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Spacecraft: SAINT.

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.


Spacecraft: Early Spring.

Early Spring was a conventional ASAT launched by Polaris missiles from US Navy ballistic missile submarines. The principle was that the submarine could take a position under the path of the satellite. As it passed overhead, a Polaris missile would be launched with a peak altitude close to that of the target. The ASAT used a restartable upper stage to 'hover' for up to 90 seconds awaiting the satellite. An optical homing system would first locate, then track the target satellite. A datalink was provided to the submarine for control. Once committed, the ASAT would put itself on a collision course with the target. A proximity fuse would detonate a warhead with thousands of steel pellets. To assure a kill, more than one ASAT could be launched simultaneously by the submarine.

Early Spring was first presented to Congress in March 1961. By 1964 several alternate configurations were evaluated, and by the late 1960's the optical tracker was showing good results in tests. The project was officially cancelled in the late 1960's. However the same concept can be found in the Navy's manned Space Cruiser concepts of the early 1970's and 1980's. And in 1978 the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed that work begin on a "low-risk ASAT system using off-the-shelf technology..... employing pellets as its kill mechanism...." which may indicate the original system went operational and black.


Spacecraft: Program 505.

America's first ASAT system was Program 505, which used prototype Nike Zeus DM-15S anti-ballistic missiles, operated from Kwajalein Atoll by the U.S. Army. US Secretary of Defence McNamara approved the US Army request to proceed with development, under the code-name Mudflap, in May 1962. The extended range Nike Zeus was first tested in ASAT mode from White Sands against a point in space in December 1962. After several tests with good results, McNamara authorised the Army to complete the ASAT facility at Kwajalein Atoll, including storage of the system's nuclear warheads. The system remained operational until May 1966. Nike Zeus could reach satellites up to 560 km altitude, using its 1 megaton nuclear warhead to destroy them. It was replaced by the Program 437 ASAT.


Spacecraft: Program 437.

Program 437 was America's second operational anti-satellite system. It was launched on sub-orbital trajectories by Thor LV-2Dís operated by the U.S. Air Force from Johnson Atoll. Perhaps not coincidentally, Thor had been used for space nuclear tests from the same launch site in the early 1960ís. These tests that inadvertently led to discovery of the extreme damage to electronics that could be caused by EMP (electromagnetic pulse) from a high altitude nuclear detonation. The Program 437 Thor could hit satellites up to 700 km altitude using a Mk. 49 nuclear warhead with an 8 km kill radius. The first flight was February 1964, and the system was declared operational in June 1964. The system had a two week reaction time - the missiles and warheads were stored in kits at Vandenberg and had to be deployed to the atoll.


Spacecraft: INSATRAC. Follow-on to SAINT anti-satellite. No information available beyond the name.

Spacecraft: Program 922.

Program 922 was a non-nuclear sub-orbital ASAT in development in the late 1960's. It would have been launched by a Thor IRBM from Johnson Atoll, using the facilities developed for the Program 437 nuclear ASAT. Program 922 would have used infrared homing and a high explosive warhead. Four 'Alternate Payload' tests of the Program 437 ASAT in 1965-1966 may have been related to development of this system.

In 1972 a hurricane hit Johnson Atoll and damaged the guidance computers beyond economic repair. In May of the same year the SALT-1 Treat was signed, which prohibited 'interference with national means of verification'. These two events resulted in the end of Program 922. Further ASAT development by the US Air Force concentrated on more flexible air-launched solid-fuel systems.


Spacecraft: SPIKE.

Project SPIKE was a 1970's suborbital conventional warhead ASAT air-launched from an F-106 interceptor. Considerable work was done from the early 1970s under the Missile and Space Defense Program. Research centered on the miniature homing vehicle (MHV) with nonnuclear kill capability. It seems to have lead to the 1980's F-15 launched ASAT of the same concept.


Spacecraft: Conventional ASAT.

In May 1978, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a priority list of potential Soviet target satellites for the MHV hit-to-kill ASAT then under development. The Chiefs also directed that work on begin on a "conventional ASAT", 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 ran into technical or cost problems.


Spacecraft: USB.

As platforms for operational versions of space-borne weapons NPO Energia designed a Universal Service Block, based on the DOS-7K space station, in the late 1970's/early 1980's. The USB was equipped with common service systems and rocket engines. In comparison to the DOS the USB had much larger propellant tanks to allow substantial orbital manoeuvring. The USB would be equipped with either a laser payload or a weapons bay consisting of ten miniature rocket homing vehicles. The Proton launch vehicle would be used to launch a 20 tonne version of the USB for experimental flight tests. Operational 30 tonne vehicles would be delivered to orbit by the Buran space shuttle. Buran would also bring crews for on-orbit servicing of the USB. For this purpose the USB had a life support capability of two crew for seven days.

The mass of the military payload depended on the amount of propellant loaded. The laser payload was heavy with a resulting lower fuel fraction and was limited to use against low earth orbit targets. The UBM with the rocket homing vehicles had more propellant and could be used for attack of geostationary orbit targets.


Spacecraft: ASAT.

The ASAT (Air-Launched Anti-Satellite Missile) was designed and developed by Vought in response to a 1977 Air Force requirement for a small air-launched missile that was capable of intercepting and destroying enemy satellites in low earth orbit. The missile consists of a modified Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) first stage, a Thiokol Altair III second stage, and a Vought miniature homing vehicle (MHV). The ASAT was launched from an F-15 aircraft in a steep climb. At high altitudes, this gave the ASAT's rocket a useful initial velocity to allow it to reach its target in orbit. After the first stage separated, the second stage propelled the MHV into space on a collision course with the target. The MHV destroyed the target by ramming it at high speed.

Initial flight test began in 1983. The first successful test interception and destruction of a satellite in space occurred on September 13, 1985. The ASATwas 17 feet 9 1/2 inches long, 20 inches in diameter, and weighed about 2,600 lbs.


Spacecraft: Terra-3.

OKB Vympel was the systems integrator for ground-based laser systems. They built the major Terra-3 laser testing centre at Sary Shagan in the 1970's, which was eventually equipped with Astrofizika high energy red ruby and carbon dioxide lasers. But the energies were not sufficient for anti-ballistic missile use. The first applications would have to be limited to anti-satellite, and then primarily to blind optical sensors. After the American decision was taken into 1983 to initiate the 'Star Wars' strategic defence initiative program, Minister of Defence Ustinov requested that the Americans be challenged. As a 'warning shot' the Terra-3 complex was used to track the space shuttle Challenger with a low power laser on 10 October 1984. This caused malfunctions to on-board equipment and temporary blinding of the crew, leading to a US diplomatic protest.


Spacecraft: RP.

For interception of enemy ICBM's during boost phase NPO Energia developed a space based rocket interceptor (RP) similar to American 'Brilliant Pebble' systems. This had a mass of only 10 kg and was powered by small but high energy rocket engines that gave the vehicle the same characteristic velocity as boosters that put payloads into orbit. The miniature vehicles used advanced technology and new scientific solutions. The engines were powered by non-traditional non-cryogenic propellants with high strength materials used for the propellant tanks.


Spacecraft: Zenith Star.

In 1987, the Zenith Star prototype space combat satellite prototype, using the Alpha laser, was announced by President Bush. The launch vehicle would be the Barbarian. Zenith Star weighed 39.4 tonnes, and was to be launched at one time by a Barbarian clustered launch vehicle or in two elements aboard a Titan 4.


Spacecraft: KS.

To co-ordinate the actions of multiple space combat units, NPO Energia proposedin the 1980's a KS space station. This would consist of a core built of targeting and base modules based on the DOS-7K, a command module based on the TKS, a Zarya ballistic shuttle for crew rotation. Docked to the core would be military free-flying autonomous modules which would dispense nuclear warheads in re-entry vehicles of both ballistic and gliding types. The structure and various systems of these wingless autonomous modules would be based on the Buran space shuttle. Prototypes would be built from the various experimental Buran airframes built during the development of the spacecraft. On command the military modules would separate from station and manoeuvre extensively before positioning themselves for attack of enemy targets on the ground or in space. On special command from the national authorities the enemy targets would be engaged with nuclear weapons.


Spacecraft: KE ASAT.

In 1989 the US Army began a demonstration/validation program to develop a direct ascent kinetic energy ASAT for US forces. The main component was a kinetic kill vehicle (KKV} that would be launched by rocket booster to strike and put a hostile satellite out of service. Using Rockwell Rocketdyne as the prime contractor, the KKV, based on existing hardware, was designed, developed, integrated, and ground-tested successfully by 1997. Mission capability was to be available by 2000.


Spacecraft: Gun-Launched ASAT.

One of the applications of the superguns Gerald Bull was designing for Iraq would have been firing of an anti-satellite shell that would have blinded Western spy satellites with a sticky material. The supergun, with a 30 m long artillery barrel, was being constructed in northern Iraq. The gun would also have been used to lob nuclear shells over long ranges. This low-technology ASAT was revealed by Iraqi defector General Hussein Kamel al-Majeed and reported by UPI on 22 September 1995.


Spacecraft: Star Lite. In 1991 the Star Lite space laser experiment was made public. Star Lite would weigh half that of the previously planned Zenith Star with a launch mass of 16.3 tonnes, which could be launched by a single Titan 4.

Spacecraft: HERTF.

The $9 million High Energy Research and Technology Facility (HERTF) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is designed to develop weapons using high-power microwaves (HPM), high-energy advanced pulsed power (including explosive-pumped devices), and very- high-energy plasmas. Such weapons could disrupt or destroy electronic equipment aboard satellites by irradiation from directed energy sources. It may eventually be used for ASAT experiments or an early operational system.

The facility is located in a remote canyon in the Manzano Mountains in the south-east portion of Kirtland. It is designed to withstand blasts and intense radiation. The facility has a four-story-high bay laboratory, 25 m by 45 m, with concrete roof and walls 1.3 m thick. Up to 450 kg of high explosive can be detonated in an area below the high bay to produce hundreds of megajoules of electrical energy needed for advanced experiments.


Spacecraft: Space Based Laser.

The Operational SBLOV (Space Based Laser Orbital Vehicle) was the final space based chemical laser system envisioned at the end of the SDI / Star Wars program. In its 1996 version it would weigh 30.8 tonnes and be 35 meters in length. It eventually was to be stationed on an aircraft and became the ABL Air Based Laser. By 2000 SBL was again being discussed to deal with the 'rogue state' ICBM threat.


Spacecraft: Space Laser Demo. By 1996 the Star Lite space laser was replaced by the more refined and slightly heavier SLD (Space Laser Demo), weighing 17.4 tonnes). Two versions of the 20 meter long spacecraft were envisioned.

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Last update 28 March 2001.
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