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astronautix.com GRAB


Other Designations: Solrad. Code Name: Greb. Class: ELINT. Nation: USA. Agency: NRL. Manufacturer: NRL.

GRAB, the first US electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite, was not declassified until June 1998. The project was originally called "Tattletale," then renamed GRAB. Since the true nature of the satellite was supposed to not be apparent to the Russians, this was revised to GREB (the acronym Galactic Radiation Experimental Background was retroactively dreamed up to explain the name). To further muddy the waters the satellites were launched under the title SOLRAD (the cover purpose being to study solar radiation).

Work on GRAB began around the time of the first successful Vanguard launch. Reid Meyo of the Naval Research Laboratory Countermeasures Branch had developed an electronic intelligence antenna for submarine periscopes. At the same time NRL was seeking quick military exploitation of the Vanguard satellite that it had developed. Reid was sitting in a hotel restaurant in Pennsylvania one night and got the idea that they could simply put his periscope antenna in orbit aboard a Vanguard. The original calculations, in the best tradition of aerospace engineering, were done on the restaurant placemat.

GRABís receivers were used to catalogue the waveforms and pulse repetition frequencies of Soviet air defence radars. GRABs were launched not by Vanguard rockets but as piggy-back or cluster payloads with other satellites. One inert dummy was used to prove the multiple satellite launching technique. Of five operational GRAB satellites, only two reached orbit and operated successfully. GRAB data was given by NRL to the Strategic Air Command and the National Security Agency (which may indicate communications were also intercepted).

Operational ELINT satellites were taken over by the NRO, and remain classified.


Specification

Total Length: 0.5 m. Maximum Diameter: 0.5 m. Total Mass: 18 kg. Electric system: 0.01 total average kW.


GRAB Chronology


13 April 1960 Dummy subsatellite Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able-Star. Mass: 18 kg.
22 June 1960 Solrad 1 Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able-Star. Mass: 19 kg. Perigee: 596 km. Apogee: 935 km. Inclination: 66.7 deg.

Solar radiation data. Spacecraft engaged in research and exploration of the upper atmosphere or outer space (US Cat B).


30 November 1960 Solrad 2 Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able-Star. FAILURE: Failure. Mass: 18 kg.
29 June 1961 Solrad 3 Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able-Star. Mass: 18 kg.
24 January 1962 Solrad 4 Launch Site: Cape Canaveral . Launch Vehicle: Thor Able-Star. FAILURE: Failure. Mass: 18 kg.
26 April 1962 Solrad 4B Launch Site: Vandenberg . Launch Vehicle: Scout X-2. FAILURE: Failure. Mass: 91 kg.

Solar radiation monitor.


15 June 1963 Solrad 6A Launch Site: Vandenberg . Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena D. Mass: 39 kg. Perigee: 170 km. Apogee: 869 km. Inclination: 69.9 deg.

Solar radiation data. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).


11 January 1964 Solrad 7A; NRL Solar Rad Launch Site: Vandenberg . Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena D. Mass: 45 kg. Perigee: 902 km. Apogee: 920 km. Inclination: 69.9 deg.

Solar radiation data. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).


09 March 1965 Solrad 7B Launch Site: Vandenberg . Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena D. Mass: 47 kg. Perigee: 898 km. Apogee: 930 km. Inclination: 70.1 deg.

Solar radiation monitoring. Space craft engaged in investigation of spaceflight techniques and technology (US Cat A).



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Last update 12 March 2001.
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