Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Air Force communications satellite declared healthy
Posted: Feb. 1, 2000

Artist's concept of DSCS B8 satellite to be launched on AC-138. Photo: Lockheed Martin
The military now has a more responsive, high priority, communication satellite that allows defense officials and battlefield commanders to exchange crucial information during war.

"The DSCS team is very proud of the successful deployment of the satellite," said Lt. Col. Terry Peterson, Defense Satellite Communications System program director at Space and Missile Systems Center. "We now enter two months of on-orbit tests to fully characterize the communication payload capabilities before the satellite joins the operational constellation."

The DSCS 3 B8 satellite was launched aboard an Atlas 2A rocket at 5:03 p.m. PST, Jan. 20, from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla. The Los Angeles based SMC manages both the spacecraft and the launch vehicle.

The Atlas 2A is a two-and-a half stage liquid engine launch vehicle. The stainless steel skin fuel and oxidizer tanks comprise the launch vehicle structure and are pressurized or mechanically stretched to maintain structural integrity while on the ground and in flight. An engine system composed of a sustainer engine and a booster engine set propel the booster. The upper stage vehicle, the Centaur, is powered by two engines and is used to position the payload into a separation orbit.

The Atlas rumbles off its launch pad at Cape Canaveral with DSCS B8. Photo: ILS

"The Atlas team surmounted the challenges of rocket science to produce the 46th (sic) straight Atlas success -- a string unrivaled by any launch system in the world!" said Lt. Col. Nancy Insprucker, Atlas/Delta program director at SMC.

The DSCS space and terminal/network system provides super-high frequency, anti-jam, secure voice and high-data rate communications to Department of Defense and national security users on the ground, at sea, or in the air.

This launch is the first DSCS 3 Service Life Enhancement Program spacecraft, using 50-watt traveling wave tube amplifiers in all its six communication channels. This modification provides users with a 200 percent increase in tactical communications capability. Additionally, the new satellite offers greater flexibility for mixing high and low-power users through its new variable gain-step attenuation.

The DSCS 3 is also used to transmit space operations and early warning data to a variety of systems and users. In addition to DoD users, DSCS supports a variety of national security users including the White House, U.S. Embassies and intelligence agencies.

The next Atlas 2A launch is set for March 20, 2000 and the next DSCS 3 launch is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 12, 2000. Both launches are from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla.

The Space and Missile Systems Center is the center of technical excellence for developing and purchasing military space systems and manages more than $56 billion in contracts. The center has an annual operating budget of more than $5.5 billion and employs about 3,400 people worldwide.

Photo gallery
Launch - Images of the final countdown and launch of the Atlas 2A rocket and DSCS B8 satellite.

Video vault
The Lockheed Martin Atlas 2A rocket launches with DSCS B8 from the Cape.
  PLAY (514k QuickTime file)

The booster package is jettisoned from the base of the Atlas 2A rocket nearly three minutes into flight.
  PLAY (77k QuickTime file)

Animation of the DSCS satellite's early operations once in space.
  PLAY (183k QuickTime file)

Watch the sequence of events as the Atlas 2A rocket carries the U.S. Air Force's DSCS B8 satellite into orbit.
  PLAY (793k QuickTime file)

Sign up for Astronomy Now's NewsAlert service and have the latest news in astronomy and space e-mailed directly to your desktop (free of charge).

Your e-mail address: