• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

An Earlier Western US-A/RORSAT?

Siberia

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Aug 24, 2012
Messages
17
Reaction score
7
US space radars had something of a tortured history. There was the experimental Quill in the early 1960s which used a synthetic aperture radar to avoid needing nuclear power but returned it's film via recovery capsules, in the 1970s Clipper Bow was meant to an American RORSAT but got cancelled early on, they reached success with Onyx in the late 1980s, Space Based Radar (SBR) around the turn of the century and follow-on programs became something a mess.

So I was wondering what's the earliest that something like Onyx could be pushed forward if someone senior decided they wanted their own version of US-A? IIRC something like it was actually suggested in 1968 after the USS Liberty and USS Pueblo incidents.

Quill was launched in 1964 but the challenge was timely transmission of and computing power to process the raw data. The first generation Satellite Data System went up in 1976 which could potentially suffice. Onyx's maiden flight was 1988. On the civilian side of things NASA launched SeaSat in 1978 which had a synthetic aperture radar so it was widely known. The problem is I don't know enough about the technology and its history to say whether the NRO putting its weight behind it from the late 1960s would be capable of speeding things up. Anyone got any idea?
 

Grey Havoc

The path not taken.
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2009
Messages
11,395
Reaction score
1,620
The NRO successfully tested an SBR satellite in the late 1960s. However they ultimately concluded that an operational system would have to be manned because of both technological limitations and operational requirements. McNamara quickly suppressed the report because it directly contradicted the rationale that he was giving Congress for cancelling the MOL and pouring yet more money into unmanned recon sats.

Clipper Bow survived at least into the early 1980s, albeit in a scaled down form intended for direct tactical support of USN Carrier Battle Groups, with one at least one operational testbed scheduled for launch during that time period. (Work may have also still been proceeding on the 'full' version.)
 
Last edited:

Archibald

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Jun 6, 2006
Messages
3,709
Reaction score
1,265
As you noted, Seasat even in 1978 was a major PITA as far as the amount of data it collected completely overwhelmed state of the art data storage capabilities.


Which brings an interesting question: how did the soviets handled all their RORSAT data, considering how bad they were at computing power ?
 

Grey Havoc

The path not taken.
Senior Member
Joined
Oct 9, 2009
Messages
11,395
Reaction score
1,620
It was more that they had trouble making compact computers such as microcomputers, at least in large numbers; they did have decent but often pretty bulky mainframes that in some cases still relied heavily on older generation technology, though that was an advantage in some respects. Less vulnerable to EMP/EMI for example.
 
Top