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astronautix.com SAINT


Class: Military. Type: ASAT. Nation: USA. Agency: US Air Force. Manufacturer: RCA.

Project SAINT (SAtellite INTerceptor) was a large and still deeply classified US Air Force program begun in the late 1950's covering a wide range of technologies for interception, inspection, and destruction of enemy spacecraft. After studies in the 1950ís, a development contract was let to Radio Corporation of America at the end of 1960. Saint Phase I would have weighted 1,100 kg and been launched by Atlas D/Agena B. As was the case with Lockheed's spy satellites, the instrument package would remain attached to the Agena stage, which provided in-orbit propulsion. Phase II would have been twice as big and launched by Atlas Centaur. The project was cut back in October 1962 and eventually canceled. The spacecraft would have rendezvoused with hostile satellites and inspected them with television cameras. The actual kill mechanism is unclear. The spacecraft could just collide with the target or, as was suggested, just spray it with black paint.

By the late 1960ís, the idea of rendezvous for inspection of satellites was pretty much abandoned. First, it could be hazardous to the inspecting vehicle. The Russians from the very beginning installed destruct packages on their military satellites. These would blow up the satellite and anything near it. The sophisticated Russian APO-2 automatic destruct system could be set off by ground control or automatically if it sensed that normal spacecraft operating parameters were exceeded. The task of simply inspecting enemy satellites could be accomplished more safely at long ranges using existing reconnaissance satellites. These could be maneuvered to examine not just ground targets, but other spacecraft as well (as was done on an early shuttle flight to see if there was damage on the belly tiles). Earth-based cameras also were providing very high quality pictures of satellites.

The ASAT role itself, following identification and tracking, could be more cheaply accomplished by sub-orbital interceptors launched from earth. These could hit a satellite in any orbit without warning.


Specification

Total Mass: 1,100 kg.


SAINT Chronology


01 December 1960 Project SAINT Phase I contract issued.

Project SAINT (SAtellite INTerceptor) was a large and still deeply classified US Air Force program begun in the late 1950's covering a wide range of technologies for interception, inspection, and destruction of enemy spacecraft. After studies in the 1950ís, a Phase I development contract was let to Radio Corporation of America at the end of 1960. Saint Phase I would have weighted 1,100 kg and been launched by Atlas D/Agena B.


01 October 1962 Project SAINT cut back.

Project SAINT satellite interceptor project was cut back, leading to its eventually cancellation. The spacecraft would have rendezvoused with hostile satellites, inspected them with television cameras, and then disabled them.



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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .