Satellite Data System
The Satellite Data System (SDS) is a system of United States military communications satellites. At least three generations have been used: SDS-1 from 1976 to 1987; SDS-2 from 1989 to 1996; SDS-3 from 1998 to the present. SDS satellites have a highly elliptical orbit, going from about 300 kilometers at perigee to roughly 39,000 km at apogee in order to allow communications with polar stations that cannot contact geosynchronous satellites. The high apogee meant that the polar regions were visible for long amounts of time, and only two satellites were required in order to achieve constant communications ability. In addition, two geostationary satellites appear to be part of the system. The SDS satellites were constructed by Hughes Aircraft.
The primary purpose of the SDS satellites is to relay imagery from low-flying reconnaissance satellites, notably the Keyhole optic reconnaissance and Lacrosse/Onyx radar reconnaissance satellites to ground stations in the United States.
Each SDS-1 satellite had 12 channels available for ultra-high frequency communication. They were cylindrical in shape, roughly 25 feet (7.6 m) long. 980 watts of electrical power were available from solar panels and batteries. The SDS-1 had a mass of 1385 pounds (630 kilograms) and was launched on Titan-3B rockets. The SDS-1 satellites had similar orbits to the Air Force's Jumpseat ELINT satellites.
The SDS-2 is significantly more massive at 5150 pounds (2335 kg), with three separate communication dishes, including one for a K band downlink. Two dishes are 15 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter, while the third is 6.6 feet (2 m) in diameter. The solar arrays generate 1238 watts of power. It is believed that the Space Shuttle has been used to launch several satellites, possibly on missions STS-28, STS-38, and STS-53. Other launches have used the Titan-4 rocket.
Quasar is the rumored code name for the communications satellite.
|Name||ID||Launch date||Launch vehicle||Launch site||NROL designation||Perigee||Apogee||Inclination||Remarks|
|OPS 7837||1976-050A||1976-06-02||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W||N/A|
|OPS 7940||1976-080A||1976-08-06||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W|
|OPS 7310||1978-075A||1978-08-05||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W|
|OPS 5805||1980-100A||1980-12-13||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W|
|USA-4||1978-091A||1984-08-28||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W|
|USA-9||1985-014A||1985-02-08||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W|
|USA-21||1987-015A||1987-02-15||Titan III(34)B||VAFB SLC-4W|
|USA-40||1989-061B||1989-06-02||Space Shuttle Columbia
|USA-67||1990-097B||1990-11-15||Space Shuttle Atlantis
|KSC LC-39A||Geosynchronous satellite, deployed along with Prowler and initially misidentified as a Magnum SIGINT spacecraft|
|USA-89||1992-086B||1992-12-02||Space Shuttle Discovery
|USA-125||1996-038B||1996-07-03||Titan IV(405)A||CCAFS LC-40|
|USA-137||1998-005A||1998-01-29||Atlas IIA||CCAFS SLC-36A||NROL-5||Capricorn|
|USA-155||2000-080A||2000-12-06||Atlas IIAS||CCAFS SLC-36A||NROL-10||Great Bear, geosynchronous satellite at 10° West|
|USA-162||2001-046A||2001-10-11||Atlas IIAS||CCAFS SLC-36B||NROL-12||Aquilla, geosynchronous satellite at 144° West|
|USA-179||2004-034A||2004-08-31||Atlas IIAS||CCAFS SLC-36A||NROL-1||Nemesis, final Atlas II launch|
|USA-198||2007-060A||2007-12-10||Atlas V 401||CCAFS SLC-41||NROL-24||Scorpius|
|USA-227||2011-011A||2011-03-11||Delta IV-M+(4,2)||CCAFS SLC-37B||NROL-27||Gryphon, geosynchronous satellite at 10° West, replaced USA-155|
|USA-236||2012-033A||2012-06-20||Atlas V 401||CCAFS SLC-41||NROL-38||Drake, geosynchronous satellite at 144° West, replacement for USA-162|
- Richelson J.T., 2001: The Wizards of Langley. Inside the CIA's Directorate of Science and Technology. Westview press, Boulder
- National Reconnaissance Office: "NRO Brochure circa 1997"
- Vick, Berman, Lindborg, Fellow (March 19, 1997). SDS-1 Military Communications Satellite. Federation of American Scientists. Accessed April 24, 2004.
- Vick, Berman, Lindborg, Fellow, Pike, Aftergood (March 19, 1997). SDS-2 Military Communications Satellite. Federation of American Scientists. Accessed April 24, 2004.