SP-4217 Beyond the Ionosphere


Chapter 7
From Advent to Milstar: The U.S. Air Force and the Challenges of Military Satellite Communications
by David N. Spires and Rick W. Sturdevant


[65] For more than three decades, the U.S. Air Force has led efforts to expand satellite communications capabilities for military use. From Advent in the early 1960s to Milstar in the 1990s, the Air Force has provided launch vehicles, supporting infrastructure, and most of the communications satellites for the defense community. In so doing, the Air Force has confronted a variety of sometimes related technical, political, and institutional challenges. These focused initially on long-range strategic communications requirements, but increasingly on tactical needs after the first wartime transmission of voice and data from Vietnam to Washington, D.C., via satellite. Air Force engineers often led their commercial counterparts as they probed the boundaries of high-risk technology in an effort to increase payload capabilities. Unlike providers of commercial satellite communications services, however, the Air Force has wrestled with survivability and unique requirements that have increased military satellite costs, even as commercial costs have dropped.

As an example of political challenges, "convergence" proponents have repeatedly criticized military satellite communications; they argue that merging the commercial and military sectors would avoid duplication and save tax dollars. Conversely, civilians who worry about divergent civil and military interests and military people concerned with system security and assured access during conflicts have staunchly defended the need for separate military satellite communications capabilities, even if they must be supplemented by civil and commercial satellite communications to handle total volume. In terms of institutional challenges, the Department of Defense (DoD) traditionally has favored tri-service, or joint force, military satellite communications management for the sake of cost-effectiveness--and to reduce interservice rivalries. The complicated, fragmented nature of military satellite communications management has served historically to render the integration of planning and services more difficult within the Air Force and DoD; furthermore, it has retarded the movement of military satellite communications systems from the realm of research and development into the operational arena.


Origins and Early Efforts


World War II demonstrated the essential requirement of electronically transmitting military information over longer ranges, in greater quantities, and with more reliability and higher security than ever before. A constellation of Earth-orbiting satellites, first proposed by the British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in October 1945, offered a revolutionary way of meeting those requirements. Now a part of early space lore, Clarke's concept of geostationary communications satellites sparked serious military interest, as evidenced by Project RAND's May 1946 report to the Army Air Forces, titled Preliminary [66] Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship.1 It could not be implemented, however, until the technology for space launch and satellite construction was more advanced.

For the near term, the military services (primarily the Army and Navy) had to satisfy themselves with using the Moon for space communications experiments. Not until 18 December 1958 did an Air Force Atlas B booster successfully carry the Advanced Research Projects Agency's SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) into low-Earth orbit, from where it delivered President Eisenhower's now-famous Christmas message. The Army followed this achievement in October 1960 with the successful launch of its Courier delayed-repeater communications satellite, which operated in the ultrahigh frequency (UHF) band in a low-altitude orbit (90 to 450 nautical miles, or 167 to 833 kilometers). Meanwhile, under Project West Ford (later Project Needles), the Air Force contracted with Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to produce 480 million hair-like, copper dipoles, which were launched on 9 May 1963 and reflected radio signals from an orbit nearly 2,000 nautical miles (about 3,700 kilometers) above the Earth.2

As the 1960s approached, DoD sought to simultaneously develop a satellite constellation of the sort envisioned by Clarke and create management structures to handle the new communications capabilities. In 1958, the Advanced Research Projects Agency had directed the Army and Air Force to plan for an equatorial synchronous (strategic) satellite communications system, with the Air Force responsible for the booster and spacecraft and the Army in charge of the actual communications elements aboard the satellite, as well as on the ground. The program initially consisted of three projects. Two of these, named Steer and Tackle, used medium-altitude repeater satellites; the third, Decree, called for a synchronous repeater satellite using microwave frequencies. The Pentagon transferred the management of military satellite communications development efforts from the Advanced Research Projects Agency to the Army in September 1959; it soon thereafter combined the three projects into a single program, called Advent.

Once described as a "not quite possible dream," that technologically ambitious undertaking was soon plagued by high costs, inadequate payload capacity, and an excessive satellite-to-booster weight ratio. Those problems caused Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to cancel Advent on 23 May 1962. Meanwhile, it had become apparent that neither the Army nor any other single service would have overall responsibility for military satellite communications, because in May 1960 the Pentagon combined the strategic [67] communications systems of the three services under a Defense Communications System (DCS) run by the newly created Defense Communications Agency (DCA).3

Before authorizing a more realistic military satellite communications project to replace Advent, McNamara opened discussions with Comsat, the corporation that congressional legislation established in early 1963. McNamara questioned why he should fund a separate, costly medium-altitude military satellite system if the military could lease links from Comsat at lesser cost. DoD and Comsat, however, could not agree on costs or the need for separate military repeaters aboard commercial satellites.4

Furthermore, the addition of military applications to a civilian system designed for use by other countries created international concerns. On 15 July 1964, after months of fruitless effort, McNamara ended negotiations and opted for the full-scale development of a dedicated military system, which the Air Force had consistently favored to ensure security and reliability. The defense secretary accepted a proposal that Aerospace Corporation had been studying for the Air Force. Although it initially had called for using an Atlas-Agena booster combination to launch a constellation of randomly placed, medium-altitude satellites weighing 100 pounds (forty-five kilograms) each, the development of the more powerful Titan IIIC booster soon resulted in a decision to aim for launching as many as eight satellites at once into a near-synchronous equatorial configuration. The Los Angeles-based Space and Missile Systems Organization (SAMSO), within the Air Force Systems Command, was responsible for developing both the spacecraft and its communications payload; the Army Satellite Communications Agency was designated to manage the ground segment; and DCA had executive management responsibility for this Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP).5


The Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program


Originally expected to function as an experimental system, IDCSP rapidly proved its operational worth and became the first phase in a three-phase evolutionary program to provide long-term, survivable communications for both strategic and tactical users. The first seven IDCSP satellites, relatively simple in design to avoid the problems that had plagued Courier and prevented Advent from ever getting off the ground, went aloft on 16 June 1966. Operating in superhigh frequency (SHF), weighing about 100 pounds (forty-five kilograms), and measuring only three feet (one meter) in diameter and nearly three feet (one meter) in height, these spin-stabilized satellites contained no moveable [68] parts, no batteries for electrical power, and only a basic telemetry capability for monitoring purposes. The configuration of each IDCSP platform provided two-way circuit capacity for either eleven tactical-quality voice circuits or five commercial-quality circuits capable of transmitting one million digital or 1,550 teletype data bits per second. The IDCSP satellite's twenty-four-face polyhedral surface accommodated 8,000 solar cells that provided sufficient energy to power a single-channel receiver operating near 8,000 megahertz, a three-watt traveling-wave-tube amplifier transmitting around 7,000 megahertz, and one twenty-megahertz double-conversion repeater. Designed to operate for three years, the actual mean time before failure among IDCSP satellites proved to be six years. DCA declared the system operational and changed its name to the Initial Defense Satellite Communications System (IDSCS) before the launch of the last group of eight satellites on 13 June 1968.6


Figure 14.  The Mark IV(X) transportable station for satellite communications designed for transmitting and receiving voice, teletype, and facsimile images via NASA's Syncom satellite.

Figure 14. The Mark IV(X) transportable station for satellite communications designed for transmitting and receiving voice, teletype, and facsimile images via NASA's Syncom satellite. During the Vietnam War, the military relied on Syncom for routine administrative and logistical communications between Saigon and Hawaii. (Courtesy of NASA).


[69] Vietnam provided the first opportunity to use satellite communications from a real-world theater of operations. U.S. forces had installed IDCSP ground terminals at Saigon and Nha Trang by July 1967. Under Project Compass Link, IDCSP provided circuits for the transmission of high-resolution photography between Saigon and Washington, D.C. As a result of this revolutionary development, analysts could conduct near-real-time battlefield intelligence from afar. Commercial systems also supplied satellite circuits to support area communications requirements. Even before IDCSP service became available, the military had relied on the NASA-developed Syncom satellite for communications between Saigon and Hawaii. Later, Comsat leased ten circuits between its Bangkok facilities and Hawaii, while the Southeast Asia Coastal Cable System furnished part of the network for satellite terminal access between Bangkok and Saigon. Satellite usage during the Vietnam War established the military practice of relying on commercial space systems for routine administrative and logistical needs while trusting more sensitive command-and-control communications to the dedicated military system.7


The Defense Satellite Communications System


While the IDSCS provided good service for nearly ten years and also furnished the basic design for British Skynet and NATO satellites, the first-phase Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) satellites remained limited in terms of channel capacity, user access, and coverage. Furthermore, military planners worried about the vulnerability of a command-and-control system that involved a central terminus connected to a number of remote terminals. The subsequent DSCS II design sought to overcome those deficiencies. TRW Systems received a contract from the Air Force Space Systems Division (formerly SAMSO) in March 1969 to develop and produce a qualification model and six flightworthy satellites to be launched in pairs aboard a Titan III. Plans called for a constellation of four active satellites in geosynchronous orbit, supported by two orbiting spares. Each satellite measured nine feet (2.7 meters) in diameter, was thirteen feet (four meters) in height with antennas extended, and weighed 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms).

DSCS II, because it was dual-spun for stability, represented a "giant step" in technical development over its smaller, lighter, and less capable predecessor. A flexible, four-channel configuration provided a variety of communications links for interfacing with various size terminals. It possessed capacity for 1,300 two-way voice channels or 100 million bits of digital data per second, and onboard batteries generated 520 watts of power to complement the satellite's eight solar panels. The five-year design life nearly doubled that of DSCS I, and the new system's redundancy, multichannel and multiple-access features, and increased capability to communicate with smaller, more mobile ground stations especially pleased the Air Force and other users.8

[70] The orbital history of DSCS II satellites in the 1970s, beginning with the launch of the first pair on 2 November 1971, reveals a somewhat spotty performance record. A Titan IIIC booster failure accounted for the loss of two of the next six satellites; problems with stabilization, antenna pointing, and traveling-wave-tube amplifiers plagued the others. The Air Force responded by contracting with TRW for an additional six satellites of the original design, and later four more with forty-watt traveling-wave-tube amplifiers in place of the twenty-watt amplifiers. Despite another launch failure in March 1978 and continued high-voltage arcing in the power amplifiers, by the early 1980s, the DSCS II constellation not only fulfilled global, strategic communications requirements through forty-six DSCS ground terminals, but also linked the Diplomatic Telecommunications System's fifty-two terminals and the Ground Mobile Forces' thirty-one tactical terminals. Perhaps the best example of the satellite's durability is that DSCS II B4, launched on 13 December 1973, lasted four times longer than its design life. The Air Force did not turn it off until 13 December 1993.9

The Air Force had been designing an improved DSCS III satellite since 1974 to meet the military's need for increased communications capacity, especially for mobile terminal users, and for greater survivability. General Electric's DSCS III differed considerably from its phase II predecessor. This third-generation satellite was three-axis stabilized, considerably heavier (2,475 pounds, or 1,123 kilograms, in orbit), and rectangular rather than cylindrical in shape (with dimensions of six by six by ten feet [1.8 by 1.8 by three meters] and a thirty-eight-foot [11.6 meter] span when the solar arrays were deployed). Its 1,000 watts of battery power practically doubled that of DSCS II, as did its ten-year design life. Furthermore, DSCS III signaled a major technological advance by being the first operational satellite to use electronically switched SHF multiple-beam antennas. The sixty-one-beam uplink antenna produced variable gain patterns from Earth coverage, to spot beams, to patterns with nulls in selected directions to counter jamming. The two downlink antennas used nineteen independently switched beams. A gimbaled dish, two horns, and two UHF antennas completed the array. Flexible antenna configurations combined with six transponders, which used forty-watt and ten-watt traveling-wave-tube amplifiers, offered a wide range of services to the growing wideband user community as well as to the ground-mobile force.10

The DSCS III satellite also carried a single-channel Air Force satellite UHF transponder with anti-jamming protection for secure voice communications during all levels of conflict. As with most DoD satellites, DSCS III had both an S-band section for use by the Air Force Satellite Control Network and an X-band section that provided redundant command paths and gave Army personnel at eight ground stations worldwide direct control of the transponders and antennas. Beginning with the fourth satellite, the use of improved jam resistance, redundancy, and more powerful amplifiers enabled DSCS III to meet the military's growing requirements for increased capacity and survivability.11

[71] The orbital history of DSCS III did not include the booster problems that had resulted in the loss of four DSCS II satellites. On 30 October 1982, a Titan 34D/Inertial Upper Stage vehicle launched the first DSCS III satellite. Another two DSCS III satellites went aloft via the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1985. The Challenger disaster and a series of Titan 34D failures then shut down launch operations for two years. Fortunately, the reliability of the DSCS system--and the exceptionally long life span of DSCS III and later DSCS II satellites--allowed the constellation to weather the launch crisis better than most other military satellite systems. The Air Force finally launched a fourth DSCS III satellite via a Titan 34D/Transtage in 1989, after which Atlas II became the preferred launch vehicle. Not until 19 July 1993 did the Air Force complete a full, five-satellite DSCS III constellation. One measure, however, of the confidence that the Air Force has placed in the jam-resistant secure communications capability afforded by DSCS III satellites is that since December 1990, they have been the primary means for transmitting missile warning data from key worldwide sensor sites to correlation-and-command centers at Cheyenne Mountain and elsewhere.12

The introduction of new heavy, medium, and light ground terminals beginning in the mid-1970s allowed the military to start phasing out aging equipment first deployed in the 1960s and subsequently modified for use with DSCS II. Although DSCS III continued the practice of using terminals from the earlier system, the 1980s brought new terminals, including eight-foot (2.4-meter) and twenty-foot (six-meter) antennas for the ground-mobile forces. Meanwhile, work continued to convert the entire system from analog to digital transmission by the end of the decade. The DSCS III satellite program also benefited from a number of new Air Force acquisition practices. Faced with cost overruns and schedule slips, Air Force officials resorted to milestone billing, and they convinced Congress to approve the practice of multiyear procurement instead of annual buys.13


A Fragmented Management System


The fact that DSCS remained a Pentagon-managed system, with DCA, the Army, and the Air Force all playing roles in its day-to-day operation, indicated a much broader institutional problem. Based on DoD Directive 5105.44 of 9 October 1973 and Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum of Policy 178 of 17 March 1975, management of military satellite communications systems remained fragmented among the Air Force, Navy, Army, and DCA. From the 1980s on, the U.S. military wrestled with that unwieldy situation in an effort to ensure more cost-efficient acquisition and more effective employment of resources through all levels of conflict. The strong tendency, however, since the earliest days of military satellite communications remained for each service to want its own system. That had been tempered partially during the 1970s by fiscal cutbacks and congressional pressure, which had caused all systems to become more "common user" despite their nomenclature. While technology helped achieve a higher degree of efficiency within an expanding [72] user community (that is, the cost per capability dropped), the increasing sophistication of military satellite communications still led to dramatic price increases per satellite and required automated tracking, telemetry, and commanding instead of the old, manual methods.14

While the creation of the Air Force Space Command in September 1982 signaled the Air Force's commitment to centralizing its space operations, the establishment of the U.S. Space Command three years later clearly offered an opportunity to vest managerial responsibility for all military satellite communications in one organizational chain. The translation of opportunity into reality, however, proved next to impossible. Despite various initiatives, the 1980s brought no definitive answers to the questions of whether the existing military satellite communications management structure should be altered and, moreover, whether the existing acquisition alignment--that is, UHF for the Navy, SHF for DCA, and extremely high frequency (EHF) for the Air Force--should remain binding.15

The fussing, fuming, and fumbling over military satellite communications architectural arrangements and their implications continued into late 1990, with the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications, and intelligence finally directing DCA to take the lead in developing a suitable architecture. That task included considering the role of smaller and cheaper satellites, the potential for the increased use of commercial satellites, the achievement of U.S. and allied interoperability, and the possibility of cooperative efforts to reduce developmental and operational costs. Almost simultaneously, efforts to develop a new memorandum of policy for military satellite communications management bogged down, after the Air Force Space Command complained that the new version failed to place DSCS executive management within the chain of command of the U.S. Space Command's commander in chief; it left that responsibility in the hands of the Defense Information Systems Agency (the successor to DCA). Systematic [73] efforts to restructure fractionalized military satellite communications management, with the goal of centralizing all responsibilities under the U.S. Space Command and its component commands, failed. Entering the last decade of the twentieth century, the requirements process for military satellite communications seemed bankrupt; attempts at architectural definition bordered on the absurd; and system responsibilities remained split among the Air Force, Navy, Army, and Defense Information Systems Agency.16

The Persian Gulf War experience of 1990-1991 made it apparent that the United States and its allies needed a fully integrated communications package for future crises. It could ill afford again to wait until after a crisis arose to assemble such a package. Moreover, an optimum communications network had to emphasize tactical rather than strategic requirements, the need for commercial satellite augmentation, and the importance of a responsive launch capability.17 In the early 1990s, Air Force planners faced that reality, even as they focused on drastically restructuring the troubled Milstar (Military, Strategic, Tactical and Relay) program to trim costs and save it from cancellation.




Milstar had emerged in the late 1970s from an Air Force proposal for a strategic satellite system to be called STRATSAT--a four-satellite constellation designed solely to support nuclear forces. It would avoid potential anti-satellite threats by orbiting at a so-called supersynchronous altitude of about 110,000 miles, and it would operate in the EHF range to provide more band width for spread-spectrum, anti-jam techniques. Considered too ambitious for so limited a mission, STRATSAT gave way to Milstar in 1981.



Figure 15. The Milstar (Military, Strategic, Tactical and Relay) program received <<Highest National Priority>> status in 1983, but it underwent delays, redesigns, and cost overruns that angered a budget-cutting Congress.

Figure 15. The Milstar (Military, Strategic, Tactical and Relay) program received "Highest National Priority" status in 1983, but it underwent delays, redesigns, and cost overruns that angered a budget-cutting Congress. Consequently, the first Milstar satellite entered orbit in 1994, seven years after its projected launch. (Courtesy of the Air Force Space Command, History Office).


Air Force planners, viewing Milstar as capable of both strategic and tactical operations, proceeded to add numerous requirements to meet more types of missions. President Reagan's assignment of "highest national priority" status to Milstar in 1983 allowed the program to proceed with few funding restrictions. Similar to the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile program in the 1950s, the development of the necessary "cutting edge" technology for Milstar and procurement, which included fielding the infrastructure for its operational support, proceeded concurrently. In the case of Milstar, unfortunately, those so-called "concurrency procedures" resulted in delays, redesigns, and cost overruns that drew the ire of an increasingly budget-conscious Congress.18

Initially designed to provide low-data-rate EHF communication, the eight-satellite Milstar constellation offered cross-link capabilities and extensive hardening against radiation. The EHF range had the advantage of allowing for the use of antennas as small as six [75] inches (about fifteen centimeters) in diameter, which suited highly mobile special operations forces. Titan IV boosters would send four of the satellites into various polar orbits and the other four into geosynchronous orbits. Because the primary objective was survivability, not high performance, the Milstar design did not include high data rates; each satellite was to serve no more than fifteen users simultaneously. As a result, it would supplement rather than replace existing satellites such as DSCS and Fleet Satellite Communications.19

Milstar's original strategic orientation seemed anachronistic following the end of the Cold War. Operation Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War reinforced interest in promoting Milstar's tactical capabilities, and the program underwent significant downsizing based on congressional demands and Pentagon reviews. By early 1994, Milstar included six rather than eight satellites, without the vast array of survivability features and with fewer ground control stations. The first block of two satellites, designated Milstar I, retained the limited-use low-data-rate capability, but subsequent Milstar satellites were to be equipped with a medium-data-rate package to support tactical forces. On 7 February 1994, seven years after its projected launch, the first Milstar satellite went into orbit. The Air Force anticipated the launch of the first Milstar II satellite in 1999, with transition to a cheaper, lighter, advanced EHF Milstar III satellite by 2006. By the mid-1990s, despite its effective use in Haitian operations, it was still not known whether Milstar had the ability to provide survivable, jam-resistant, global communications to meet the needs of the national command authorities, battlefield commanders, and operational forces through all levels of conflict.20


Planning and Organizing for the Future


The escalating costs of dedicated military satellite communications such as Milstar, combined with the inability of the United States during the Persian Gulf War to launch additional military communications satellites on demand, highlighted the need for using civil and commercial satellites and launchers in both peacetime and emergency situations. How to use commercial systems without jeopardizing congressional support for military satellite communications programs remained a major challenge. Moreover, the need for an effective integration of military and commercial networks presented yet another challenge. The military sought to save money by finding alternatives to leasing individual communications satellite circuits, which is its historic policy. Although DoD could not readily identify its total current usage of commercial communications satellites, the consolidation of needs and procurement of greater overall capacity seemed worthwhile. The creation of a private military-managed network of commercial communications satellite assets had its proponents, but the idea foundered because the government could not operate in nongovernment radio frequency bands. Another alternative involved a "commercially equivalent" military satellite system that would use military radio frequencies and existing terminals. Such satellites would cost less and handle more traffic than satellites built to military specifications. They would offer features commonly found aboard military [76] satellites (for example, steerable spot-beam antennas and secure telemetry and payload control links) but would lack the special survivability features of military models.21

By February 1994, when the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported on the military's use of communications satellites, it was clear that the institutional barriers to efficient, effective military exploitation of commercial communications satellite capabilities remained. GAO recommended "establishing firm policy and procedures for Department of Defense components to coordinate their needs for these services through a central organization."22 A partial response came later in 1994 with the Pentagon's "Commercial Satellite Communications Initiative," in which the Defense Information Systems Agency set forth cost-saving concepts based on transponder leasing. DoD subsequently drafted a "Military Satellite Communications Master Plan," recommending that commercial satellites be used extensively by the turn of the century for low-security missions. Questions about the necessity of satellite survivability remained, however, and an increasingly vocal group of advocates touted the advantages of fiber optic cables over satellite technology for meeting future military communications needs. Others argued that the real point of discussion was the applicability of satellite and cable technology in particular situations. Despite lingering legislative restrictions on the military's use of commercial systems, the Pentagon relied on commercial carriers to handle most "general purpose" satellite traffic, which amounted to more than 80 percent of all DoD satellite communications requirements. That reliance undoubtedly would increase, because the military could not afford specially designed satellites to handle the five-fold growth in requirements expected between 1995 and 2010. It still seemed appropriate to route critical command-and-control traffic, amounting to less than 20 percent of the total military traffic, over dedicated military communications satellites.23

It was apparent by the mid-1990s that rapidly advancing communications technology, made readily available at relatively low cost by the commercial sector, offered the military an attractive alternative to increasingly expensive military satellite communications systems. The greatest roadblocks lay in traditional, service-oriented attitudes and the lingering notion that only military satellite communications could be relied on to be available [77] with complete certainty during crises. Given this situation, Air Force leaders considered the time ripe to reassert their service's claim to military space leadership--a role also suggested by a number of respected civilian analysts. As Philip Gold, director of defense and aerospace studies at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and a lecturer at Georgetown University, summarized the situation: "Effective space control demands a revolution on the ground, a revolution in thinking, in procedures, and in relationships." He wrote that the Air Force, with 90 percent of all U.S. military space assets, should be charged with structuring and managing the overall military space program to meet the operational requirements of the other services, the unified commands, and DoD in general. In addition, Gold recommended that the entire relationship among military, civil, and commercial space activities had to reflect that the era of massive technological military-to-civilian spinoffs had passed; technological advances in the commercial arena (namely, the shift to smaller, cheaper boosters and satellites) signaled the emergence of the civilian-to-military "spin-on" era. Despite such enormous obstacles as "governmental over-regulation, from excessive secrecy to surrealistic accounting," the "ponderous culture of weapons development," and concerns about security, Gold asserted that it was time to integrate the military and commercial space efforts.24

The Air Force did take the initiative on centralizing military space requirements, of which satellite communications was a part, by focusing on systems acquisition. Arguing that multiple acquisition agencies had led to expensive, less effective capabilities, the Air Force in mid-1994 proposed to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as well as to the other services, that it be designated executive agent for all space acquisition. The resulting uproar left no doubt that interservice rivalry over space roles and missions continued to haunt the military space program. As Major General Robert S. Dickman, then director of space programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, commented, "I don't think anyone anticipated the depth of feelings--animosity may be a more descriptive term--that was evident in the service and joint staff objections."25

Although the Air Force initiative withered under fire, it helped crystallize efforts to provide new and effective organizational changes. By the summer of 1995, DoD had created a deputy under secretary of defense for space, established a Joint Space Management Board to coordinate activities between the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, and designated a DoD space architect. The last became responsible for ensuring compatibility and smooth operations among the different military and commercial systems. Although filled by an Air Force officer, Major General Dickman, the position of space architect remained within the DoD's joint structure.26


[78] Conclusion


It is still too soon to assess the impact of the latest changes in the military space organization. Many questions about the future of military satellite communications remain unanswered. Will Milstar provide effective strategic and tactical communications capability? To what extent, and in what way, should the Air Force rely on commercial augmentation? Is a national, combined civil and military network feasible? Or, following the commercial sector's example, should the Air Force consider a constellation of many small, cheap satellites distributed widely in low-Earth orbit to solve the problems of both its growing communications needs and the increasing overcrowding of the geosynchronous orbit? Moreover, how can any satellite communications system, whether military, civil, or commercial, be successful over time without responsive launch capability?

For more than a generation, the fragmented nature of the space community has led to higher system costs, inefficient resource utilization, and the inability to achieve a clear operational (as opposed to research and development) focus for military activities in space. The new Pentagon organization represents a major effort to overcome these glaring deficiencies and, simultaneously, to accommodate the rapidly changing requirements of the 1990s. For the Air Force, the challenge is to work effectively within this joint structure to preserve its capabilities and to provide the best possible space support to the warrior, no matter what the color of the uniform. If successful, the Air Force not only will preserve its leadership role in space, but it will contribute to ensuring a satellite communications architecture that meets the military challenges of the twenty-first century.



1. For a discussion of communications satellites in the RAND report, see Douglas Aircraft Company, Inc., Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship, Report No. SM-11827 (Santa Monica, CA: Douglas Aircraft Company, Engineering Division, 2 May 1946), pp. 14-15. For a probable connection between Arthur Clarke's article and the RAND report, see Donald C. Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball: A History of Project Echo, AAS History Series, Vol. 16 (San Diego: American Astronautical Society, 1995), p. 13.

2. Carl Berger, The Air Force in Space, Fiscal Year 1961, Vol. SHO-S-66/142 (Washington, DC: U.S. Air Force Historical Division Liaison Office, April 1966), pp. 84-93; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, 1960-1980 (Los Angeles: Times Mirror Press, 1980), pp. 47-49; Maj. Robert E. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System (1964-1986), ACSC Report No. 87-1545 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 1987), pp. 5-8; Elder, Out From Behind the Eight-Ball, pp. 11-13, 51-56. Project West Ford grew out of a 1958 summer study on secure, hardened, reliable communications to overcome problems (such as inadequate power generation and limited real-time communication from low-Earth orbits) associated with the earliest active communications satellites. Although many critics feared that West Ford would produce long-term problems for Earth-based astronomers, most of the dipoles had reentered the atmosphere by early 1966. North American Aerospace Defense Command's Space Surveillance Center, however, did continue tracking remnants as late as 1989. Donald H. Martin, Communication Satellites, 1958-1992 (El Segundo, CA: Aerospace Corporation, 1991), pp. 8-9; History of Military Space Operations, ATC Study Guide S-V95-A-SPV01-SG (Lowry AFB, CO: 3301st Space Training Squadron, Air Training Command, March 1991), pp. 39-40.

3. The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 47-49; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 5-8; Berger, The Air Force in Space, pp. 84-93. When it agreed to terminate the Advent program, DoD received assurances it would have access to NASA's Syncom satellites. On 1 January 1965, NASA transferred Syncom operations to the Pentagon. Over the next two years, the DoD logged extensive time on Syncom 2 and Syncom 3, although use diminished after the IDCSP satellites became operational. See TRW, Space Log 4 (Winter 1964-65): 27-28; Heather E. Hudson, Communication Satellites: Their Development and Impact (New York: Free Press, 1990), p. 19; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 12-14.

4. Military and commercial capabilities would not share the same satellite until the Navy contracted with Comsat in 1973 for "gapfiller" service, pending the completion of its Fleet Satellite Communications System. See Michael E. Kinsley, Outer Space and Inner Sanctums: Government, Business, and Satellite Communication (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1976), pp. 199-200; Anthony Michael Tedeschi, Live Via Satellite: The Story of COMSAT and the Technology that Changed World Communication (Washington, DC: Acropolis Books, 1989), p. 150; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 104-05, 183-86.

5. Berger, The Air Force in Space, pp. 65-68; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 48-52; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 8-10; House Committee on Government Operations, Government Operations in Space (Analysis of Civil-Military Roles and Relationships), 89th Cong., 1st sess., 4 June 1965, H. Rept. 445, pp. 78-79.

6. Gerald T. Cantwell, The Air Force in Space, Fiscal Year 1964, Vol. SHO-S-67/52 (Washington, DC: U.S. Air Force Historical Division Liaison Office, June 1967), pp. 69-76; Gerald T. Cantwell, The Air Force in Space, Fiscal Year 1965, Vol. SHO-S-68/186 (Washington, DC: U.S. Air Force Historical Division Liaison Office, April 1968), pp. 42-51; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 10-13; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 48-52; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 95-96.

7. Lt. Col. John J. Lane, Jr., Command and Control and Communications Structures in Southeast Asia (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University, 1981), pp. 113-14. DoD's quest for inexpensive satellite communications during the Vietnam War gave rise to the "30 circuits" episode. When several carriers learned in the summer of 1966 that Comsat intended to lease 30 circuits directly to DoD, in direct violation of the FCC's recently promulgated "Authorized Users" decision, they formally protested. In February 1967, the FCC ordered a so-called composite rate of $7,100 per half-circuit, splitting the traffic evenly three ways among ITT, RCA, and Western Union International. The FCC required Comsat to sell the circuits to the carriers at $3,800. Kinsley, Outer Space and Inner Sanctums, pp. 60-62.

8. Thomas Karas, The New High Ground: Strategies and Weapons of Space-Age War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), pp. 73-76; Jacob Neufeld, The Air Force in Space, 1970-1974 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, August 1976), pp. 15-19; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 13-21; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 52-57; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 100-02.

9. Karas, The New High Ground, pp. 75-76; Neufeld, The Air Force in Space, pp. 15-19; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 15-28; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 55-57; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 100-02.

10. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 29-32; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 111-13; Dwayne A. Day, "Capturing the High Ground: The U.S. Military in Space 1987-1995, Part 2," Countdown, May/June 1995, p. 18; Lt. Gen. Winston D. Powers and Andrew M. Hartigan, "The Defense Satellite Communications System," Signal 39 (11) (July 1985): 53; Giles C. Sinkewiz, "Satellite Communications: Directions and Technology," Signal 39 (11) (July 1985): 60-62; A. Nejat Ince, ed., Digital Satellite Communications Systems and Technologies: Military and Civil Applications (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992), pp. 368-69.

11. Karas, The New High Ground, pp. 73-76; Neufeld, The Air Force in Space, pp. 15-19; Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 13-21; The Aerospace Corporation, The Aerospace Corporation: Its Work, pp. 52-57; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 100-02.

12. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 29-32; Martin, Communication Satellites, pp. 111-13; Day, "Capturing the High Ground," p. 18; AFSPACECOM/DOF to USSPACECOM/J3M, et al., "Designation of JRSC as Primary Communication System for Missile Warning Data," letter, 28 June 1991, with attachment: AFSPACECOM/DO to USSPACECOM/J3, et al., "Designation of JRSC as Primary Communications System for Missile Warning Data," letter, 17 December 1990, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, CO.

13. Lee, History of the Defense Satellite Communications System, pp. 32-42. For major decisions associated with the future of DSCS, see Military Satellite Communications. Opportunity to Save Billions of Dollars, Report no. NSIAD-93-216 (Washington, DC: Government Accounting Office, 9 July 1993), pp. 9-11.

14. DoD Directive 5105.44, 9 October 1973, established the Military Satellite Communications Systems Organization within DCA, provided for coordination of all service and agency efforts, and defined further the military communications satellite roles of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and assistant secretary of defense for telecommunications (later changed to assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications, and intelligence). The first revision of Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum of Policy 178, 1 May 1978, spelled out DCA's, and each service's, executive management responsibilities for military satellite systems. It contained criteria for specifying system interoperability and compatibility. A second revision of Memorandum of Policy 178, dated 4 September 1986, directed that military communications satellite planning be integrated into the same planning process used for other resources. See Lt. Col. Fred Thourot, "MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Deliberate Planning," Signal 41 (June 1987): 63-69; Maj. David J. Fitzgerald and Capt. Timothy G. Learn, "Influencing Satellite Design for Communications Management and Control of MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Through All Levels of Conflict," 5 March 1987, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, CO.

15. Briefing, DCA/MSO, "The Alternative MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Architectures Study," 23 February 1989, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, CO. In early 1987, the U.S. Space Command began working with Air Staff, DCA, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to (1) formulate a policy concept establishing "single chain-of-command from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, through USSPACECOM [U.S. Space Command] and its components, to the MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] operations centers" and (2) provide for three regional space support centers "to facilitate consolidated space operations planning, provide technical and planning assistance to CINCs [Commanders in Chief] and other users, and ensure coordinated employment of space systems." See USSPACECOM, "Concept for MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Satellite Command and Control--Executive Summary," circa 20 August 1987, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, CO. Near the end of 1987, the Federal Computer Performance Evaluation and Simulation Center, in response to an initiative from the Space Communications Division at Colorado Springs, awarded a support contract to Booz, Allen & Hamilton for developing a comprehensive military communications satellite information resources architecture "capable of providing a broad, unified framework into which existing and new systems" could evolve. See HQ SPCD/YK to 2 CS/DO, et al., "Award of MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Information Resources Architecture (IRA) Contract," message, 031830Z February 1988, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives, Colorado Springs, CO.

16. AFSPACECOM/XRFC, "Comments to Draft CJCS MOP 37," staff summary sheet, 25 October 1990; AFSPACECOM/LK to CV/CC, note, 28 November 1990, with ASD/C3I to Director, DCA, "Architecture for Military Satellite Communications," memorandum, 19 November 1990; Joe Mullins and Pravin Jain, Defense Information Systems Agency, "Evolving MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Architecture and Technology Directions," August 1991; AFSPACECOM/XPFC, "Review of Interim MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] Summit Brief to CSAF," staff summary sheet, 15 November 1991, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. At the request of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for space, the Air Force Space Command and the Air Force Systems Command already had begun a communications satellite architectural review in August 1990. See "AFSPACECOM Approach to MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications]," briefing, [1991], Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. The U.S. Space Command's commander in chief agreed in early 1990 to assume from DCA administrative responsibility for the military communications satellite user requirements data base with the intention of delegating it to the Air Force Space Command "for definition and implementation of an automated support system." See USSPACECOM/J4-J6 to Joint Staff/J6, " Administrative Management of the MILSATCOM [Military Satellite Communications] URDB," message, 081245Z May 1990, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. Measurable progress did occur during 1990-1992 with respect to aligning military communications satellite operational management under the U.S. Space Command and its component commands. Maj. Gen. Carl G. O'Berry, the U.S. Space Command's director for command control communications and logistics, as well as the Air Force Space Command's deputy chief of staff for systems integration, logistics and support, spearheaded efforts to move "Fleet Satellite Communications" responsibility from the naval communications organization to the Navy Space Command, reassign DSCS tracking, telemetry, and commanding and ground terminal activities to the Army Space Command, and transfer Air Force "Satellite Communications" control from the Strategic Air Command to Air Force Space Command. See Maj. Gen Carl G. O'Berry, interview with Rick W. Sturdevant and Thomas Fuller, U.S. Space Command Headquarters, 7 May 1992, Oral History Interview 92-1, pp. 11-13, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives.

17. Alan D. Campen, ed., The First Information War (Fairfax, VA: AFCEA International Press, 1992), passim. That U.S. forces would have to rely heavily on communications satellites during any Persian Gulf conflict was recognized as early as the 1970s. See Paul B. Stares, Space and National Security (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1987), pp. 127-28; Karas, The New High Ground, pp. 78-79.

18. Government Accounting Office (GAO), DoD Acquisition. Case Study of the MILSTAR Satellite Communications System, Report No. NSIAD 86-455-15 (Washington, DC: GAO, 31 July 1986); GAO, Military Satellite Communications: Milstar Program Issues and Cost-Saving Opportunities, Report No. NSIAD-92-121 (Washington, DC: GAO, 26 June 1992); Roger G. Guillemette, "Battlestar America: Milstar Survives A War With Congress," Countdown, November-December 1994, p. 22.

19. James W. Rawles, "Milstar Soars Beyond Budget and Schedule Goals," Defense Electronics 21 (February 1989): 66-72; Guillemette, "Battlestar America," p. 19; Day, "Transformation of National Security Space Programs in the Post-Cold War Era," paper read at 45th Congress of the International Astronautical Federation, 9-14 October 1994, Jerusalem, Israel, pp. 11-12, copy from Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives.

20. Guillemette, "Battlestar America," pp. 22-23; Day, "Transformation of National Security Programs," pp. 3-4; "Satcoms Success Story," Space Markets 4 (1991): 11-13.

21. Lt. Col. Charles F. Stirling, "Commercial Communication Satellite Application During National Crisis Management," March 1985, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives; GAO, Military Satellite Communications: Potential for Greater Use of Commercial Satellite Capabilities, GAO Report No. T-NSIAD-92-39 (Washington, DC: GAO, 22 May 1992). For background, see C.S. Lorens, DCA, "Concept DCS Commercial Satellite Communications System," 5 June 1981; HQ AFCC/EPPD to HQ USAF/XOKCP, et al., "DCS Commercial Satellite Communications (COMSATCOM) Program Update," letter, 10 March 1983, with two attachments; Commercial Satellite Survivability Task Force, Resource Enhancements Working Group, "Commercial Satellite Communications Survivability Report," 20 May 1983; Donald C. Latham, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, to Chairman, NSDD-97 Steering Group, "Initial Report of the Manager, National Communications System (NCS), on Commercial Satellite Communications Survivability," memorandum, 21 May 1984, with attachment; SPACECMD/KRQS, "Use of Commercial Satellites during National Crisis," staff summary sheet, 2 November 1984, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives. For a specific example of how ineffective management led to the inefficient use of commercial communications satellites, see "Space Command's Commercial Satellite Communications Program," U.S. Air Force Audit Agency Report, 2 November 1985, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives.

22. GAO, Military Satellite Communications: DoD Needs to Review Requirements and Strengthen Leasing Practices, Report No. NSIAD-94-48 (Washington, DC: GAO, 24 February 1994), p. 7.

23. Cheri Privor, "DoD Eyes Commercial Satellites," Space News 6 (12-18 June 1995): 3, 37; R.C. Webb, Les Palkuti, Lew Cohn, Lt. Col. Glenn Kweder, and Al Costantine, "The Commercial and Military Satellite Survivability Crisis," Defense Electronics 27 (August 1995): 21-25; Pat Cooper and Robert Holzer, "DoD Eyes Satellite Alternative," Space News 16 (7-13 August 1995): 1, 28; Donald L. Cromer, "Interoperability Is Key to Viability," Space News 6 (25 September-1 October 1995): 15.

24. Philip Gold, "Space Control Blasts Off," Washington Times, 20 September 1995, p. 21. For corroboration, see C. Michael Armstrong, "The Paradox of Space Policy," Space News 6 (18-24 September 1995): 20; William B. Scott, "Military Space Reengineers," Aviation Week & Space Technology 141 (15 August 1994): 20.

25. Maj. Gen. Robert S. Dickman, "Near Term Issues for the Air Force in Space," prepared remarks presented at the symposium "The USAF in Space: 1945 to the Twenty-First Century," 21-22 September 1995, Washington, DC, p. 2, Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives.

26. Gen. John H. Tilelli, Jr., Army Vice Chief of Staff, to Dr. John Deutch, Deputy Secretary of Defense, "Organization and Management of Space Activities," memorandum, 26 July 1994, with two attachments; Gen Merrill A. McPeak, USAF Chief of Staff, "Presentation to the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces," 14 September 1994, pp. 185-199; Dr. John L. McLucas, "Space Policy," paper presented at the symposium "The USAF in Space: 1945 to the Twenty-First Century," 21-22 September 1995, Washington, DC, p. 18, copy Air Force Space Command, History Office Archives; Andrew Lawler, "U.S. Lawmakers Urge Sole Military Space Chief," Defense News 8 (17-23 May 1993): 10, 29; Steve Watkins, "Space Chiefs Assail McPeak Plan," Air Force Times 54 (18 April 1994): 3; Robert Holzer and Jason Glashow, "Control of U.S. Space Systems Spurs Service Duel," Space News 5 (8-14 August 1994): 1; Jason Glashow and Robert Holzer, "U.S. Services Stake Claims to Space Roles," Space News 5 (12-18 September 1994): 6; Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, USAF Chief of Staff, "Vying for Military Space Control," Space News 5 (26 September-2 October 1994): 15; Steve Weber, "Air Force Defends Plan to Control Pentagon Space Effort," Space News 5 (26 September-2 October 1994): 8; Theresa Hitchens, "USAF May Appoint Architect to Rebuild Space Program," Defense News 9 (31 October-6 November 1994): 14; Cheri Privor, "NRO Defers Role in Space Architect Office," Space News 6 (17-23 April 1995): 4.