows to US prestige as predicted by von Braun in his 1954 "A Minimum Satellite Vehicle." These events alarmed the US public who pressured the government for action. Eisenhower, bowing in part to congressional and public pressure, recognized the need for a centralized space program and policy. Moreover, the IGY events were major contributors to the growing missile gap scare because of concern among US military and political leaders that they had drastically underestimated Soviet potential. The more tangible reactions were accelerated--US ICBM programs, expanded U-2 overflights, and the beefed-up spy satellite R&D programs.
To avoid the difficulties experienced with Vanguard, which many blamed on faulty management and lack of unified direction, the government created a new agency to solidify national space policy. The National Aeronautics and Space Act created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in July 1958.50 The act essentially codified the NSC directive of May 1955 by officially dividing the civilian and military sectors. NASA would solidify policy on peaceful uses of space.51 It absorbed the resources and facilities of NACA and other space-related agencies (such as the Army Ballistic Missile Agency and the Advanced Research Projects Agency [ARPA]).52 NASA was the brainchild of James R. Killian, presidential scientific advisor, and opened its doors on 1 October 1958.53
As Killian and Eisenhower had devised it, NASA would be a strictly civilian enterprise, thereby limiting the military's role in the national space program. Within its original charter, there was only a vaguely defined relationship with the military. Congress, on the other hand, envisioned a strong military role in space and wished to modify NASA's relationship with the military. To this end, Congress created the Civilian-Military Liaison Committee (to coordinate NASA and Department of Defense [DOD] activities) and the National Aeronautics and Space Council (chaired by the president as commander in chief of the US military to create national space policy).54
NASA's first major project, the Mercury Program, began as a result of the 1958 Space Task Group recommendations.55 Mercury, a stepping stone to the Moon mission later known as Apollo, was to send a man into low-Earth orbit and return him safely. Additionally, Mercury was to discover some of man's capabilities and limitations in space.56 In mid-1959, after the most extensive physiological and psychological testing ever performed on humans, NASA selected seven astronauts to take part in Mercury.57
Mercury Capsule (Artist's Conception)
Mercury Capsule Dimensions
Long-term planning for Apollo, the US Moon program, began simultaneously with Mercury. By late 1960, Eisenhower became disenchanted with the tremendous estimated cost of putting someone on the Moon. T. Keith Glennan, NASA chief, told the president, "If we fail to place a man on the moon before twenty years from now, there is nothing lost." Glennan planned to go public with this view when Eisenhower saved him the trouble by stopping the funding for Apollo.58
In the 1950s the overriding theme in US strategic thinking was that the Soviets had the "bomb," and no one knew what they might do with it. Sputnik increased apprehension about the subject. The US government needed facts to quell the rising anxiety. As the Soviets were rejecting Open Skies, US intelligence services were trying desperately to peer over the iron curtain into the Soviet Union. As an early and partial solution to the information need, the US, like many other Western nations, employed agents to collect information. These agents were only marginally successful due to the closed nature of the Soviet state. Although the US gained useful information, American intelligence agencies could not see all that was going on in the Soviet Union.59
Another method of intelligence gathering employed during this period used large, high-altitude balloons (similar to the Skyhook scientific research balloon) to carry a camera across the USSR. The camera payload was designated WS-119L and code-named Moby Dick. The US released balloons from West Germany, Turkey, and Norway to ride the prevailing winds across the USSR. The Soviets captured many of the balloons, displayed them to the world, and vehemently protested the illegal overflights. The US stopped the flights in March 1956, not because of the protests, but because of poor results. Since the balloons flew at the mercy of the winds, the US could not control or anticipate their speed and direction which made specific targeting impossible.60
Surveillance aircraft also flew into Soviet airspace, but before the mid-1950s these aircraft could not penetrate deep enough into the USSR to see facilities far from the border and generally could not fly high enough or fast enough to avoid detection and interception by Soviet fighters.61 Thus, the Air Force began a new R&D program for a specially designed, high-altitude strategic reconnaissance aircraft, the U-2. Built by Lockheed, it first flew on 4 August 1955. The U-2 could fly above 80,000 feet, well above the service ceiling of all contemporary fighters.62 However, even before the U-2' s first flight, the Air Force had begun serious work on reconnaissance satellites under Project Feedback.
On 16 March 1955, Air Research and Development Command (ARDC), later Air Force Systems Command, requested studies for a strategic satellite system, designated WS-117L, code-named Pied Piper.63 The satellite was to carry a camera designed to develop its pictures on board the satellite, scan them with a TV camera, and send images back to Earth. ARDC selected three contractors--Martin, Lockheed, and RCA--for these studies.64
Meanwhile the Missile Gap controversy received an added boost from the 1957 report of the Gaither Committee, who had been tasked to evaluate the feasibility of civil defense during a nuclear attack but had broadened its scope to include survivability of US nuclear forces. The committee' s final report pointed out the extreme vulnerability of US forces to nuclear attack due to lack of a fast-reaction bomber force and the means to detect missile attack before the missiles impacted. These obvious problems greatly concerned Congress. The controversy centered on Soviet missile production rates and when these missiles would be operational.65
This missile controversy pitted USAF Intelligence against the Central Intelligence Agency in a debate over Soviet capabilities. These organizations made differing estimates of Soviet missile production and the number of operational missiles. Moreover, none of the US intelligence services knew where the Soviet factories were, much less their capacity for manufacturing the necessary electronics and other "high-tech" materials required for large-scale missile production.66Because of the lack of concrete information, US intelligence agencies turned to their best performer, the U-2.
The U-2s searched for Soviet ICBMs. By summer 1957, U-2s flying out of Pakistan returned with the first pictures of the Tyuratam SS-6 test site. However, analysis of the photos seemed to show that, other than at this one site, there were no ICBMs deployed at all.67 This finding should have alleviated fears about a missile gap, but the secrecy surrounding the program prevented the public and even some political leaders from seeing this evidence, so the outcry continued.68
By March 1958, with reconnaissance satellites now well along in their development, Eisenhower wanted to keep U-2 flights to a minimum to avoid provoking the Soviets. But by this time, U-2s provided 90 percent of US intelligence on the USSR, and the information was literally priceless.69 Therefore, the US reluctantly continued the U-2 flights at ever-increasing risk of being shot down. On 1 May 1960, a Soviet air force surface-to-air missile shot down a U-2 flying from Turkey. The pilot, Francis Gary Powers, failed to activate the destruct mechanism, and the Soviets recovered both the pilot and the aircraft.70 The president immediately suspended overflights and the US lost all information that U-2s had been providing. But, in less than three months, the US again had photos of Soviet missile installations, this time the photos came from space.71
Because it now wished to use reconnaissance satellites, the US had to modify its policy on the peaceful use of space. What had started out as "nonmilitary" became "nonaggressive" use of space. Military observation from space was likened to military observation from the high seas. The right of free passage through space and the denouncement of rights to sovereignty over space became the major cornerstones of US space policy, in part to protect military satellite overflights.72
While the U-2s were hunting ICBMs, the fledgling US space reconnaissance program struggled along, underfunded and ignored. Then the Soviets launched Sputnik, and attitudes changed overnight. By late November 1957, Pied Piper funding quadrupled. In January 1958, Eisenhower approved reorientation of the program towards a simpler reentry capsule approach that seemed more promising in the short term. The government depicted this new program, code-named Corona and later known as Discoverer in public news releases, as a scientific research program.73
Discoverer used the Thor intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) as the booster and the Lockheed Agena upper stage. Launching into polar orbit allowed photographs of the whole Soviet landmass. Discoverer carried a reentry/recovery capsule designed to detach, deorbit, and be recovered at sea or by an airborne capture method.74
The new Discoverer satellite first flew on 28 February 1959 from Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB) using the Thor-Agena A in the first test of the WS-117L program. The flight failed when the stabilization system malfunctioned.75
The Discoverer program's first success came with Discoverer 13 which was launched 10 August 1960 with no instrumentation aboard. It made 17 orbits and reentered smoothly. US Navy frogmen retrieved it near Hawaii after the recovery aircraft missed the parachute. Discoverer 13 was the first man-made object recovered from space. Discoverer 14 was the first satellite to carry cameras and bring back pictures. Launched 18 August 1960, Discoverer 14 restored much of the intelligence capability lost by the cancellation of U-2 flights.76
Communication and Navigation. The importance of space support for communications was recognized earlier in the space era. As a military follow-on to NASA's Score satellite (early repeater communication satellite), the Army built the first military communication satellite, Courier lB. Launched on 4 October 1960, Courier weighed 500 pounds and was powered by 20,000 solar cells. Like Score, Courier was a delayed repeater satellite, capable of storing and retransmitting up to 68,000 words a minute. The satellite operated only 17 days due to a power failure.77 Another use for satellites is navigation. For centuries mankind had navigated using the stars as guides. Celestial navigation has certain limitations since stars could not be seen in daylight or inclement weather. A method of overcoming this problem is the use of artificial stars emitting radio waves rather than light so that they can be detected in all conditions. Navigation satellites also provide increased positional accuracy and are less affected by weather, interference, or distance from the station.78
The Navy was the first service to become interested in navigation satellites. The first launch of the experimental Transit lA satellite in September 1959 initiated the world's first military navigational satellite system. Use of Transit to fix locations enabled Polaris submarines to improve the accuracy of their missiles to about one mile.
Antiballistic Missiles. When the ICBM became a reality, military planners began to look for a method to counter the new threat. In the mid-1950s, both the Army and the Air Force began to work in earnest on antiballistic missile (ABM) systems. The first US ABM program, the Army's Nike Zeus, began in 1955. In 1958, the government selected this program for development. The system's nuclear warhead had less than a one megaton yield and was guided to the target by two radars.79 These radars fed data to the target intercept computer which calculated the steering commands for the missile.80 The first Nike Zeus launch took place on 16 December 1959. In 1960, the Army ran tests at Ascension Island against Atlas reentry vehicles. Later, the Army conducted successful tests and built an entire Nike Zeus launch complex at Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR). Although the tests continued, DOD canceled the Nike Zeus ABM program in May 1959 because the mechanical tracking radars were too slow and the computer's target processing was unsatisfactory due to inadequate memory. The system also needed a high acceleration missile interceptor for last-ditch defense within the atmosphere (terminal phase interception).81
Antisatellites. Virtually as soon as the Soviets vanquished the dreaded U-2 from their skies, they were faced with a new reconnaissance platform, Discoverer. As with the U-2, they threatened to shoot down US satellites and worked hard to develop an antisatellite (ASAT) weapon. The Soviets developed several systems in the 1960s and tested them many times with varied, though promising, results.82
Meanwhile, half-veiled Soviet threats to orbit nuclear weapons made US development of an ASAT system imperative. Such a system would be a countermeasure to space weapons and, as such, could enforce any agreement banning orbital weapons. ASATs would also provide a means to destroy such a weapon before it could reach its target. Since no one knew how far along the Soviets were in their development program, little time was available for development in the US program. Therefore the US decided to adapt existing hardware.83
The Air Force's satellite interceptor (SAINT) was the first US antisatellite program. SAINT developed from ARDC studies on defense against hostile satellites in 1956. ARPA took over the project in 1957 under ARDC oversight. On ll June 1959, the Air Force let a contract to RCA for research into ASAT techniques, and the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division began development on 20 August when DOD gave final approval for full-scale development of SAINT.
SAINT was to employ the orbital rendezvous technique of interception. The Air Force also envisioned the system as an active defense against Soviet ASATs. It was to defend US satellites, search for orbital nuclear weapons, and rendezvous with and inspect suspect satellites via a TV camera. Not only would the satellite look for nuclear weapons but it also was to differentiate between weather satellites and reconnaissance satellites. Satellites found to be benign would be left alone. Those found to he hostile would be earmarked for destruction.84
SAINT used much off-the-shelf equipment to keep costs and development time down. In phase I, SAINT was strictly a satellite inspector using the Atlas-Agena B combination.85 Air Force planned phase II to include a "kill" capability, perhaps using small, spin-stabilized rockets. However, in July 1960, DOD directed the Air Force to stop referring to a kill capability for SAINT. Once operational, SAINT was to transmit its data to the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD).86
X-20. Although unmanned space systems were the dominant theme in the 1950s, the dream of manned space flight was ever present. In the late 1950s, Walter Dornberger, working with Bell Aircraft, suggested to the Air Force the construction of a manned space vehicle called BoMi (bomber missile). This craft would be capable of bombing and reconnaissance from low-Earth orbit. In 1955 Bell received approval to begin research for this program, conceived as a follow-on to the X- 15 program. The program' s emphasis changed to strictly reconnaissance, and in October 1957, the Air Force combined all efforts to create the X-20. NACA joined the program in May 1958, and the government let contracts to Martin and Boeing for weapon system definition studies.87
A version of the Titan rocket launched the X-20. Achieving speeds up to 25,000 feet per second, the X-20 would orbit the Earth at a mission altitude of 60 miles. When its mission was complete, it would reenter the atmosphere and land as a glider.88 In April 1960, DOD gave approval for the first step (suborbital) of a three-step development program for the X-20 with 1966 as the probable date for full operation. However, DOD expressed the opinion that there was no clear-cut need for the X-20, and it remained a contingency program while the Air Force tried to develop a real military mission for it. The lack of a clear mission, along with competition for funds, led to the X-20's eventual demise.89
Missile Warning and Space Surveillance. The launch of Sputnik I triggered more than just apprehension and a response in kind (i.e., the launch of US satellites). It also created an entirely new field of endeavor, tracking of objects in space using the Space Tracking System.90 The first US system, Minitrack, was already in existence at the time of the Sputnik launch, but the US quickly discovered that Minitrack could not reliably detect and track satellites. The US Navy designed Minitrack to track the Vanguard satellite, and so long as satellites followed the international agreement on satellite transmitting frequencies, Minitrack could track any satellite.91 However, the Soviets chose not to use the international satellite frequencies. Thus, a major limitation of this system became visible. Minitrack could not detect or track an uncooperative or passive satellite.92
Concurrent with Minitrack was the use of the Baker-Nunn satellite tracking cameras. These systems used modified Schmidt telescopes of great resolution to photograph and identify objects in space.93 The cameras first became operational in 1956 and eventually operated at sites worldwide. The Air Force ran five sites, the Royal Canadian Air Force ran two, and the Smithsonian Institution's Astrophysics Observatory operated a further eight sites.94 The Baker-Nunn system, like Minitrack, provided little real-time data and was limited to night, clear weather operations.95
Beyond the problems in acquiring data on satellites, it became obvious that the US tracking network would soon be overwhelmed by the tremendous number of satellites that followed Sputnik and Vanguard. The huge amounts of satellite tracking data accumulated required creation or expansion of organizations and equipment just to sift through and catalog the objects. The need for real-time detection and tracking information to deal with Soviet satellite launches led on 19 December 1958 to ARPA's implementation of Executive Order 50-59 to establish a spacetrack network. This spacetrack network, Project Shepherd, began with the Space Track Filter Center at Bedford, Massachusetts, and an operational space defense network (i.e., a missile warning network). ARDC took up the spacetrack mission in late 1959 and in April 1960 set up the Interim National Space Surveillance Control Center at Hanscom Field, Massachusetts, to coordinate observations and maintain satellite data.96 At the same time, DOD designated the Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM), formerly Air Defense Command, as the prime user of spacetrack data. ADCOM formulated the first US plans for space surveillance.97
Program 496L. In time, radar largely replaced other tracking methods and provided precise and timely tracking and identification information. A number of new radar sites were built under the direction of the 496L System Program Office. ARPA created this office in late 1959 to develop techniques and equipment for military surveillance of satellites with the "immediate objective of detecting and identifying all man-made satellites."98
Authorized under 496L, the Naval Space Surveillance (NAVSPASUR) system has three transmitter sites and six receiver sites dispersed at equal intervals along the 33d parallel in the southern United States. NAVSPASUR projects a detection fence of radio frequency energy far out into space to detect and track all objects passing over the United States. This continuous wave detection radar provides precise satellite position data.99 With its processing center at Dahlgren, Virginia, NAVSPASUR forms an integral part of the space detection and tracking network.
North American Aerospace Defense Command and the Missile Warning Network. New technology created new challenges for military planners. In the early 1950s, the primary air defense problem was the manned bomber. By the late 1950s, fear of ICBM attack prompted studies (e.g., the Gaither Committee) to determine how the US could react to such attack. Military planners soon realized that there was, at that time, no way to detect an ICBM attack until the weapons hit the ground, which would be too late. To detect and report an attack in time to mount a retaliatory strike, the US constructed a series of interconnected radar sites, each reporting to NORAD.100
NORAD became operational 12 September 1957 with the mission of air defense of the North American continent. Headquartered at Ent AFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado, NORAD was and still is a combined US and Canadian command, the first two-nation, joint-service military organization on this continent. In October 1960, NORAD assumed the space defense mission with the formation of the space detection and tracking system. ADCOM became the US Air Force component of NORAD. NORAD's missions were (1) warning of ballistic missile attack, (2) defense against manned bomber attack, and (3) space surveillance.101
The first radar systems to come on-line to fulfill the missile warning role were part of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) built under the direction of the 496L office. BMEWS provided early warning of an over-the-pole ICBM attack and provided timely and accurate space surveillance data to the NORAD Space Surveillance Center. BMEWS gave 15 minutes warning of an ICBM attack.102 The first BMEWS operational site was the 12th Missile Warning Squadron at Thule AFB, Greenland, which began operating in January 1960.103
President John F. Kennedy's administration began its term of office with the traditional policy review. DOD discovered confusion in the military space R&D sector because each service had its own space programs. In March 1961, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara sought to correct this duplication of effort with DOD Directive 5160.32, Development of Space Systems. This directive allowed all of the services to conduct preliminary R&D on space technology. Then, on 28 March, McNamara made the Air Force the lead agency for R&D and operations of DOD satellites and their ground support. Although McNamara's decision made the Air Force the primary DOD space agency, it did not satisfy the Air Force completely by making it the sole military agency in space.104
Within months after the national election, the Kennedy administration began to withhold information on military space systems. In November 1961, the administration issued an order that there would be no press coverage of military launches, no published orbital characteristics, and no government officials would even admit that many of the programs existed. The reasons were obvious--to prevent the Soviets from learning anything that might help them counter the satellites, to keep from embarrassing the Soviets by publicizing US space achievements (thereby causing the Soviets to attempt to shoot down US military systems), and to avoid compromise of these important satellites. After November 1961, the government did not announce launches or vehicle and program names.105 In time, the US canceled the early programs and deorbited and replaced the satellites associated with them with more sophisticated and capable, though more clandestine, systems. The military programs sank into obscurity, known only to a select few, while NASA's up and coming manned programs seized and held the spotlight for the next decade.
During 1963 space systems played a tremendous supporting role in the Cuban missile crisis. Although they did not locate missiles in Cuba, US satellites told Kennedy that the capabilities of Soviet nuclear forces were quite limited. Knowing the threat enabled Kennedy to call Khrushchev's bluff. Soviet counterpart systems told Khrushchev that the US was positioning forces to attack Cuba and that the US Navy was moving into position to stop Soviet ships. The message was clear: The US meant business. The Soviets backed down, and the crisis was averted.
Despite the large sums of money the Air Force allocated for its manned X-20 R&D program, many civilians involved with the program (including McNamara) refused to see X-20 as a weapon system. At the same time, the success of the NASA manned systems, Mercury and Gemini, led some military planners to look seriously at military applications for man in space. Placing a human being in a space station to carry out military tasks seemed to have a number of advantages over unmanned spacecraft. People possess intelligence, reasoning ability, the ability to improvise, and the ability to recognize an unexpected pattern. With a person in a spacecraft, a system would no longer be limited to following a program blindly.106
The first studies for manned military space missions began in the early 1960s. These studies stressed orbital rendezvous, the use of winged spacecraft for reentry, and the justification of a manned versus an automated system. The NASA study program of the same time period developed into Gemini, an advanced version of Mercury. In June 1962, Air Force Space Systems Division developed the concept of using a modified Gemini as a military system. The first step in the program, called the Manned Orbital Development System, would demonstrate man ' s capabilities in space with a space station and four crew members. The program would use either the Gemini or Apollo capsules as the reentry vehicle, but was not planned to be an operational system.107 In August 1962, the program expanded to include six Gemini missions with Air Force astronauts under the code name Blue Gemini, but it engendered serious political problems.108
When McNamara's defense analysts showed that Gemini would be able to do the X-20 military missions cheaper, DOD cut X-20 funding and postponed the first flight to 1966. Subsequently, McNamara insisted on an equal or dominant role for the Air Force in the Gemini program. NASA claimed that this level of Air Force involvement would jeopardize its ability to meet the lunar landing schedule and would signal the militarization of the US civilian space program. Later NASA agreed to carry some DOD experiments piggyback on Gemini.109 In July 1963, NASA suggested to DOD a space station program to look for a possible military mission for man in space. This program became the Air Force Manned Orbital Laboratory (MOL). The X-20 lost out in the funding battle with MOL, and in October 1963, McNamara bypassed the X-20 altogether and obtained funding for MOL. In December 1963, the Air Force made a last bid to save the X-20, suggesting that it be a supply ship for MOL. McNamara answered by canceling the X-20 outright and announcing MOL to the press.110
The MOL would be a modified Gemini capsule called Gemini B and a large cylindrical orbital module housing a lab 41 feet long. A Titan IIIC would be the MOL launch vehicle.111 MOL would determine man's usefulness in space in a cost-effective manner using off-the-shelf equipment and eliminating the need to rendezvous and dock. In a polar orbit, the station would be operational for 30 days. It would test military missions for man in space with 25 experiments including Earth observation via a large orbital optics package, determination of man's ability to survive on orbit for extended periods, and large-structure assembly (such as a radar array) in space.112
In January 1965, McNamara reviewed a NASA space station proposal, called Apollo X, because both the Air Force and DOD saw it as direct competition for MOL with all the added expense and duplication that would entail. NASA insisted that since MOL was a short-term program intended to fly in the late 1960s and Apollo X would not be funded until the early 1970s, the two programs were not mutually exclusive. On 25 August 1965, the government gave the formal go-ahead for development of MOL. The five planned flights would begin in 1968.113
As the Vietnam War heated up in 1965, DOD reallocated funds to cover the war' s costs. Concurrently, development problems delayed the MOL schedule, and the first launch was rescheduled for late 1970.114 On 3 November 1966, NASA flight-tested a modified Gemini 2 capsule fitted with a Gemini B hatch in the heat shield. In this unmanned test, the hatch survived without problems. In fact, recovery crews found it welded shut. This test turned out to be the only flight of the MOL program.115
Military Satellites. As technology advanced in the late 1960s, the first viable military communication satellites were built. The Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) involved three spacecraft phases to provide a reliable network of secure strategic communication satellites with global coverage. Managed by the Air Force, the DSCS satellites were developed by Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge, Inc. (TRW). The first phase, called the Initial Defense Satellite Communications System (IDSCS) or DSCS I, flew in June 1966. The IDSCS satellite weighed 99 pounds and was 33.5 inches in diameter. This phase involved launching 26 spacecraft into subsynchronous orbits.116 Launched eight at a time on a Titan IIIC, the satellites stayed in view of a ground station for about four days.117 Subsequent phases have increased capabilities and survivability.118
The military became involved with weather satellite systems when it became apparent that the civilian systems could not meet many of unique DOD requirements. Thus, in 1965 the USAF began the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).119 DMSP provides timely global visual and infrared cloud imagery and other meteorological data along with space environment information to the Air Force Global Weather Central, the Fleet Numerical Oceanography Center, and the Air Force Space Forecast Center to support strategic missions.120
Vela. The Vela Program monitored the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 by detecting nuclear explosions.121 Vela studies began in 1959 in an AEC and ARPA program. This program also provided information on natural phenomena such as solar flares. On 16 October 1963, the first Vela launch using an Atlas-Agena booster put up two Vela R&D satellites. With their 68,000 mile orbits, the TRW-built Velas were the highest orbiting satellites of their time. The high orbit allowed one satellite to view an entire hemisphere of the Earth at once. Therefore, two satellites could cover the whole Earth at once. On 8 April 1970, the last two Velas launched. The Air Force Satellite Control Facility shut down the last Vela satellite on 27 September 1984 as all functions had been taken over by other systems.122
Antisatellites. On 9 August 1961, Premier Nikita Khrushchev openly threatened the West with a new and terrifying weapon, the orbital H-bomb. "You do not have 50- or 100-megaton bombs, we have bombs more powerful than 100 megatons. We placed Gagarin and Titov in space, and we can replace them with other loads that can be directed to any place on Earth.''123 Although the US had hypothesized orbital bombs and had developed countermissions for systems like SAINT, this was the first public indication that the Soviets were actively pursuing this course of action. Within a few months, however, analysis of the threat diminished its proportions. In the light of this analysis, the US cut back the SAINT program in December 1962 and then canceled it outright. Off-the-shelf hardware proved inadequate, and the resultant system reliability was questionable. DOD also doubted SAINT's usefulness against disguised weapons and decoys.124
In March 1961, the Navy presented to Congress an extremely advanced ASAT system, Early Spring. This ASAT, based on the Polaris missile, did not use a nuclear weapon as its kill mechanism.125 R&D work continued into 1964 with researchers investigating several system configurations.126
Theoretically, a missile submarine parked itself under the path of the target satellite. The crew launched a missile that had a booster with just enough power to attain the desired altitude. Attached to a restartable upper stage, the payload would hover at the target altitude for up to 90 seconds waiting for the satellite to arrive. An optical scanning system, sensitive enough to see an object that the unaided eye would strain to see, first located the target with a wide field of view and then, once it had identified the target, tracked it with a narrow field for precise guidance. The missile relayed data to the submarine for real-time control. Once it had identified the target, the vehicle maneuvered onto a collision course, and a proximity fuse detonated the warhead releasing thousands of steel pellets. The impact of even one pellet would destroy the satellite. A submarine could launch several missiles at one target.127 A major advantage of Early Spring was that the Polaris submarines could go almost anywhere to get at a satellite. Although the Navy successfully tested the optical tracker in the late 1960s, it canceled Early Spring because of funding difficulties and problems of real-time command and control at sea.128
Another, less versatile system was Program 505, the US Army ASAT program based on the Nike Zeus ABM, code-named Mudflap. McNamara approved the Army's request to restructure the Nike Zeus ABM program into an ASAT in May 1962. Program 505 was the world's first operational ASAT. Modifications gave the missile increased range to do the ASAT mission. The Army based 505 at Kwajalein Missile Range at the facility built for the Nike Zeus ABM tests. In December 1962, the first Nike Zeus ASAT, launched from White Sands Missile Test Range against an imaginary target, succeeded. Many other tests over the next year had fairly good results. After a 27 June 1963 ASAT policy meeting, McNamara directed the Army to complete the Nike Zeus facility at KMR (including its nuclear warheads).129
At the same time, the Air Force's second ASAT, Program 437, began on 9 February 1962 as Advanced Development Objective 40 (ADO-40). It was intended as a "demonstration of the technical feasibility of developing a nonorbital collision-course satellite interceptor system capable of destroying satellites in an early time period.''130 The program stressed system effectiveness, simplicity, short reaction time, economy of support and maintenance, and use of both nuclear and nonnuclear warheads. The war- fighting capability of the system was a major consideration.131 On 8 May 1963, President Kennedy directed the DOD to develop an ASAT capability as soon as possible.132
The Air Force based the system at Johnston Island, a small island 715 miles south of Honolulu, Hawaii. The launch complex had all the necessary support facilities for full operations. The remoteness of the island assured safety and security. Program 437 employed the Thor IRBM with an intercept range of 700 miles. The Thor ASAT employed a nuclear warhead as the kill mechanism and produced a five-mile kill radius. System reaction time started out at two weeks, although the Air Force had desired a two-to-three-day reaction time to achieve a kill.133
In March 1963, DOD made the Thor ASAT a high priority and directed Air Force to support it fully. Air Force Systems Command and Aerospace Defense Command jointly controlled the program for some time. Air Force Space Command's (AFSC) 6595th Test Squadron conducted the system tests. On 15 February 1964, the squadron launched the first Program 437 rocket. The test succeeded with a simulated warhead passing within easy kill distance of the target, a Transit 2A rocket body. By 10 June 1964, the missiles were fully operational and on 24-hour alert. From 1966 through 1970, the Air Force conducted many successful test launches.134
McNamara believed that Program 505 competed directly with the Air Force ASAT, and that DOD could maintain only one program. Program 437 had higher altitude capability while Program 505 had faster reaction time (solid versus liquid propellants). Program 437 received top priority, but the Army still kept the 505 missiles ready at KMR as a fast-reaction ASAT missile for low-altitude satellites. In May 1966, McNamara declared Program 505 redundant and directed its phaseout.135
Antiballistic Missiles. By 1960 the threat posed by the growing numbers of ICBMs and decoys rendered the Nike Zeus system obsolete even before it started. In January 1963, the government authorized a new program called Nike X. The Army developed this system to counter the threat posed by depressed trajectory submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) (for which reaction time was far more critical) as well as ICBMs. A low-altitude nuclear burst would be the kill mechanism for the system. Unfortunately, the burst to destroy the reentry vehicle could be as harmful to friendly soft targets as the explosion of the enemy device.136
By October 1965, the Army finalized the Nike X design, which consisted of 12 sites with the mission of protecting civilian and military targets against an all-out Chinese or Soviet ICBM/SLBM attack. The program included two missiles, the exoatmospheric Spartan and the endoatmospheric Sprint. The long-range Spartan's first flight was in March 1968. The hypersonic Sprint carried a nuclear warhead of low-kiloton yield and zipped from zero to Mach 10 in less than five seconds. Sprint's first flight was in November 1965.137
To complement these missiles, the Army developed new radars. The perimeter acquisition radar (PAR), a phased array radar located at Concrete, North Dakota, detected incoming missiles and provided targeting data. The multifunction array radar, tested at WSMR in July 1964, proved inadequate and the Army replaced it with the improved missile site radar (MSR). The new radar first operated at KMR in September 1968. Located at the missile site, the MSR could discriminate targets at 700 miles and provided terminal phase guidance and targeting information for Spartan and Sprint. An ABM complex consisted of a long-range PAR, a short-range MSR, and Spartan and Sprint missiles with four remote Sprint launch sites about 25 miles from the MSR. Total cost was about $6 million.138
McNamara, long against ABM systems, believed that the offense could always overwhelm such a defense at a lower cost. Thus there was really no hope of protecting the general population. Therefore, on 15 September 1967, McNamara announced that there would be no nationwide ABM system (that is Nike X) because an ABM system only prompted the opponent to build more missiles to overwhelm it. In its place would be a "thin" ABM system called Sentinel, covering only major US cities. It would be designed primarily as a precaution against a limited Soviet or Chinese attack. However, the change of administrations would bring yet another change in thinking.139
Fractional Orbit Bombardment System. In the early 1960s, the Soviets needed a way to overcome the West's geographic advantages (forward bases in Turkey, Europe, and Asia from which shorter range missiles and bombers could attack the USSR). The Soviet attempt to place missiles in Cuba would have been a partial remedy. When the Cuban venture did not go as planned, they moved to other technological possibilities. The Soviets demonstrated the technology necessary to orbit a space vehicle and then land it in a specific place with the Vostok launches. It was thus logical to assume they could place nuclear weapons in orbit and return them to Earth at any time and place.140 Khrushchev made this suggestion in 1961, but on 15 March 1962, as part of the rhetoric proceeding the Cuban crisis, he made yet another, more ominous suggestion.
We can launch missiles not only over the North Pole, but in the opposite direction, too.... Global rockets can fly from the oceans or other directions where warning facilities cannot be installed. Given global missiles, the warning system in general has lost its importance. Global missiles cannot be spotted in time to prepare any measures against them.141
This statement was the first hint of a new concept called the fractional orbit bombardment system (FOBS). This weapon, a modified upper stage launched by the SS-9 Mod 3, Scarp, carried a one- to three-megaton warhead and went into low-Earth orbit, giving the ICBM unlimited range and allowing it to approach the US from any direction, avoiding US northern-looking detection radars and, therefore, giving little or no warning. The reentry vehicle came down in less than one revolution, hence the "fractional" orbit.142
After the failure of their first two tests in 1966, the Soviets tested their FOBS with nine launches between 25 January and 28 October 1967. All missions followed the same distinct flight profile--launching in the late afternoon into an elliptical, near-polar low-Earth orbit and deorbiting over the Soviet landmass before one complete orbit. This profile allowed the Soviets to monitor the deorbit, reentry, and impact. US planners viewed FOBS as a pathfinder system intended to precede a conventional ICBM attack. FOBS could destroy ABM radars, disrupt US retaliatory capability, destroy command posts, the White House, and the command and control network. But, due to its limited accuracy and payload, FOBS was ineffective against hardened targets.143
As new strategic threats appeared, the missile warning and spacetrack network expanded to meet these challenges. BMEWS grew to include three sites: Clear AFS, Alaska; Royal Air Force Fylingdales Moor, England; and Thule, Greenland. These BMEWS sites provided an unavoidable detection fence across the entire northern approach to the North American continent.144 For spacetrack, the Air Force built a totally new type of system, the AN/FPS-85, a prototype phased array radar at Eglin AFB, Florida. The radar reached initial operational capability (IOC) in 1968 with the 20th Surveillance Squadron (SURS) specifically assigned to do the space surveillance mission.145 Looking to the south, the AN/FPS-85 can see up to 80 percent of all the objects in space each day. This system greatly enhanced NORAD' s space surveillance capability.
From the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, the Soviet missile threat increasingly came from the oceans as the Soviets developed and deployed SLBM-carrying submarines. To counter this new threat, the USAF planned the SLBM detection and warning system with new radar sites along the coasts and improvements to existing systems to provide warning of missile attack from the sea.146
While NASA geared up for its first manned space launch, the Soviets again beat the US into space. On 12 April 1961, the Soviets launched Vostok 1 with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard. He made one orbit and landed safely. Here was a blow to US prestige on a par with Sputnik. The situation seemed to galvanize the American public. On 31 January 1961, a chimpanzee named Ham survived launch and reentry aboard the Mercury Redstone 2 (MR-2) rocket. Had a man been aboard this capsule, the US would have beaten the Soviets by two and one-half months. On 5 May 1961, US Navy Commander Alan B. Shepard became the first American to go into space with a suborbital flight aboard MR-3. Twenty days later, President Kennedy took advantage of the ground swell of emotion after Shepard's flight to call for putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade.147 The loss to the Soviets and the immediate US response made the American people willing to support a program of Apollo's magnitude.
There were five more Mercury flights, the last four using an Atlas rocket as booster. With this Mercury-Atlas (MA) combination, Marine Lt Col John Glenn became the first American in orbit (three revolutions) aboard MA-6. The last Mercury flight by USAF Maj Gordon Cooper aboard MA-9 was the longest, 22 revolutions (34 hours, 20 minutes).148
NASA was virtually dependent on the Air Force for trained launch personnel, launch vehicles, and facilities. All NASA manned launches were carried out by Air Force personnel with Air Force vehicles and facilities until completion of the Apollo Pad 39 launch complex in 1966. However, as NASA's requirements and Air Force involvement grew to meet the challenge of the Moon launch, the Air Force's influence over NASA actually decreased. Many Air Force manned projects were in direct competition with NASA projects. The Moon project, and the stepping stones that led to it, developed a momentum of their own which the Air Force could neither redirect nor reduce.149
Gemini IX Lift-off
NASA's Mercury follow-on, Project Gemini, developed procedures and practiced orbital maneuvers, rendezvous and docking, and extra-vehicular activity (EVA), and allowed US astronauts to gain experience needed for longer missions. Too massive for an Atlas rocket launch, Gemini flew atop a man-rated version of the Titan II ICBM. Gemini achieved many successes. In March 1965, Gemini Titan 3 (GT-3), the first manned flight, performed the first orbital plane change. In June 1965, Edward White performed the first US EVA aboard GT-4. GT-6 and GT-7 conducted the first US dual flight in December 1965. GT-7 set the space endurance record (to that date) of 330 hours 35 minutes. In July 1966, GT- 10 performed the first hard docking of two spacecraft when it docked with the Agena docking target vehicle (ADTV). In September 1966, GT-11 accomplished the first one-orbit rendezvous with ADTV only 94 minutes into the flight.150
By 1966 NASA's Moon project was well under way. The system designed to take men to the Moon and back was huge and massively complex. Its three-stage Saturn V rocket was the largest launch vehicle to date. The first stage, with five Rocketdyne F-1 engines, developed more than 7.5 million pounds of thrust at lift-off. The first flight of the Saturn V took place on 9 November 1967. The smaller Saturn lB rocket launched early test missions into near-Earth orbit.151
Saturn S-IVB Engine
On 27 January 1967, the Apollo flight test program started in tragedy as three astronauts died in a capsule fire during a launch pad rehearsal. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but the pure oxygen environment of the capsule was a major contributing factor. Astronauts Virgil ("Gus") Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died in the fire. The accident set the first Apollo launch back to 11 October 1968 due to the need for extensive capsule redesign.152
Apollo 15 Rollout
On 13 February 1969, President Richard M. Nixon formed a space task group (STG) to examine future US space activities. Its September 1969 report recommended several changes for the national space program, including comprehensive cost reduction. The STG stressed the need for practical applications and international cooperation in space.153 The group recommended a reusable space system to provide low cost-per-pound to orbit. This system, with its envisioned 100-flight lifetime, developed into the National Space Transportation System (STS).154 Regarding military programs, the group recommended that new programs be considered within the context of the threat, economic constraints, and national priorities. Such programs would only be authorized when shown to be more cost effective than other methods.155
In 1969 the Nixon administration approached the Soviets with the idea of mutual limitations on strategic nuclear arms. These Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) would last for eight years, produce three arms limitation treaties, and lay much of the groundwork for later arms negotiations. The Treaty on the Limitation of Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems limited systems to those meant to counter strategic ballistic missiles. This treaty was a product of the SALT I talks but was negotiated separately from the Interim Agreement (IA) on Strategic Nuclear Arms. Signed on 26 May 1972, the ABM Treaty entered into force for the US on 3 October 1972. Its provisions included limits on ABM systems to curb the strategic arms race and decrease the risk of nuclear war. Under the provisions of the treaty:
1. Each nation could have no more than 15 ABM launchers at test ranges for R&D purposes (Article IV).
2. Both parties agreed not to develop, test, or deploy ABM systems or components that are sea-based, space-based, or mobile land-based (Article V).
3. Neither nation could have rapid reload capability (Article V).
4. Both parties agreed not to give missiles, launchers, or radars--other than ABM missiles, ABM launchers, or ABM radars--the capability to counter strategic ballistic missiles and not to test them in an ABM mode (Article VI).
5. In the future there would be no deployment of early warning radars for strategic missile attack except for those along the periphery of the national territory and oriented outward (Article VI).
6. Both countries may use national technical means of verification to assure compliance as in the IA (Article XII).
7. The treaty, of unlimited duration, is subject to review every 5 years (Article XIV).
Under the 1974 Protocol, each nation could build and operate only one ABM system to protect the national capitol or one of its ICBM fields. This single ABM system could contain no more the 100 launchers and no more than 100 ABM interceptors.
By 1968 the Soviets' FOBS program settled into a two-flight-per-year pattern which indicated an operational status, although they only deployed FOBS in 18 silos.156 Also that year, the Soviets began testing what appeared to be a co-orbital ASAT. Little attention was paid to these events because they occurred during the national election and at a time when Vietnam had all the headlines. Almost two years passed between the second and third ASAT tests. There was little public recognition of the hiatus or the resumption of testing.157
However in 1970, NSC requested DOD to take a look at the mysterious Soviet satellite program and its potential impacts. Consensus was that this program. was a form of antisatellite system although no one was quite sure why the Soviets were building such a system, why they had chosen a co-orbital system (unlike the US Nike Zeus or Thor ASATs), or indeed, what the ASAT's target might be. DOD recommended US space systems and procedures be modified to reduce their vulnerability to the Soviet "killer satellite." As for whether the US should develop a similar capability as a response or deterrent, DOD felt that a US counter would not deter Soviet use of an ASAT because of greater US dependency on its space assets. In such a contest, the US would be hurt by an ASAT more than the Soviets would be.158
The new administration thoroughly reviewed the ABM system the previous administration had reluctantly initiated. The size and disposition of the system was not a major point of concern, but the philosophy of its employment was. On 14 March 1969, Nixon announced that the US would replace Sentinel with the new Safeguard program. With the same strength and sites as Sentinel, Safeguard would cover the Strategic Air Command' s ICBM fields to protect the US nuclear deterrent instead of major cities. Nixon said that the only true way to protect the US population was to prevent a nuclear war by keeping a viable deterrent. The first two of the six sites would be at Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Malmstrom AFB, Montana.159
After the signing of the ABM Treaty, work proceeded on only the ABM site at Grand Forks AFB. The Grand Forks site reached completion in fall 1975. On 1 October 1975, the site became operational, but on 2 October, Congress ordered it closed. The reasons for closure are numerous. The cost of the one system was staggering.160 The cost of the entire system (six sites) would have been almost $40 billion. The SALT I treaties had limited defensive systems, and the Soviet introduction of multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle warheads on their missiles could simply confuse and overwhelm any US ABM system just as McNamara said it would.161 Therefore, the US limited all ABM activities to research until the Strategic Defense Initiative began in 1983.162
Even before the publishing of the Strategic Task Group report, new DOD leadership began implementing cost-cutting measures in line with the STG recommendations. On 10 June 1969, DOD cut the MOL program that had been carried over from the Kennedy and Johnson years.163
DOD stated that due to budget restrictions, it had the choice of drastically cutting several smaller projects or deleting one large R&D project.164 MOL, like so many other programs, was a victim of the tight DOD budget and other problems.165
Antisatellites. While the Soviets were getting their ASAT system going, the US ASAT, Program 437, was falling on hard times. Back in 1962, the Starfish High Altitude Nuclear Test released sizable amounts of radiation into space. This radiation, trapped by the Earth's magnetic field, created artificial radiation belts 100 to 1,000 times stronger than background levels and damaged a number of satellites. The conclusion reached from this experience was that if Program 437 were ever used in anger, it would destroy friend and foe alike. Compounding this problem, the Soviets put up so many military satellites that there were too many potential ASAT targets. Also, there were major funding cuts in the program due to the Vietnam War. To make matters worse, the Air Force was simply running out of Thors. Therefore, in October 1970, DOD moved Program 437 to standby status as an economy measure. Thirty days were now needed to prepare for an interception, which totally destroyed the system's credibility as a weapon.166
On 19 August 1972, Hurricane Celeste delivered another major setback for Program 437 by destroying most facilities on Johnston Island. The facilities were repaired and back in service by September 1972, but because of undetected damage, the system went down again on 8 December and, after more repairs, returned to service on 29 March 1973. The satellite intercept mission for the Johnston Island facility ended with a program management directive for Program 437 (10 August 1974). NORAD notified the JCS of program termination on 6 March 1975.167 On 1 April 1975, DOD terminated the program altogether.168
In August 1974, President Gerald R. Ford reassessed the Soviet ASAT threat and US capability to respond to it. The Soviets were pursuing an "adventurist policy" by deploying an ASAT that could disrupt US communications and other systems. The 1975 Slichter Report pointed out tremendous vulnerabilities in US space systems while US dependence on these systems was growing. The apparent Soviet "blinding" of two US satellites in October and November 1975 and resumption of ASAT testing in February 1976 created considerable concern in the White House. In response, the president issued National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 333 in the fall of 1976. It directed DOD and others to take steps to redress satellite vulnerability. Air Force Systems Command's Space Division set up a system program office to conduct studies in this area.169
In December 1976, another report, by the Buchsbaum Panel, echoed the concern over the growing US dependency on satellites for communications, intelligence, and warning functions and the glaring vulnerability of satellites and ground stations. The report insisted that immediate measures be taken to correct this situation. The Buchsbaum group and DOD agreed that a US ASAT could not function as a deterrent to Soviet use. However, they stated that a US ASAT could be used against Soviet intelligence systems and as a bargaining chip to induce the Soviets to enter ASAT arms control negotiations. Verification of a limit on ASAT weapons would be a difficult task since a very small number would have a significant impact. Also it would be very easy to hide a residual capability. Eventually, such an agreement would have to stop R&D as well as deployment and possibly seek to dismantle all ASAT-capable systems.170
President Ford was not impressed with the low priority DOD gave to the ASAT matter. DOD stated that the US should use restraint with regard to space weapons in the hope that the Soviets would reciprocate. President Ford did not agree and in light of the turn of events (the Buchsbaum Report and the Soviets' 27 December 1976 ASAT test) decided to redress this situation. On 18 January 1977, just two days before he left office, Ford signed NSDM 345 directing DOD to develop an operational ASAT capability while studying options for ASAT arms control. He left it up to his successor to carry out this directive.171
Missile Warning and Space Surveillance Network. Reacting to impending limits set by SALT on their land-based ICBMs, the Soviets expanded their nuclear missile submarine fleet dramatically. In response, DOD upgraded and enhanced the SLBM warning network. The Air Force installed eight mechanical, pulsed conical scan tracker radars, designated AN/FSS-7, at strategic points along the US coast. These radars were on-line by April 1972. Also in 1972, the Air Force' s AN/FPS-85 space surveillance radar at Eglin AFB, Florida, received computer software changes to convert the system to the SLBM detection mission in addition to its spacetrack mission.
The Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota, Safeguard ABM site closed in February l976. However, in January 1977, the Air Force took over the perimeter acquisition radar located at Concrete, North Dakota, for use in the Missile Warning and Spacetrack Network and renamed the AN/FPQ-16 (phased array radar) the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System (PARCS). With modifications, the system operated again as an SLBM/ICBM detection site watching the polar regions and Hudson Bay. Operated by the 10th Missile Warning Squadron, PARCS provided space surveillance data as a tertiary mission.172
While DOD canceled many military space programs and scrutinized space policy, NASA's manned space program rode high as the decade neared its close. In December 1968, Apollo 8 performed the first manned flight to the vicinity of the Moon, and Apollos 9 and 10 conducted tests in Earth and lunar orbit in early 1969. Then Apollo ll provided the first manned landing on the Moon on 19 July 1969. Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. The Moon crew deployed a large number of scientific experiments and collected several pounds of rocks.173
Although the enthusiasm for the space program was high and NASA would land on the Moon five more times in the next two years, the first Moon landing was the high water. There would soon be drastic NASA budget reductions.
Apollo X. The MOL cancellation early in the Nixon presidency left only NASA's Apollo X program to carry on space station development. By late 1972, NASA was completing this station, now called Skylab. Skylab used the first and second stages of a Saturn V rocket to get into orbit. The station had 11,700 cubic feet of space for the crew, a length, with Apollo spacecraft attached, of 118.5 feet, and a weight of 168,100 pounds or 84 tons (Skylab only).174 Skylab tested long-term weightlessness and the ability of humans to adapt to it, and conducted experiments in solar physics, astronomical observation (unencumbered by the Earth's atmosphere), and space manufacturing. Crews also conducted experiments and observations related to Earth resources studies, and they conducted space medicine research.175
NASA launched Skylab 1, unmanned, on 14 May 1973. It suffered serious damage during launch when the meteoroid shield tore away, one solar panel ripped off, and the other jammed shut. This damage resulted in the loss of electrical power and caused severe overheating because of the loss of the reflective shielding. NASA launched three manned Skylab missions to dock with Skylab on 25 May, 28 July, and 16 November 1973. Skylab' s orbit decayed and it reentered in 1979.176
Apollo/Soyuz Test Program. Limited US and USSR cooperation in space occurred during the 1960s. The cooperation consisted of information exchange between the space agencies. With improved relations in the 1970s, the possibility for greater cooperation grew. Talks on the subject of astronaut/cosmonaut safety and use of common docking technology began as early as 1969, but specific joint working groups were not formed until October 1970. At the Moscow Summit in May 1972, the US and Soviet Union signed the five year Agreement on Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, the SALT IA, and the ABM treaties. The agreement scheduled a joint US/USSR space flight in 1975. This agreement was the beginning of the Apollo/Soyuz Test Program (ASTP), which developed rescue systems for saving astronauts and cosmonauts in emergencies in space (like Apollo 13 and Soyuz 11). Joint task groups designed and built a compatible docking module with the Soviet-style docking apparatus on one end and American type on the other. Both nations launched vehicles on 15 July 1975. On 18 July, Apollo 18 docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 spacecraft. The two spacecraft remained docked until 21 July and carried out joint scientific and medical experiments. Although the joint flight was a success and added measurably to the US and Soviet relationship, it remains the only joint US/USSR spaceflight venture to date.177 ASTP was the last US space flight for almost six years.
Apollo/Soyuz Test Project Spacecraft
ASAT arms control keenly interested the Carter administration. President Jimmy Carter approached the Soviets on the subject in March 1977. While negotiating, the US continued to work on its own ASAT. DOD intended to develop the US ASAT in an orderly fashion and did not plan a crash program to get the system on-line. The Carter administration believed that even the threat of an operational US ASAT could be used as a bargaining chip to provide the Soviets incentive to negotiate. This method of arms negotiation and simultaneous ASAT R&D came to be called the Two-track Policy.178
On 11 May 1978, Carter signed the Presidential Decision on National Space Policy 37 which laid out the founding principles of US space policy. Carter' s space policy principles included US sovereign rights over its space objects and the right of passage into and through space. A new principle was added, fueled by Soviet testing of their ASAT system--the right of self defense in space. This principle would bring about a major change in US space policy because it recognized space as a possible war-fighting medium. The presidential memorandum directed DOD to formulate plans to use civil, military, and commercial space assets in wartime or other emergencies as determined by the president. DOD was also to take actions to make US space systems survivable in the event of a conflict and to develop an operational ASAT. DOD was to create an integrated attack warning, notification, verification, and contingency reaction capability for space defense. The US would continue to exercise restraint in the use of space weapons and recognized that negotiations on the subject of space arms control were desirable. As a result of this rethinking of the traditional roles of space systems and the reevaluation of the medium, the influence of the R&D world of Air Force Systems Command in space matters began a slow but steady decline. At the same time, the space operations world increased its power and influence as war-fighting capability (survivability, reliability, responsiveness, etc.) became the new order of business for space systems.
In October 1977, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown announced that the Soviets had an operational ASAT system. This fact was the prime consideration in the Carter administration's change in US space policy and the redirection of the US military space program. DOD initiated the Space Defense Program in 1977 to perform research into ASAT technology, satellite survivability, and improved space surveillance.179
Antisatellite Weapons. Ford's administration had rekindled large-scale ASAT weapon research although considerable work had been done from the early 1970s under the Missile and Space Defense Program. Research centered on the miniature homing vehicle (MHV) with nonnuclear kill capability. In September 1977, Vought contracted to build the MHV. The MHV's intercept sequence began with launch aboard a ground-launched booster or from a high-altitude aircraft. The MHV maneuvered to the calculated vicinity of the target, where its sensors locked on and tracked the target. The MHV then homed in on the target and destroyed it via collision.180
The Air Force dropped the ground-launched option which used a modified Minuteman III ICBM in favor of air-launch from an F-15 fighter. The air-launched booster was a Boeing short-range attack missile first stage and a Vought Altair III second stage. Air-launch provided the advantages of flexibility, mobility, and "more attacks per day." MHV's biggest advantage over the old Program 437 and 505 systems was that it did not have to wait for the target to come to it.
In May 1978, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) published a report containing a prioritized listing of potential Soviet target satellites for the MHV. At the same time, JCS directed DOD to work on another ASAT system, termed the conventional ASAT, as a low-risk alternative system using off-the-shelf technology. This system, employing pellets as its kill mechanism, was intended as a backup in case the MHV proved too difficult.181
Satellite Survivability. The Space Defense Program also conducted satellite survivability research. Studies showed that satellites were extremely vulnerable to countermeasures. The US ASAT system might, in time, provide some measure of defense for some satellites in a contingency situation, though that was not its intended purpose. The satellites and their command and control network needed serious attention to allow them to function in a hostile environment. Efforts to improve the battle worthiness of these systems were directed at three areas--the orbital segment, the link segment, and the ground segment.182
The command and control facilities were in particular need of attention. The Air Force Satellite Control Facility at Sunnyvale, California, was, and still is, an unhardened, above-ground facility located on the San Andreas Fault. (It is in serious danger in case of an earthquake.) The Air Force began construction of a modern, survivable facility east of Colorado Springs, Colorado. This facility, the Consolidated Space Operations Center, is designed to control most DOD space assets. Also, the Air Force envisioned ground-mobile satellite command and control units to ensure survivability through mobility and proliferation.183
Although measures to improve the survivability of US space assets made sense, the US implemented them in a piecemeal fashion. Budgetary constraints were much to blame. Payload limitations also restricted the amount of satellite redundancy and hardness. Probably the leading reason for the haphazard treatment of survivability was the low priority placed on space systems despite their unquestioned value. The low priority was the result of the lack of a single constituency advocating change.184There was no single unified view of space and its place in the military structure. During the Reagan administration this problem would be given major consideration.
Directed Energy Weapons. Since the late 1960s, the services and ARPA, now called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), did considerable work on directed energy weapons (DEW), which are lasers and particle beams. However, only towards the end of Ford's tenure did such exotic technologies begin to show promise as weapons. The laser blinding incidents in 1975 (previously mentioned) showed that the Soviets were moving in this direction and had the potential for building a usable system. This increased US interest in this type of system, but considerable controversy existed over the direction of any project involving DEW and the level of funding to be given to these programs.185
The Carter administration was skeptical of DEW programs and felt that these were not mature technologies. It viewed conventional methods for ASAT, ABM, and ground target destruction (e.g., ICBMs) as more cost effective, and all DEW efforts remained exploratory in nature.186
Missile Warning and the Space Surveillance Network. The Air Force constructed an advanced radar site on the remote Aleutian island of Shemya in the northern Pacific. Construction of the system, the AN/FPS-108, Cobra Dane phased array radar, started in 1973, and it became operational in August 1977. The 16th Surveillance Squadron operates the radar, conducts surveillance of foreign missile launches, provides missile warning of ICBM and SLBM attack, and supports the Air Force Space Surveillance Network.187
In 1978, the Air Force initiated the Spacetrack Improvement Program which led to the construction of new systems and integration of existing systems into a larger and more effective surveillance network. The Air Force created the Pacific Radar Barrier including sites at Kwajalein, Guam, and the Philippines.188 The 17th Surveillance Squadron which was located on Luzon Island at the San Miguel Naval Communications Station, Republic of the Philippines, was a typical example of these systems. Activated in 1980, its mission was the detection and tracking of foreign missile launches and the identification of selected payloads and space debris. The 17th's AN/GPS-10 radar reached IOC in April 1983. In June 1990, the 17 SURS ceased operations and was supplanted by a new surveillance facility, Detachment 5, 18 SURS at Saipan.189
Another improvement was the conversion and integration of DARPA's space object identification facility on the Hawaiian island of Maui with the Air Force's planned ground-based electro-optical deep space surveillance (GEODSS) sites.190 The GEODSS system was the successor to the Baker-Nunn camera system.191 MIT Lincoln Lab developed and tested GEODSS at Experimental Test Site 1 at Socorro, New Mexico, near WSMR.192 GEODSS used powerful telescopes, electro-optic cameras, and high-speed computers to gather tracking and identification data on deep space satellites.
A major improvement made to space operations command and control took into account the wartime role of space systems envisioned by Carter' s space policy. Originally conceived as the NORAD Combat Operations Center, the Space Defense Operations Center (SPADOC) was to be the hub of Air Force wartime space activities. The SPADOC would consolidate all US ASAT, space surveillance, and satellite survivability operations in a single operations center. The SPADOC became operational on 1 October 1979 for limited development operations at the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex.193
During the spacetrack network upgrades, the missile warning net received new systems as well with the introduction of PAVE PAWS, the AN/FPS-115, advanced phased array radars built by Raytheon Corporation and designed for the SLBM warning mission. PAVE PAWS provides improved radar coverage and detection capability as well as additional warning against ICBM attack as a secondary mission and space surveillance as a tertiary mission.194
The Space Shuttle Program continued to be NASA's chief area of interest when the Carter administration took office in January 1977. NASA tentatively scheduled the first orbital test flight for March 1978. In February 1977, NASA began the first of the STS approach and landing test program flight tests with the shuttle Enterprise at the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB, California. A modified Boeing 747 airliner carried the shuttle piggyback. The first free-flight occurred on 12 August 1977 with astronauts Fred Haise and Gordon Fullerton aboard. The last such flight was on 26 October 1977.195 Enterprise never went into space.
After many hours of structural testing with Enterprise, NASA declared the orbiter design structurally flightworthy in April 1979.196 Meanwhile Columbia, the first shuttle intended to fly into space, arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in March 1979, already a year behind schedule, and sat for more than two years. The delay was caused by problems with the 30,922 tiles of the thermal protection system and the space shuttle main engines which were also two years behind schedule. NASA rescheduled the first flight for 10 April 1981.197
The new president tasked NSC to review US launch vehicle needs; the adequacy of the current administration policy to meet continued US civil, commercial, and military needs; NASA/DOD space shuttle organizational responsibilities and capabilities; and potential legislation on space policy. The NSC space policy review began in August 1981. DOD performed an internal space policy study at the same time.198
On 4 July 1982, President Ronald W. Reagan spoke at Edwards AFB at the fourth space shuttle landing. In this, his first speech on space policy, the president called for "a more permanent presence in space" for the US and said that steps must be taken to provide "assured access to space.''199 On the same day as his speech, the White House issued National Security Decision Directive (NSDD)-42, which reiterated the principles of Carter's PD/NSC-37. However, there were significant differences. NSDD-42 emphasized the US ASAT as a deterrent to Soviet use of their system with eventual deployment as a goal of the program. The ASAT would deny the enemy the use of space and space assets in time of war or crisis. The directive went on to say that the administration would study and consider treaties on weapons in space compatible with US national security interests. This statement was somewhat less positive than Carter's assertion that such agreements were desirable. Like PD/NSC-37, NSDD-42 also extended the principle of sovereign rights over a nation's space assets to include the right to defend those assets in space.200
The DOD space policy review contained "no new directions in space weaponry.''201 However, deterrence was now the primary role of the US ASAT program despite the fact that many experts said that this role was unworkable in light of the disparity in dependence and launch capacity between the US and USSR. DOD would explore technological avenues for prompt space support and projection of force in and from space and to assure free access while denying the same to the enemy.202 As such, NSDD-42 laid the groundwork for use of space as an arena for military operations by asserting the right of self-defense, and it opened the way for development of assets to fighting in and from space.
On 23 March 1983, President Reagan made his now famous Star Wars Speech announcing the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The president called for increased military spending to meet US military requirements and commitments. Then, to the surprise of most everyone (including members of his staff), Reagan called for defensive measures to render Soviet missiles obsolete. This call was a direct move away from the old policy of mutual assured destruction towards a policy of strategic defense as a means of deterrence. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated, "The defense systems the President is talking about are not designed to be partial. What we want to try to get is a system which will develop a defense that is thoroughly reliable and total." This "system" grew into a series of systems forming a layered ballistic missile defense.203
Two days after the speech, the Reagan White House released NSDD-85, "Eliminating the Threat from Ballistic Missiles." The NSDD directed "an intensive effort to define a long term research and development program aimed at an ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by nuclear ballistic missiles." The directive was a total commitment to a long-range R&D program for ballistic missile defense. The White House set up committees to study technological, political, and strategic considerations of such a system.204
In August 1981, the US rejected a Soviet offer to discuss a draft space weapons control treaty (Draft Treaty on the Prohibition of the Stationing of Weapons of Any Kind in Outer Space), which the Soviets had presented to the UN General Assembly as a supplement to the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.205 The US offered no counterproposal and gave no indication that it was interested in talks on the subject.206 The Soviets introduced another draft of the treaty which even went so far as to offer to dismantle the existing Soviet ASAT system. Although the draft covered many US concerns about space weapons, the US rejected it because it also prohibited the use of the space shuttle as a military system, while verification (always a sticking point) was still questionable. The US was also concerned over ground-based laser attacks (which were hard to trace to a source) and residual Soviet ASAT capability in their existing ABM systems.207
Considerable criticism focused on the administration's refusal to negotiate an ASAT treaty. Congress threatened to withhold funds for US ASAT development unless some legitimate justification could be provided. The administration briefed Congress on its problems with this or any such treaty: It was virtually impossible to verify; there were diverse sources of threats to US systems; and there was the threat posed by Soviet surveillance systems that could not be negated without an ASAT.208 In the end, despite considerable lobbying, the administration did not succeed in keeping funds for ASAT testing intact.209
From 1983 to 1987, US position on the Strategic Defense Initiative and the ABM Treaty was that Article V of the treaty limited all SDI work to research, that is, lab work and tests of subcomponents. This interpretation limited the primary debate to what constituted testing of components (which was prohibited) and what constituted testing of subcomponents (which was not). All other debates centered on what constituted research and development and employment of dual-use technologies (such as an antitactical missile or antiaircraft missile used as an ABM).
In 1988 the DOD took a different slant and employed a lawyer to look at the legal side of the question. Thereafter DOD proposed a new interpretation. First of all, Article V applied only to systems and components that were current at the time of the treaty negotiations. Agreed Statement D, which prohibited deployment but did not address testing and development, governed new technologies. The complication in all this was that the US had tried to ban futuristic technology during the original ABM negotiations, but the Soviets were unwilling to agree to such restrictions. The Reagan administration now proposed that since the Soviets had not agreed to these restrictions, the US was not bound by these restraints either. This reasoning left the US free to deploy anything it wanted in a full-scale test. Politics became the only constraint on US actions. The US did not take advantage of this new interpretation due to European and congressional protests.
The Strategic Modernization Program, revealed on 5 October 1981 by Caspar Weinberger, had many provisions for improving the US strategic posture including deployment of the B-1 bomber, MX ICBM, and Trident SLBM. Weinberger also stated that the US would "continue to pursue an operational antisatellite system.''210 Under the Reagan administration, military space programs received increased attention across the board. There was a perceived need for effective and survivable systems for early warning, communications, and attack assessment to allow the US to fight and "prevail" in modern conflicts to include nuclear war.211
Antisatellites. The US ASAT, by now called the prototype miniature air launched system (PMALS), was in an advanced development stage by October 1981 when Reagan announced US commitment of $418 million in contracts to Vought and Boeing. Ground testing of the missile and the MHV began in 1981 although the program was behind schedule.212 The Air Force moved the initial operational capability date back from 1985 to 1987 due to developmental problems. The Air Force conducted the first captive flight tests with the F- 15 launch aircraft in December 1982. Despite obvious progress, in January 1983 the General Accounting Office (GAO) criticized the system's complexity and price of tens of billions of dollars and called for a new assessment of other alternatives, particularly ground-based options and air- and space-based laser systems.213 GAO also criticized the system for its apparent lack of growth potential and its inability to attack up to 70 percent of its intended targets or the Soviets' ASAT system. Other sources also attacked PMALS for its dependence on existing space surveillance networks, which had limited capabilities relative to this task and which were not very survivable. DOD countered that the target list was a wish list with no monetary constraints attached and that the system would not cost as much as GAO alleged. It would cost only $3.6 billion.214
As if to lend credence to the Reagan administration's assertions that the US needed an ASAT device to counter threatening Soviet activities, the USSR tested its ASAT system again in February 1981, the 18th such test, and again in March 1981. The Soviet ASAT flew yet again, for the last time, in June 1982. The last flight was apparently as part of a major Soviet strategic forces exercise in which they launched two ICBMs, two ABMs, one SLBM, and one SS-20 IRBM as well as a navigation and a reconnaissance satellite. In August 1983, in a surprising demonstration of restraint, Soviet President Yuri Andropov announced a unilateral moratorium on ASAT testing. This action came at a time when there was growing US concern over the possible use of such large Soviet boosters as the Proton to launch an attack on our geosynchronous satellites. The Soviets were reportedly even developing a 300,000- to 400,000-pound lift (to low-Earth orbit) booster that could lift a prototype laser ASAT device.215
In February 1984, Reagan announced that the US would study follow-ons (such as a high-altitude ASAT) to meet all objectives on the target list.216 The MHV test program had conducted two successful point-in-space intercepts by the time Congress imposed budgetary restrictions on the program. When the congressional ban on ASAT testing of the MHV lapsed for a brief period in September 1985, the Air Force took advantage of the opportunity for a live-fire test of PMALS. On 13 September, a USAF F-15 piloted by Maj Wilbert Pearson launched an ASAT missile at the P78-1 solar observatory satellite, Solwind. The MHV struck the satellite, shattering it into 250-350 pieces. A stiffer congressional ban was imposed after the test. The Air Force could not test the US ASAT unless the Soviets tested theirs. In December 1985, Air Force SCOUT rockets launched two instrumented target vehicles from Wallops Flight Center. Both reentered before they could be used.
Missile Warning and Spacetrack Network. On 21 June 1982, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Lew Allen, Jr., announced the impending formation of Air Force Space Command, a single Air Force command that would consolidate and coordinate all Air Force space assets and activities. There had been considerable lobbying for a change in the military space organization and creation of an operational space command within the Air Force for some time. In September 1982, Space Command established its headquarters at Colorado Springs, near the headquarters for NORAD. The establishment of Air Force Space Command was the largest of the space organizational changes during the 1980s, all of which reflected the shift in policy recognizing space as a war-fighting medium.
In June 1983, the Navy announced that it was creating US Naval Space Command, which it activated on 1 October 1983 and headquartered at Dahlgren, Virginia. Although it consolidated naval space activities, the new Navy command also was intended to ensure the Navy a role in controlling DOD space programs in a unified command at a later date.217 On 23 September 1985 DOD activated the US Space Command (USSPACECOM) at Colorado Springs as a unified command composed of Air Force Space Command, Naval Space Command, and the newly created Army Space Agency (which later became Army Space Command). USSPACECOM has the task of consolidating all assets affecting US space activities.
The Air Force established ground based electro-optical deep space surveillance sites. MIT Lincoln Lab's Experimental Test Site 1 at Socorro, New Mexico, became Air Force property in April 1981 and reached IOC on 30 July 1982. Other GEODSS sites opened at ChoeJong San, Republic of Korea; Maui, Hawaii; and Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territories; under the Spacetrack Improvement Program.218
The Air Force also expanded the SLBM network. It completed two AN/FPS-121, modified PAVE PAWS systems, located in the southeastern and southwestern US. The first site is at Robins AFB, near Warner Robins, Georgia, and attained IOC in November 1986. The 9th Missile Warning Squadron (MWS) operates it.219 The second, operated by the 8 MWS, is at Eldorado AFS, near San Angelo, Texas, and became operational on 8 May 1987.220 These radars provide improved radar coverage and detection capability for southern approaches to the US. After activation of the new PAVE PAWS southeast radar, the Air Force deactivated the last of the old AN/FSS-7 radars operated by Detachment 1, 20 MWS, at MacDill AFB, Florida.221 Later, the Air Force reclassified the AN/FPS-85 radar at Eglin AFB, Florida, as a space surveillance radar no longer responsible for the missile warning role.
Two years behind schedule, the space shuttle approached its launch date of 10 April 1981. However when the day arrived, NASA canceled the flight due to a computer malfunction. The first flight finally got under way on 12 April 1981 as Columbia lifted off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, 20 years to the day after Gagarin's first manned flight. Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen made the historic first flight and landed successfully on the runway at Edwards AFB on 14 April.222
Over a year later, Reagan's NSDD-42 designated the space shuttle as the primary launch system for the US national security space program. It directed DOD and NASA to develop the shuttle into a fully operational, cost-effective system. All government payloads were to be compatible with the shuttle, and DOD was given priority on shuttle launches. DOD and other government agencies were to continue to develop and use expendable launch vehicles (ELV) only until the shuttle could meet all their launch needs. This directive essentially placed all of DOD's launch eggs in one basket--the shuttle.
By making the shuttle the primary launch vehicle for all government payloads, NSDD-42 guaranteed NASA all the launch business it could handle. NASA's goal was to achieve a two-flight-per-month routine that would make satellite launches cheaper and make the shuttle a self-sustaining venture. To achieve this goal, NASA needed more shuttles. In the next four years, NASA acquired three more shuttles, Challenger which first flew on 4 April 1983, Discovery which first flew on 30 August 1984, and Atlantis which first flew on 3 October 1985. Even with all four shuttles going at once, NASA was unable to meet its schedule because of technical problems and other delays. Far from the goal of 24 flights a year, the best NASA ever managed was nine flights in 1985.
By January 1986, NASA had flown only 24 shuttle missions in 57 months. The backlog of payloads on the manifest was growing steadily. There were few, if any, ELVs available for launch because they were being phased out, and production lines had closed. The pressure on NASA to get the shuttle up when scheduled was tremendous. Then disaster struck on 28 January 1986. The shuttle Challenger exploded some 70 seconds into the 25th flight because of a solid rocket booster (SRB) failure that ruptured the main propellant tank. All seven astronauts aboard were lost as was the $100 million NASA tracking and data relay system satellite. The effect on the US civilian and military space programs was devastating. Virtually all US launch capability was crippled. Two Titan 34D failures and a Delta 3920 failure within the same period only compounded the problem. Instead of having assured access, the US had virtually no access to space. The shuttle was down for over two years for an in-depth accident investigation and redesign of the faulty SRBs. During this time, there were virtually no ELVs available.
This dire situation continued until the return of the space shuttle in September 1988, the first flight of the Delta II medium launch vehicle in February 1989, and the successful first flight of the new Titan IV booster (originally designed to complement the shuttle) in June 1989. (More information on these and other launch systems is in chapter 4.) DOD instituted full-scale or expanded development of these ELV systems immediately after the Challenger accident and redirected almost all of its payloads to ELVs. The result has been that now there are virtually no DOD payloads scheduled for flights on the shuttle, and NASA now faces tremendous competition for US civilian and foreign payloads.
The focus on and the transition of space policy from Reagan to Bush began when President Reagan signed the NASA Authorization Bill for 1989, which wrote the requirement for a space council into law. The National Space Council (NSpC) came into being when President George H. Bush signed Executive Order No. 12675 on 20 April 1989. In signing the order, the president said that "space is of vital importance to the nation's future and to the quality of life on Earth."223 He charged the council to keep America first in space.
The council is chaired by the vice president, who serves as the president's principal advisor on national space policy and strategy. Other members of the council include: the secretaries of state, treasury, defense, commerce, transportation, and energy; the director of the Office of Management and Budget; the chief of staff to the president; the assistant to the president for national security affairs; the assistant to the president for science and technology; the director of central intelligence; and the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
The vice president invites the participation of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the heads of other departments, and other senior officials in the Executive Office of the President when the topics under consideration by the council so warrant. The council's charter is to advise and assist the president on national space policy and strategy, much as the National Security Council does in its area of responsibility. The council carries out activities to integrate and coordinate civil, commercial, and national security space activities. One of the first tasks for the council was to develop a national space policy planning process for development and monitoring of the implementation of the national space policy and strategy.
The planning process the council adopted consists of four phases:
This planning process will guide future space activities and will ensure an integrated national space program by strengthening and streamlining policy for civil and commercial space activities as well as for DOD.
The council has also identified five key elements that will form the basis of the US national space strategy. Those elements are: transport, exploration, solutions, opportunity, and freedom.225 These elements highlight the space program objectives of preserving the nation's security; creating economic opportunity; developing new and better technologies; attracting students to engineering, math, and science; and exploring space for the benefit of mankind.226
Development of the nation's space launch capability and related infrastructure as a national resource is one area under review by the council. Launch capability and infrastructure must accommodate the current and future needs of the space program. A second element the council is investigating is opening the frontier of space by manned and unmanned programs. The commitment is to ensure a balanced scientific program that will emphasize human activities as well as scientific excellence and research.227 A third area is intensification of the use of space to solve problems on Earth such as environmental concerns, treaty verifications, and satellite communications to link people around the globe. Opportunity is the fourth element in the council' s plan for space. Space exploration is crucial to the nation's technological and scientific development and economic competitiveness.228 Capitalizing on the unique environment of space to produce and investigate new materials, medicine, and energy could result in private investment and new jobs. The last element is ensuring that the space program contributes to the nation's security. Ensuring freedom to use space for exploration, development, and security for the United States and all nations is an inherent right of self-defense and of US defense commitments to its allies.
The space program needs open-mindedness, practicality, and the willingness of the space establishment to get behind a feasible plan. The National Space Council is an important vehicle for the administration's national space policy.
Despite ongoing funding limitations, the space community continues to progress. Space organizations and missions are continuing to evolve and have had modest growth. Recent experience with Operation Desert Storm has highlighted the invaluable contributions of space systems. In fact, Desert Storm was a watershed event for the advancement of space information to the war-fighting personnel. Such systems as the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communication System, Defense Support Program, and Defense Meteorological Satellite Program provided unprecedented levels of data support to the theater. Desert Storm proved that growing reliance on space systems for warning, intelligence, navigation, targeting, communications, and weather was merited. In subsequent chapters and annexes, this volume discusses the effect of space systems support in wars and the role the NSpC will play in shaping our current and future space policy and doctrine.
1. Walter A. McDougall, The Heavens and the Earth: A Political History of the Space Age (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1985), 76.
2. Ibid., 26.
3. Ibid., 77.
4. Ibid., 26, 78.
5. Ibid., 78.
6. Tom Bower, The Paperclip Conspiracy: The Hunt for the Nazi Scientists (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1987), 27-45.
7. Ibid., 86.
8. Ibid., 108-9, 127-28.
9. McDougall, 78-79.
10. Bower, 71.
11. Ibid., 116.
12. McDougall, 141.
13. Bower, 107.
14. Ibid., 111.
15. Ibid., 123.
16. Ibid., 108-9.
17. Ibid., 169.
18. McDougall, 98.
19. Kenneth Gatland, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Space Technology (New York: Harmony Books, 1981), 265.
20. McDougall, 99.
21. Curtis Peebles, Battle for Space (New York: Beaufort Books, Inc., 1983), 48 49.
22. Ibid., 48.
23. McDougall, 98.
24. Ibid., 48.
25. Bill Gunston, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the World's Rockets and Missiles (New York: Crescent Books, 1979), 58-59.
26. Curtis Peebles, Guardians: Strategic Reconnaissance Satellites (Navato,Calif.: Presidio Press, 1987), 44.
27. Ibid., 44-45.
28. Paul B. Stares, The Militarization of Space: US Policy (Ithica, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), 29-30.
29. McDougall, 106.
30. Peebles, Guardians, 13.
31. McDougall, 127.
32. Ibid., 118.
33. Ibid., 119-20.
34. Stares, 121.
35. McDougall, 121.
36. Ibid., 122.
37. Ibid., 123. 38. Fred Reed, "The Day the Rocket Died," Air and Space Smithsonian 2, no. 4 (October/November 1987): 49
39. McDougall, 130.
40. Reed, 49-50.
41. Peebles, Battle, 52.
44. Gunston, 51.
45. Reed, 50-51.
46. Ibid., 51.
47. McDougall, 154.
48. Reed, 52.
50. McDougall, 172.
51. Stares, 42-43.
52. McDougall, 198.
53. Ibid., 176.
54. Ibid., 173.
55. Ibid., 223.
56. Gatland, 62.
57. McDougall, 223.
58. Ibid., 225.
59. Peebles, Guardians, 1.
60. Ibid., 8-13.
62. Ibid., 17-20.
63. McDougall, 111.
64. Peebles, Guardians, 45.
65. Ibid., 33.
66. Ibid., 33-35.
67. McDougall, 219.
68. Peebles, Guardians, 36-37.
69. Ibid., 30-31.
70. Ibid., 39.
71. Ibid., 43-44.
72. Stares, 54-57.
73. Peebles, Guardians, 46.
75. McDougall, 190.
76. Peebles, Guardians, 49-51.
77. Gatland, 81, 86.
78. Peebles, Battle, 40.
79. Gunston, 172.
80. McDougall, 82.
81. Gunston, 172-73.
82. Peebles, Battle, 96-99.
83. Ibid., 77, 80.
84. Ibid., 99-101.
86. Stares, 115.
87. McDougall, 339-4.0.
88. Jay Miller, The X-Planes (Arlington, Tex.: Aerofax, 1988), 149-51.
89. Stares, 130.
90. Peebles, Battle, 8.
91. Reed, 48.
92. Detachment (Det) 2, 3391 School Squadron, "Space Systems Operations Textbook," Peterson AFB, Colo., November 1980, 2-4.
93. Ibid., 5-32.
94. Stares, 132.
95. Det 2, 3391 School Squadron, 2-20.
96. Stares, 131-32.
97. Det 2, 3391 School Squadron, 2-5.
99. Ibid., 2-21.
100. Ibid., 2 4.
101. Ibid., 2 6.
102. Ibid., 2-13.
103. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "12th Missile Warning Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
104. Stares, 60 61.
105. Peebles, Guardians, 70.
106. Ibid., 237.
107. Ibid., 238.
109. McDougall, 340.
110. Ibid., 341.
111. Peebles, Guardians, 244.
112. Ibid., 251-52.
113. Ibid., 242, 244.
114. Ibid., 248.
115. Ibid., 246-48.
116. Bill Yenne, The Encyclopedia of US Spacecraft (New York: Exeter Books, 1985), 38.
117. Gatland, 81-82.
118. Yenne, 38.
119. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "Defense Meteorological Satellite Program," Washington, D.C., Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Public Affairs, October 1988, 1.
120. Yenne, 37-38.
121. Ibid., 157.
122. Peebles, Guardians, 332-36.
123. Peebles, Battle, 101.
125. Ibid., 81-82.
126. Stares, 110.
127. Peebles, Battle, 81-82.
129. Ibid., 82-83.
130. Stares, 120.
131. Peebles, Battle, 85.
132. Stares, 120.
133. Peebles, Battle, 87.
134. Ibid., 87-88.
135. Ibid., 85.
136. Gunston, 173.
140. Peebles, Battle, 58-59.
141. Ibid., 62.
142. Ibid., 64-65.
143. Ibid., 65-69.
144. Robert S. Freeman, "Space Program Overview: History," Lowry AFB, Colo., 3301 Space Training Squadron, March 1991,1.
145. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "20th Surveillance Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1991,1.
146. Det 2, 3391 School Squadron, 2-8.
147. Gunston, 268-69.
148. Gatland, 64-65.
149. Stares, 61 62.
150. Gatland, 67-71.
151. Ibid., 153-59.
152. Ibid., 71.
153. Stares, 158-59.
154. Gatland, 206-7.
155. Stares, 159.
156. Peebles, Battle, 73-74.
157. Stares, 162.
158. Ibid., 164 65.
159. Gunston, 173.
161. Peebles, Battle, 14.
162. Gunston, 173.
163. Peebles, Guardians, 253.
164. Stares, 160.
165. Peebles, Guardians, 253-54.
166. Ibid., 92-94.
167. Stares, 201-3.
168. Ibid., 94.
169. Stares, 169-71.
170. Ibid., 170-71.
171. Ibid., 171.
172. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "10th Missile Warning Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
173. Gatland, 155-63.
174. Ibid., 168-72.
175. Ibid., 168-81.
176. Ibid., 168-69.
177. Ibid., 190-97.
178. Stares, 180-83.
179. Ibid., 183.
180. Ibid., 206.
181. Ibid., 206-7.
182. Ibid., 210.
183. Ibid., 211 .
185. Ibid., 213.
186. Ibid., 213-14.
187. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "16th Surveillance Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
188. Stares, 212.
189. US Air Force Fact Sheet, " 17th Surveillance Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
190. Stares, 212.
191. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
192. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "Detachment 1, 1st Space Wing," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
193. Stares, 212.
194. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "PAVE PAWS Radar Systems," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1-2.
195. Gatland, 210-13.
196. Ibid., 211.
197. Ibid., 213.
198. Stares, 217.
200. Ibid., 218-19.
201. Ibid., 219.
202. Ibid., 218-19.
203. Ibid., 225.
204. Ibid., 225-26.
205. Ibid., 229.
206. Ibid., 217.
207. Ibid., 231-32.
208. Ibid., 232-34.
209. Ibid., 234.
210. Ibid., 217.
212. Ibid., 220 21.
213. Ibid., 221.
214. Ibid., 221-22.
215. Ibid., 222-23.
216. Ibid., 222.
217. Ibid., 220.
218. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "Ground-Based," 1.
219. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "9th Missile Warning Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
220. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "8th Missile Warning Squadron," Peterson AFB, Colo., 3d Space Support Wing, Site Support Public Affairs, January 1989, 1.
221. US Air Force Fact Sheet, "12th Missile Warning Squadron," 3.
222. Gatland, 213.
223. Brochure, The National Space Council, Washington D.C., undated, 1.
224. Ibid., 2.
226. Ibid., 5.
227. Dan Quayle, vice president, remarks to the American Astronomical Society, Arlington, Va., 10 January 1990.
To Chapter 2