The Case for International Surveillance and Verification


Chapter III - The Technology

The technology required for a peace-keeping satellite to maintain "close-look" surveillance already exists. At this moment, several surveillance satellites, belonging to the superpowers, are orbiting the earth doing precisely that. They are able to locate objects smaller than a basketball and they can communicate the information to an earth station within seconds. The operation of these satellites has become a routine but vital part of the information gathering capabilities of the superpowers.

This chapter looks at the development of surveillance satellite technology of the U.S.A., the U.S.S.R. and other nations. As background, the basic scientific principles of rocketry and satellite orbit are outlined in a section A. The important dates in the history of satellite launchings are given in Section B. The history of the American reconnaissance program is outlined in this section as well. In Section D, the civilian remote sensing satellite programs are described.

Several nations are developing substantial expertise in the field of satellite remote-sensing. Canada, which began its Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) in 1971, has gained considerable expertise in the interpretation of remote-sensing data. The European capabilities are no less impressive. France launched its own remote sensing satellite SPOT and the data is presently being

sold commercially. The European Space Agency (ESA), with its membership of eleven European nations, is planning to launch its first remote-sensing satellite in 1990, as is Japan. The technical feasibility and requirements of a peace-keeping satellite are described in section E.


Satellite Launch & Orbit

In order to place a satellite into orbit, it is necessary to use rockets which can reach speeds of thousands of kilometers per hour. The rockets, therefore, usually have several stages. The booster stage brings the rocket from lift-off through a vertical phase for less than a minute. Then the rocket pitches at some angle to the vertical. Several thrust-and-coast periods follow. All the while, the used rocket stages are left to fall back to the earth. The final launch vehicle injects the satellite into its orbit. After less than two hours after launching, the satellite can have completed its first orbit. Some satellites stay in orbit for years, while others stay only for days.

Earth-observation satellites travel around the earth in circular or elliptical orbits (figure 3.1) at altitudes ranging from 150 to 1000 km. At the lower distance, which is nearly one hundred miles, nominally considered the beginning of outer space, there is still some atmosphere. Photographic reconnaissance satellites often have highly elliptical orbits and may come as close as 150 km to the target area (at the "perigee" of its orbit). The 1000 km figure represents the farthest distance that most earth observation satellite may travel (the "apogee" of its orbit). The highly elliptical orbit of reconnaissance satellites minimizes atmospheric drag and thus lengthens the lifetime. For comparison, the moon, orbits at a much greater distance (380,000 km - roughly circular).

Satellite orbits are often characterized by several elements. The "orbital inclination" is the angle between of the plane of the orbit and the plane of the earth's equatorial belt. The eccentricity (e) describes the shape of the orbit, whether it is highly elliptical (e near 1) or nearly circular (e=0). The semi-major axis of an ellipse is shown in figure 3.1. In elliptical satellite orbits, the earth becomes a focus point, just as the sun is a focus point for motion of the planets. The most common orbit for reconnaissance satellites is the polar orbit.

Satellites travel at great speeds. Artificial satellites typically travel at 25,000 km/hr. For comparison, the moon travels at a velocity of about 3,500 km/hr (nearly a kilometer per second). Even slower, the earth travels at about 30 km/hr around the sun. The time for a satellite to complete one orbit around the globe is called the period. A typical period for an earth-observation satellite is about 90 minutes.




While the satellite makes its orbit, the earth is turning beneath it at a rate of about 0.6 km/s. It is possible to choose exactly the orbital period which is commensurate with the rotational period of the earth about its axis (24 hours or 1440 minutes). For an orbital period of 90 minutes, the satellite ground tracks (projections onto the earth of the orbital path) will have shifted 22-23 degrees after each orbit, representing an "earth slippage" of some 2504 km at the equator or 1,760 km at a latitude of 45 degrees. In this way a complete coverage of the earth can be obtained after sixteen orbits. In addition, orbits can be chosen to look at a certain territory at a given time of day.

In a slightly different orbit, the U.S. LANDSAT "inspects" land in a swath approximately 180 km wide and can complete its coverage of the entire surface of the earth in less than 18 days. Soviet and American reconnaissance satellites periods are chosen to maximize coverage of certain areas. The ground tracks of several of these have been mapped and published (Jasani, 1978, 1982, 1985). There is a definite correspondence between the orbit of the satellites in space and the location of significant events on the earth.

It is worthwhile to consider some of the extraordinary capabilities offered by satellites in terms of a security. Although 150 km is very high (an order of magnitude higher) in comparison with an airplane altitude, it is relatively near in comparison with the distance between cities or countries. It would be impossible to imagine a Soviet reconnaissance "land reconnaissance vehicle" coming within 150 km of the White House, yet the Soviet satellites routinely come this close.

Resolution: What Can They See?

At a distance of 150 km, what detail can be observed on the ground by the military satellites? The precise capabilities of these satellites are highly classified secrets. Over the many years that they have been taking millions of pictures, only one or two photos have ever reached the public (and these much to the consternation of the Pentagon). The best civilian remote sensing technology presently employed in satellites is at least an order of magnitude less advanced than employed by the military. But still it is possible to guess the capabilities of these satellites by comparison with civilian capabilities.

A common measure of the quality of pictures taken from space is the "resolution". The resolution is the closest distance at which two (standard) identical objects still appear separated

in a picture. The French SPOT (Systeme Probatoire d'Observation de la Terre) satellite, launched on February 22, 1986, has a resolution of 10 m in its panchromatic mode. Thus objects separated by 10 m can be distinguished, but objects closer than 10 m are indistinguishable. A bridge or a jumbo jet can therefore be observed, while a single car or person cannot be made out. For instance, SPOT pictures have revealed the presence of assembly and housing buildings and the runway for the Soviet space shuttle (Aviation Week and Space Technology, 1986). The U.S. LANDSAT satellite, which has an even weaker resolution, has provided pictures which showed details of a new Soviet submarine base in Kola Peninsula, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean (Jane's Defence Weekly, 1986).

Pictures taken from satellites have additional clarity over those taken on earth due the lack of vibration. The problems caused by mechanical vibration of objects resting on the ground is well known to scientists making sensitive measurements. (Such vibrations can be picked up with sensitive instruments called seismometers.) In airplanes, the source of vibration could be turbulent air currents or the aircraft engine.

Some of the pictures taken during early manned and lunar space flights have demonstrated the high resolution capability that was available at that time. The astronauts in Gemini-5 performed Defence Department sponsored experiments using a lens, made by Questar, that was originally built for use by amateur astronomers. Two of the photos were released by the Defence Department and these were intentionally "fuzzed up" to degrade their ground resolution (Klass, 1971). The October 11, 1965, issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology displayed one of these pictures. Airport runways can be easily distinguished.

Other pictures using a less powerful lens and a Hasselblad camera were also released. One of the pictures shows Cape Canaveral. Roads, buildings and launch pads can be clearly seen (see plate 10 of Klass, 1972). These pictures were taken in 1965. Thus the U.S. military has being developing satellite technology for quite some time.

It is possible to estimate how well an astronomical telescope would perform if it were looking down to the earth, instead of up into the heavens. The US Space Telescope, whose primary mirror is 2.4 m in diameter, will be launched by the Space Shuttle and should give astronomers a greatly enhanced view of the universe. If, however, it were placed at an altitude of 200 km and if it were turned around 180 degree to point to the earth, a ground resolution of 10-15 cm could be obtained (Krass, 1985). Apparently the dimensions of the space telescope and the Big Bird reconnaissance satellite (14 m long and 3 m in diameter) are similar.

The resolution of modern military reconnaissance satellites is considered to be 15 cm (6 inches) or even better (Jasani, 1978; Daniloff, 1979; Hafemeister, 1985). This means that in theory banner headlines in a newspaper can be read from space!

A 15 cm resolution is sufficient to distinguish between cars and even to count (and perhaps identify) people. Thus, a Soviet satellite should be able to distinguish a car parked outside the White House and the location of guards standing in the open.

The theoretical resolution limit for photo-reconnaissance from space is about 2-5 cm, arising from atmospheric perturbation which cannot be corrected for. Incidentally, atmospheric perturbation accounts for the "twinkling" of stars on a clear night.

There are a few other important considerations and limitations with respect to satellite remote sensing. Sensors can detect radiation from various parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is shown in figure 3.2. The sensors which operate by detecting light in the visible part of the spectrum, cannot see through clouds. Approximately 40% of the earth is cloud free at any particular time. But some areas such as Great Britain, however, may have greater cloud coverage. Infrared sensors and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) devices can look through clouds and operate both during the day and night and in almost all weather conditions. The infrared sensor sees "heat sources" through clouds and at night. The synthetic aperture radar technology detects radar which is sent to and reflected from the objects observed. It is therefore an active sensor. Both these techniques have a lower resolving power. The highest resolution attained by civilian satellites is 20 m. It is possible that the military satellites may have considerably more developed systems.

On the question of what the military satellites are used to observe, the superpowers gather information not only about each other, but about other countries as well. They continuously monitor wars and armed conflicts from satellites. American reconnaissance satellites were used in 1985 to determine the success of Iraqi bombing missions in Iran (and the information was sold to Iraq! - New York Times, 1986). The satellites can provide precise descriptions of the condition of bridges, roads. It can locate equipment at an air base, warships at sea, military units on land, and almost everything not concealed under a cover or under water. Even in the latter cases, satellites can be used to reveal hidden objects. The capabilities of military reconnaissance satellites are further considered in section C.

Useful Definitions

Some useful definitions, facts and numbers about the launch, orbit and reconnaissance activities of satellites are presented in Box 3.1.





History shows that political and military leaders were slow to make use of new techniques of reconnaissance. Possony (Ossenbeck & Kroeck, 1964) noted that information from aerial reconnaissance missions could have prevented countless aggressive actions for almost two centuries had it been employed. Although the first observation balloons went into the service of the French revolutionary army in 1794, they were not used in any battles in Europe or America. Airplane reconnaissance could have been used by the French much more efficiently to observe German troop movements as they moved into France at the beginning of World War I. They could also have been used to verify rumors started in the summer of 1933 about Germany's clandestine arms buildup. Similarly, the British, having only one photointerpreter on the payroll in 1939, were unable to secure photographic coverage of the German navy at an early stage, even though they had signed a treaty controlling naval capabilities with the Germans. Once the war had started, on the other hand, aircraft reconnaissance was heavily used.

After the war the potential of reconnaissance from space was also not recognized by many. This includes those in the Eisenhower administration and Eisenhower himself. Only after Sputnik was launched did America invest substantial amounts in developing reconnaissance satellites. In 1959, the U.S. became the first nation to photograph the earth from outer space.

Satellite Firsts

Once the space race got started, each superpower tried to be the first to make the next step in the satellite field. The "series of firsts" is given in table 3.1. This table provides a historical backdrop for the examination of the development of reconnaissance satellites. The dates given are the dates of the launch of the satellite.

Table 3.1. Chronology of Satellite Advances: A Series of Firsts.





The First ...

Satellite Name


Oct. 4


man-made satellite



Jan. 31


U.S. satellite



Dec. 18


voice message broadcast via sat.



Feb. 17


photo of planet Earth from satellite

Vanguard II


Apr. 1


dedicated weather satellite



Apr. 13


navigation satellite



Aug. 10


capsule recovered from orbit



Sep. 29


Canadian satellite



Apr. 26


Soviet reconnaissance satellite



July 26


synchronous satellite



Apr. 23


Soviet communications satellite



Nov. 26


French satellite by France

A-1 (Asterix)


Feb. 12


Japanese satellite launch



July 23


civilian remote sensing satellite



Apr. 25


Chinese satellite



Nov. 26


Chinese reconnaissance satellite



July 18


Indian satellite by India



June 29


search & rescue satellite


Sources: Jasani, 1978; World Book Encyclopedia, 1972.


To put these satellite developments in to the larger perspective of space developments, the following space achievements, are noted: first probe to strike the moon (USSR, 1959; US, 1962), first man in space (USSR, 1961; 1961), first man to set foot on the moon (US, 1969), first space station (USSR, 1971; US, 1973); first reusable spacecraft (US, 1981).

The United States has maintained a steady lead in the development of military satellites. The first U.S. photographic reconnaissance satellite was launched (but did not function) in 1959; the Soviets launched their first in 1962 (and China in 1975). The first U.S. electronic reconnaissance (Elint) satellite was launched in 1962; the Soviets followed in 1967. The Soviet also lagged significantly in the development of communications, navigation and geodetic satellites. In the launching of an early-warning satellite, they lagged by only one year. The only type of military satellite to be launched first by the Soviet Union was an ocean surveillance satellite (USSR, 1967; USA, 1971).

American Reconnaissance Satellite Program (History of)

The development of the reconnaissance satellite program in the United States is described in detail in several books (Klass, 1971; Steinberg, 1983; and Stares, 1985). Due to the secrecy surrounding the program, it was only after many years that the origins of the military reconnaissance program could be uncovered. Often researchers had to wait for the appropriate official documents to reach an age at which they could be declassified. The story is now fairly complete. A Chronology of the U.S. satellite reconnaissance program is presented in table 3.2.

Table 3.2. Chronology of Early U.S. Reconnaissance Satellite Program Successes.




RAND scientists begin feasibility studies

Mar 1


Project Feedback final two-volume report submitted

Oct 29


Lockheed starts "Advanced Reconnaissance System"

Jan 21


Discoverer-1 satellite launched (but failed to orbit)

May 24


Midas-2 - early warning satellite (Midas-1 failed)



Discovery-13: first operational reconnaissance satellite

Aug 10


Discoverer-13 film capsule recovered from ocean

Aug 18


Discoverer-14 film capsule recovered in mid-air

Sep 19


SAMOS declared operational - CIA principal customer



Satellites used to count Soviet missiles: 14 ICBMs

Dec 22


radio-transmission of reconnaissance satellite data

Feb 21


first electronic reconnaissance satellite

Oct 17


Vela-1 - nuclear detection satellite




The American space program began with the development of its rocket program. At the end of World War II, the rocket development program benefited from an influx of foreign scientists. Werner von Braun and a group of German scientists, who had come to America just before the end of the war in the Pacific, brought with them all the rocket research and hardware, that they could carry (much to the dismay of the Russians). Von Braun recognized the reconnaissance benefit of satellites: "The whole earth's surface could be continually observed from such a rocket ... equipped with very powerful telescopes and be able to observe even small objects, such as ships, icebergs, troop movements, construction work ..."

The United States began its study of the possibility of launching and orbiting an artificial satellite in 1946. In that year, the Project RAND group at Douglas Aircraft Company completed a study entitled "Preliminary Design for an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship." It included a section on the military potential of satellites, including satellite reconnaissance.

The satellite reconnaissance project was slow to get started. The research program began by equipping V-2s with cameras (a marked contrast to the other materials the V-2 had carried!). The research was not well funded. In addition, rivalry between the services - the NAVY and the Army Air Force - prevented the collaborative work which was necessary for such exploratory and costly space projects.

The RAND group produced a growing number of secret reports on the feasibility of using satellites for weather monitoring, communications, and reconnaissance. Two preliminary reports, completed in 1951, were entitled: "Utility of a Satellite Vehicle for Reconnaissance" and "Inquiry into the Feasibility of Weather Reconnaissance from a Satellite Vehicle." Another RAND report, the final of Project Feedback, issued on March 1, 1954 was entitled "An Analysis of the Potential of An Unconventional Reconnaissance Method." And in November 1957, RAND completed a report called "A Family of Recoverable Reconnaissance Satellites".

In 1955, the Air Force began the development of a reconnaissance satellite, under "Project Feedback". The Lockheed Corporation received the prime contract. The chief physicist at the USAF Aerial Reconnaissance Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Amrom Katz, was moved in 1954 to the RAND corporation. At the height of Project Feedback, several hundred scientists and engineers from RAND and other subcontractors were working on the project (Stares, 1985). The Air Force named the reconnaissance satellite system the "Advanced Reconnaissance System" and gave it the weapon system designation WS-117L. As the reconnaissance satellite project advanced other names were used: Sentry, Pied Piper, Big Brother and eventually Satellite and Missile Observation System (SAMOS).

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had been created in 1947 out of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, had gained considerable experience in airborne reconnaissance. They participated in experiments in which high altitude balloons were released to drift over the Soviet Union, take pictures, and be recovered afterwards (project WS-119L). The CIA was also involved in the U-2 aircraft high altitude reconnaissance missions. It strongly promoted the WS-117L satellite program from the beginning.

Eisenhower emphasized maintaining the peaceful character of the US space program, and did not want to stage a space race with the Soviet Union. He desired an easy and steady entry into space. It was announced in 1955 that the United States would participate in the International Geophysical Year (1957-58) by orbiting several "open" scientific satellites. He stipulated that the Vanguard satellites were not to be launched using a military rocket, which was true when the first Vanguard, weighing 22-pounds, was launched on February 17, 1959 (a little more than a year after the first U.S. satellite - Explorer-I). This satellite discovered that the earth was not perfect spherical but was wider across the equator.

Eisenhower was also concerned about jeopardizing the concept of "freedom of space". A nation should have the right of free passage anywhere in space and he feared the Soviets would reject this assertion. However, the Soviet Union set the precedent of freedom of passage in space. The Sputnik satellite, in its orbit, passed over several countries, including the United States. "In a single unilateral stroke," writes Klass (1971), "the Russians had unwittingly set into motion forces that would shatter their Iron Curtain, thereby forfeiting their highly prized secrecy."

The success of the Sputnik greatly accelerated the American space program. In 1958, Eisenhower created the National Aeronautics and Space Institute (NASA). Funding for most space projects were increased many fold. The reconnaissance satellite program proceeded quite swiftly, though not without delays, employing the skill of scientists in the Air Force and in the RAND, Lockheed and Kodak Corporations.

General Bernard Schriever (Klass, 1971) described his experiences of before and after Sputnik:

I can recall pounding the halls of the Pentagon in 1957, trying to get $10 million approved for our [USAF] space program. We finally got the $10 million but it was spelled out that it would be just for component development. No system whatsoever".

After Sputnik he spent most of his time traveling from San Diego to "testify before Congress and talk to people in the Pentagon about why we couldn't do things faster to get on with space."

Discoverer 13 was the first operational reconnaissance satellite; it successfully dropped a package of film a few hours after launch in August 1960. The U.S. Air Force soon outfitted the Fairchild C-119 cargo-transport plane with a large net to snag the parachuting capsules in midair. The early film capsules were captured over the Pacific ocean and brought to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii. They were then delivered to offices in Washington (Klass, 1971) and, in particular, to the supersecret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The radio transmission of reconnaissance data came on-line several years later. Pictures taken over the USSR and China in daylight could be transmitted at night to US ground stations while the infrared (heat sensitive) pictures taken in darkness were transmitted during the day. This new technology allowed the US to reduce the number of launches considerably. There were 13, 8, and 4 launches in 1965, 1968, and 1970, respectively.

The technology continued to advance. In 1967-68, communications satellites were being used to help transmit photoreconnaissance data, allowing real time data collection. Controllers on earth gained the ability to move the satellite cameras to "aim" at a specific location. Special zoom lenses were used to take a close look at interesting areas. The satellite orbital lifetime also advanced considerably, to several months by 1970. The rockets used (Titan-3B since 1966) also allowed for larger payloads. The Big Bird launcher weighed 25,000 pounds, of which 80% could be used for the reconnaissance equipment. The extra capacity permitted larger film packages, longer focal length cameras and a larger number of capsules to be brought back. Radar sensors were developed to penetrate heavy cloud cover. Modern satellites have their own propulsion systems to correct for orbital perturbations and to "navigate" into new orbits.





Satellites have become absolutely crucial to the superpowers' military operations. They are the "eyes" and "ears" in space (and soon there may be some "brains" - decision making devices - in space as well). These satellites have been used for reconnaissance, communications, navigation, meteorology and geodesy. Since 1958, over 2,500 satellites have been launched and two out of three performed military functions (Jasani, 1984b).

Well over half of the military satellites launched have been reconnaissance satellites (Jasani, 1984b). This and the following section will be primarily concerned with military reconnaissance satellites, but the other types of military satellites are discussed as well.

There are several different types of reconnaissance Satellites: photographic, electronic, ocean-surveillance, early warning (of missile launches), and nuclear explosion detection. The characteristics of these various satellites are presented in table 3.3. The numbers are obtained from a figure in the SIPRI 1986 Yearbook (Jasani, 1986).

Table 3.3. Characteristics of U.S. and Soviet Military Reconnaissance Satellites and the Combined Number Launched Between 1958 and 1985.


Satellite Type

Type of Orbit

Typical Altitude


Total Number





US (eg. KH-11)

elliptical, near polar




elliptical, inclined









circular, near polar



circular, inclined

500 or 650


Early warning




synchronous, equatorial




elliptical, inclined

688 x 39,000


Explosion detection




circular, inclined



Ocean surveillance





circular, inclined




circular, inclined








circular, equatorial




circular, equatorial




or inclined



Source: Jasani, 1982, 1984, 1986.

In order to arrive at the satellite counts produced in table 3.3, it is necessary to determine the functions of the U.S. and Soviet satellites that are launched. All satellite launches are (or should be) declared, but the nature and functions of the satellites are often kept secret. Once the satellite is in orbit, however, it is quite easy to ascertain its function. A "decision model" to determine the satellite mission from the vehicle characteristics was developed as early as 1964 (White, 1964). From the orbital configuration and radio frequency communications, it is quite easy to deduce the function. The work of the Kettering Boys School, north of London, England, demonstrates this. They have logged more than 14,000 satellite passes, tracked Soviet orbits, deduced the launching points (Canby, 1983) and kept a record for the world using simple radio receivers. The work of this amateur group is considered excellent by many experts (Canby, 1983; Jasani, 1986). The capabilities of the technology on each type of satellite are, however, obtained mostly from the U.S. literature (from commercial, Congressional, government or military sources).

The electronic intelligence (Elint) or ferret satellites "eavesdrop" on the radio communications and telemetry of the adversary. From the ground-to-air electronic signals, basic flight and ground operations can be deduced. This includes information about new radars, new missiles undergoing tests and new communications systems. These satellites play an important role in the verification of the SALT treaties. Recent complaints have been made by the U.S., however, that the Soviet have encoded their missile telemetry information, to a degree prohibited in the treaty. There is evidence to believe that the electronic reconnaissance satellite 1982-41C (Jasani, 1985) appeared over the Kamchatka Peninsula at the time of the Korean Airlines 707 flight incident. Many Elint satellites are put into orbit simultaneously with photoreconnaissance satellites, but are ejected to a higher altitude by the mother spacecraft.

Early Warning satellites detect the launch of missiles, by observing the heat emanating from them. When first introduced, they extended the warning time from the (roughly) ten minutes that was provided by the Distant Early Warning (DEW) and Ballistic Missile Early Warning system (BMEWS) radars to approximately 30 minutes. This limit still applies today for ICBM launches. However, the warning period for a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) attack is only about 6-12 minutes. The U.S.A. operates currently several (about 3) of these satellites, including one over the Indian Ocean to monitor missile launchings in the USSR and China, and two over the U.S.A. to detect oncoming missiles. A variation of this early-warning satellite permits detection of atomic explosions.

Nuclear explosion detection satellites were originally introduced for arms control purposes to monitor atmospheric testing and verify compliance with the Partial Test Ban Treaty. They are now used by the military to determine location of nuclear bursts in the event of a nuclear war. The U.S. nuclear explosion satellites, the first of which were named Vela satellites, have been used to detect explosions, presumably nuclear, produced off in South Africa in 1977 and off its coast in 1977 (Smith, 1985).

Ocean surveillance satellites monitor ship movements at sea and observe activities in ports (including submarine docking). Apparently they can keep track of 100% of all vessels in the Pacific (Butz, 1967). Both superpowers are working on "blue-green laser programs" whose goal is to design satellite systems to "penetrate the ocean depths to communicate to friendly submarines and detect enemy boats". Little is known about this type of activity.

The electronic systems aboard each of these types of satellites can be powered by either solar cells, batteries, nuclear reactors or radioisotope thermo-electric generators (RTGs). The United States has used a nuclear fission reactor in only one satellite, while the Soviet Union relies heavily on them (Paul, 1979). Both the nuclear reactor and RTG are potentially hazardous since they may release radiation on reentry into the earth's atmosphere.

There are a variety of non-reconnaissance military satellites. These are described below. Some of them, unfortunately, can be used to enhance directly aggressive or destructive acts (as "force multipliers"). In the absence of information on the Soviet satellites, details are given mostly of the American programs.

Geodetic satellites will be used in the Global Positioning System (GPS), also known as Navstar. In the final form, due to be completed in 1988, there will be 18 satellites in orbit. They will allow military personnel anywhere on earth to determine their position to within 10 m and their speed to within 0.1 m/s. They can be used, among other things, as an aid for navigation. Once matched with the Trident submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the U.S. would have "the world's first SLBM capable of ICBM counterforce/first strike accuracy" (Morrison, 1984).

The Milstar System is being designed by the U.S. Air force to be "a warfighting [communications] system, the first of its kind" according to Vice Commander Major General Gerald Hendricks Morrison (1984). By 1990, there are to be 8 satellites in the fleet. They will be jamproof, have substantive evasive maneuvering capabilities and will be ready to "stitch together the tactical and strategic forces the U.S. has scattered around the globe and, if needs be, deliver Emergency Action Messages, the nuclear attack orders".

Interceptor/destroyer satellites and other anti-satellite weapons (ASATs) have been tested by both superpowers. There have been over 25 American tests, beginning with the Bold Orion fired from a B-47 bomber in 1959. The Soviets started testing shortly after the Americans (Stares, 1985). The U.S. had ceased testing by 1970. In 1984, however, the U.S. tested a "far more capable, direct ascent ASAT", which is fired from an F-15 fighter plane and uses a miniature infrared homing device to collide with the targets at high speeds (17,500 mph). The height of its space penetration has not yet been made public. Of the 20 tests made by the USSR in the period 1968-82, half were judged successful. The Soviet ASAT maneuvers near to target satellite and explodes, releasing pellets to destroy the target. There has been an unofficial moratorium on full ASAT testing in space (by satellite destruction) since mid-1982. Though the Soviet system was declared "operational" by the Pentagon in the late 1970s, it is considered only a limited threat, in that it can reach only low-altitude satellites.

Communication satellites are extensively used by the military. Almost 80% of U.S. military communications depend entirely on space satellites (Carlos, 1985). Attempts are now being made to make them invulnerable to attack in space and "hardened" to make them safe from the effects of a nuclear explosion (Canby, 1983). Communications satellites are usually found in the circular, geosynchronous orbit, at an altitude of about 35,900 km altitude. In this way they stay in the same position over a given location on the earth. A communications satellite is also used in the backup hot-line between the White House and the Kremlin.




Military Secrecy

The term spy satellite to describe reconnaissance satellites is not an accurate description (Klass, 1972). Since neither the U.S. nor the U.S.S.R. have attempted (nor could they easily) to disguise the mission of the satellites. However, while the launch time and the orbital characteristics are provided to the United Nations, the specific details of their operation remain a secret.

In spite of public demand to learn about the details of the U.S. reconnaissance satellite programs, the government has resisted making any disclosure. Our knowledge of the programs comes mostly from historical documents, Congressional testimonies and, in part, from people in the military itself.

One satellite reconnaissance photograph, of approximately 1 metre resolution, was leaked in 1984 and subsequently published in Jane's Defence Weekly (1984) and elsewhere (Jasani, 1982; Hafemeister, 1985; Krass, 1985). It is reproduced in figure 3.3. It shows the first Soviet aircraft carrier under construction at the Nikolayev shipyard on the Black Sea. It was processed from satellite information by one or more computerized techniques (Krass, 1985).

At one time the Carter administration "toyed with the idea" (Daniloff, 1979) of declassifying some close-look pictures of Soviet missile silos. They wanted to impress the U.S. Senate with the capabilities of satellite verification. "However, cautious intelligence veterans prevailed and the best work of satellites was kept under lock and key". Officials in the Carter Administration were not in favor of the ISMA proposal when it surfaced (Turner, 1986). Beginning in June 1983, the United States stopped releasing the orbital parameters of certain military satellites (Jasani, 1985).

Several authors have pieced together a detailed picture of the current space reconnaissance activities and the hardware (Daniloff, 1979; Jasani, 1982; Smith, 1985; Richelson, 1985).

American Military Satellites

Most of our knowledge about satellite reconnaissance, as described in the sections above, is due to the American program. It is possible to understand more about the American program than the Soviet one. The historical aspects of the American reconnaissance satellite program are described in section B. The current capabilities concern us here.

The Space Defence Operations Center (SPADOC), at NORAD's headquarters in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, meticulously tracks all objects orbiting around the earth, of which there are some 5,000 (Canby, 1983). On the basis of 30,000 observations a day, SPADOC can track any object larger than 10 cm (4 inches) across (Morrison 1984).

The majority of American reconnaissance satellites were launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the Pacific Ocean coast in Southern California. With the advent of the shuttle, the Pentagon booked space for many payloads. However, a year after the Challenger disaster of January, 1986, the Air Force chose the McDonnell Douglas Corporation to build a $1 billion fleet of unmanned rockets to launch its satellites (Sanger, 1987).

While the Air Force is responsible for the satellite launch, the interpretation is largely left to the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA. Much time, energy and resources must be placed into the interpretation of satellite reconnaissance data. The two agencies have allocated $6 billion and (only) $150 million, respectively, in their budgets for satellite reconnaissance information collection and interpretation (Spurr, 1977). Although there is a large surface area to be surveyed and the possibility of camouflage, the CIA has attained great mastery in interpreting satellite photographs, having had over two decades of experience.

The CIA may then inform the administration of important developments (Daniloff, 1979; Turner, 1986). The information may then be passed onto various committees. In the case of an arms control treaty related observation, the CIA cannot, however, declare that a violation has taken place. Only at the political level can such an allegation be made. Allegations of the SALT I

accord were supposed to be presented to the joint US-USSR Standing Consultative Commission in Geneva. According to one participant, "every dispute has been resolved" (Daniloff, 1979).

The question of camouflage is important, yet the problem is not as difficult to deal with as may at first seem. Using various sensors, including visible light and heat sensors, it is possible to distinguish "real" roads from "fake" ones, new grass from old and slowly moving objects from stationary ones. One story is rather amusing.

Apparently (Smith, 1985) in the late 1970s, a U.S. satellite detected what appeared to be a newly constructed Soviet submarine in the Barents Sea, near Murmansk. However, after a storm, the submarine appeared bent in half; in actuality, the "sub" was a giant rubber fake.

The technology has progressed considerably in the last twenty years. There are three modern reconnaissance systems: side looking radar to observe terrain on each side, infrared detector for night use or to detect heat or exhaust sources, forward and side-looking cameras for horizon-to-horizon pictures.

The KH-11 is the most sophisticated photoreconnaissance satellite. It is 64 feet long and weighs 30,000 pounds. It uses side-looking cameras with a downward-looking mirror which can be rotated. The "pictures" are not recorded on film but are kept as digital images which are electronically transmitted to Washington, D.C., via the Satellite Data [Communications] System. The KH-11 satellite has its own on-board computer. It also has a three year lifetime in space. While the earlier Keyhole Satellites (such KH-8, KH-9 or Big Bird) were either area surveillance or close look, the KH-11 appears to be a hybrid. It resolution is estimated (Richelson, 1986) to be 15 cm (6 inches).




Space Stations

As long ago as 1965, the Pentagon had announced plans for a Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). The announced purpose was "to determine the military man's potential usefulness in space." This would include the feasibility of using human astronauts for photoreconnaissance. Experiments were made from both the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft. The estimated cost for MOL had doubled over the period from mid-1965 ($1.5 billion) to 1969. The Nixon administration, faced with a budget crunch due to heavy Vietnam war expenses, cancelled the MOL project. It has again surfaced during the tenure of the Reagan Administration and is scheduled to fly in the early 1990s.

The Space Station project was to be an international project, involving Canada, European countries and Japan. Concern has been expressed by several countries about the possible military nature of Space Station (Marsh, 1983) and they may withdraw unless they are given absolute assurances that no weapons will be on-board (Sallot & Strauss, 1987). Though officially plans for Space Station remain on schedule, the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster may delay the Space Station project considerably. There will need to be a large number of Shuttle missions to fully assemble the Space Station.

The Soviet manned space stations, in the Salyut series and Mir, can be used for reconnaissance purposes. Salyut 6, for instance, carried a MKF-6 scanner with 30 m resolution covering six infrared wavelengths. The Mir station was first occupied in the summer of 1986 during a 125-day mission. Most of the earth resources data published in the Soviet Union was obtained from the manned missions. Over 20,000 such pictures of different parts of the earth were taken from Salyut 6.

Soviet Military Satellites

Much less is known about the Soviet military satellite program than the American one. The military programs and the civilian are indistinguishable (at least from outside). Officially, the government refuses to acknowledge that there is a military side to their space program, though in conversation there is no attempt to hide the fact.

Soviet accomplishments in space are recognized by Westerners and Easterns alike. The Soviets pride themselves on their accomplishments in space; they honor their cosmonauts in a way that made one journalist compare the respect paid to deceased astronauts to the respect paid to saints in the West. A recent National Geographic article by Canby (1986) describes the Soviet accomplishments in space very well.

Already in October, 1959, the Soviet Union was taking photographs in outer space. The Lunik-3 photographed the farside of the moon (Klass, 1971), for the first time, using 35 mm film, which was processed on board, scanned electronically, and then transmitted over the lunar distance to the earth! There were two lenses, of 20 cm (8 inches) and 50 cm (20 inches) focal lengths, but the resolution and the transmission power was very low.

The Soviet photoreconnaissance satellites usually last only 12 or 13 days (Jasani, 1986). Only in 1985, did some such satellites, e.g. Cosmos 758, last longer. These may mark the first of a new set of longer-lived reconnaissance satellites. The typical reconnaissance satellite orbit is very elliptical, which is one reason why they do not last long. They probably still use parachuted film capsules. The largest number of Soviet reconnaissance satellites to look down on the earth at the same time was ten, which occurred during a period in September 1985 (Canby, 1986).

The other types of reconnaissance satellites are also extensively used. An electronic reconnaissance satellite, which may be "as big as a bus", will usually have an orbital inclination of 71 to 74 degrees and a orbital period of 92 to 95 minutes. The first ocean-surveillance satellite was launched in 1967, but their existence was only known to the public after the U.S. Navy announced it in 1974 by (Jasani, 1985). They now (Jasani, 1986) use sophisticated side-looking radar to locate ships on the ocean and caught in ice. The early warning satellites of the Soviet Union, first launched in 1975 (nine years after the U.S. equivalent), can be used to observe both land based and submarine launched ballistic missile trajectories.

Soviet spacecrafts are launched from four cosmodromes. Tyuratam, about 2,000 km south west of Moscow, near the Aral Sea, is now being used for the development of the Soviet space shuttle (Aviation Week and Space Technology, 1986). Baikonur, near Tyuratam, is the only cosmodrome used to launch satellites into equatorial orbit. Plesetsk, about 800 km north of Moscow, is used to launch satellites into near polar orbits. Kapustin Yar is used to launch Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs).

Recently, the Soviet Union announced that it would launch satellites for developing countries at reduced rates. They also announced that they would open their cosmodromes to foreign space scientists and engineers.




Other Military Satellite Programs

Other countries have advanced military satellite programs, but only one other nation has a military reconnaissance satellite capability. China was the third nation to have acquired reconnaissance satellites. In 1975, China launched three satellites (Jasani, 1977). One of these, China 4, ejected a capsule which was subsequently recovered. Similarly, in other years, satellites have been launched into reconnaissance type orbits and capsules returned to earth (Jasani, 1977, 1985), but little is known about them.

Japan has rejected any military space activity for reasons of principle (Voute, 1986). India keeps the option open both for political reasons and it sees its space program in general not only as a means of increasing its capacity to alleviate its basic needs but also as a means of increasing its political power and leverage. Most European countries (with the notable exceptions of the UK and FRG) have refused government-to-government involvement in the American SDI program.

Britain has built several its own military communications satellites. The first, Skynet 1A, was launched into synchronous orbit by the United States in 1969. At present, there are none in orbit. Britain plans to launch Skynet 4 - a system of two satellites to fly above the Atlantic to enhance communication with NATO countries and the with Falklands (New Scientist, 1983) - using the American Space Shuttle instead of Western Europe's Ariane rocket. In January 1987, British government plans to develop a super-secret electronic signal intelligence (Sigint) satellite, named Zircon, were uncovered by a writer for the New Statesman (Campbell, 1987). The satellite will be able to eavesdrop on Soviet, European and Middle Eastern communications. It is to be launched in 1988 and be positioned at a longitude of 53 degrees East, directly above the USSR and Iran. The manner in which the project was hidden from the Commons' Public Accounts Committee has created considerable controversy (Gordon, 1987; The Economist, 1987).

At least four satellites have been launched for NATO. After signing a special agreement in 1967 with other members of NATO (Belgium, Canada, FRG, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK), the U.S. built and launched several satellites for tactical satellite communications (TACSATCOM). The first two, LES 5 and 6, were launched in 1967 and 1968 respectively. The third, NATO 2, was launched in 1973 and it covers communications over an area from the eastern coast of the North America to the eastern boundary of turkey. NATO 3A was launched in 1976 (Jasani, 1977). Special ground stations were build by the NATO members in their own countries.

France has in operation one military satellite (Syracuse I) used for communications, but is planning others. Beginning in 1973, France has studied the possibility of independently developing and launching its own military reconnaissance satellite. In 1976, the French Minister for Defence began planning for a photographic reconnaissance satellite called SAMRO (Satellite Militaire de Reconnaissance Optique). The military project suffered financial cutbacks in 1982. The SAMRO's imaging system and telemetry links would have been adapted from the French SPOT and the European ERS-1 satellite systems. France is now contemplating a joint project to develop a new generation of reconnaissance satellite, Helios, with the Federal Republic of Germany (Voute, 1986). The development of the SPOT satellite (discussed under the section on civilian satellites) was in part funded (800 million franc) by the Ministry of Defence.

On Feb 7, 1984 French President F. Mitterand proposed (Voute, 1985) the creation of an "European Space Community" to run in parallel with the European Economic Communities. Its task would be to strengthen the European military defence, and it could include the launch of a manned space station for surveillance purposes. In July 1985, the French President inaugurated an European research Coordination Agency (EUREKA) to provide funding to develop European technological capacity in competition with the American SDI program (Arnaud, 1986). Projects in many high technology areas are to be considered for funding including high speed computing, telecommunicaitons, robotics, materials and biotechnology. It is possible that another area of research will be anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) systems, which are not considered in the Anti-ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. The program has the support of the German and British governments (Murphy, 1985) as well as 16 other West European countries (Jasani, 1986).



Though few countries have a military space program, many of them have a civilian one. Several nations are acquiring the capability to develop, build and launch satellites capable of close-look observation of the earth. This section looks at the satellite programs of a number of these countries. The U.N. ISMA report (Secretary-General, 1981) gives a good general description of the national capabilities world-wide that existed at the time of the report. The report is summarized here, with updates from the referenced material.

American Programs

The U.S. Landsat was the first civilian remote sensing satellite system. The first satellite in the Landsat series, ERTS-1 or Landsat-1, was launched by NASA in 1972. It opened a new horizon (so to speak) for civilian remote sensing by providing the world with an unrestricted and virtually complete coverage of its surface at a low cost. There are 18 Landsat receiving stations around the world. People in over sixty countries use the data.

The current Landsat-D orbits the earth at an altitude of 805 km. It has a period of about 90 minutes and completes an orbital cycle over the entire earth surface every 16 days. It has two devices for remote sensing which observe the earth in a swath of width 185 km: a multispectral scanner (MSS) which can record over the many bands in the spectrum of visible light and a thermic mapper (TM) which detects radiation in the infrared and visible regions. The pixel size for these two sensors are 80 metres and 30 metres (120 for the thermal IR channel) respectively. These represent the resolution of the instruments. The MSS could have had a higher resolution, but the Pentagon imposed restrictions on NASA (Adam et al., 1986).

The U.S.A. has also performed remote sensing using the Heat Capacity Mapping Mission (HCMM) of 1978 and the Seasat program of the same year, in which several nations participated. The HCMM ceased operation and the Seasat failed three months after launch. Still, these missions have demonstrated the utility and applications of sensing with infrared radiation and with Synthetic Radar Aperture techniques. The Seasat satellite also possessed an altimeter which could be used for strategic reconnaissance (its data was eventually unclassified).

The manned missions have also provided useful remote sensing data. The manned Skylab satellite orbited at a height of 425 km. Photographs taken from Skylab proved useful for further refinements. The pictures taken from the Space Shuttle were very impressive. However, due to the short duration of Space Shuttle flights, a particular area could not be covered regularly. There is some evidence that the Shuttle was involved in the relaying of electronic reconnaissance data during the KAL 007 incident (Jasani, 1985).




Canadian Capabilities

The history of the Canadian space program is outlined in a book called Spacebound (Hartz and Phagis, 1982; see also Dotto, 1987). With the launch of the Alouette satellite on September 29, 1962, Canada became the third nation to enter into space. After the Alouette launch at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the coordinator of the Alouette program remarked: "I had my fingers crossed, my legs crossed and everything else crossed. At that time, there was a fifty per cent chance of failure in launchings." However, the launch was successful and Alouette surpassed its original design lifetime of one year by transmitting data for ten years, until September 1972.

Alouette (after the French word for lark) was designed to do ionsopheric research, to study cosmic rays, the Van Allen belts and their relationship to the Aurora Borealis. An interesting unplanned observation was made soon after in 1962. Measurements were made of the decay of energetic particles artificially injected into the radiation belts by the "Starfish" high-altitude nuclear test. This may have been the first case of a nuclear explosion detection in space. It was observed that the interaction caused the Alouette's solar cells to deteriorate at an accelerated rate.

Initially Canada's space program was the responsibility of the Department of National Defence, but civilian uses of satellites were more common, especially in the area of communications. Scientist at the Defence Research Telecommunications Establishment (DRTE), as it was known at the time, were among the first in 1957 to calculate the orbit of the Sputnik-1 satellite, based on its transmitted signals, which they picked up in Ottawa. In participation with the National Research Council (NRC), they built the Alouette satellite.

Due to early interest in ionospheric satellites, Canada became a frontrunner in the telecommunications field. Canada operates three earth stations receiving from Intelsat geostationary satellites. Canada was also the first foreign nation to set up its own ground station to receive Landsat data. The Landsat ground station was set up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1972 and a new section of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources was created at the same time to help handle the data. The Canada Centre for Remote Sensing (CCRS) acts as an image processing centre, where the Landsat signal is converted to digital data and black & white/coloured images. Four days after the images are received, a private company distributes the data to Canadian users. A second ground station was set up in Shoe Cove, Newfoundland, in 1977. Although the American Seasat satellite operated for only three months in 1978, Canada remains the prime world source for high quality imagery from it. Canada is also the prime source for high quality interpreted imagery from the LANDSAT satellite (CCRS).

The current Canadian remote sensing capabilities, as they relate to arms control verification, were reviewed by Ron Buckingham (1986). The Radarsat satellite (SPAR, 1985) is to fly at a height of 1007 km and at an inclination of 99.5 degrees. Its mass is to be 6500 kg and the maximum power to be developed will be 5100 W. It will use advanced principles of synthetic radar aperture (SAR). As explained by Dr. Keith Raney (Dorn, 1986b) of the Radarsat office, Radarsat was designed with an acute sensitivity to distinguish objects at sea and in the arctic. SAR technology can be used for remote sensing in almost all weather conditions and both at night and day. Radarsat is to be an international project involving the USA (launch), the United Kingdom (Spacecraft Bus) and Italy (Bus subsystems). In addition, it is expected that Germany and France will be significant suppliers of flight hardware through procurements.

From the beginning, the Canadian space program has been a successful demonstration in international cooperation. Canada's first satellite, Alouette, was launched by the United States. In both the Alouette and ISIS (International Satellites for Ionospheric Studies) programs, most satellites were developed and built in Canada and Americans were principal co-investigators. Ten other countries actively participated in the research program as well. The United Kingdom, France, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Norway set up command and telemetry centre in order to be able to "turn on" the satellites (Aloutte and Isis) to receive data. Agencies in Hong Kong, Brazil and Finland could also read the data. The Federal Republic of Germany, Sweden and the USSR used data from the programs obtained from the World Data Centres. "The international aspect was deliberate," wrote Ted Hartz, the Chairman of the ISIS Working Group, (Hartz & Phagis, 1982). "The ionosphere is global in extent and an understanding of its features and behavior can best be achieved through comprehensive studies that involve investigators from around the world." The same is true about international peace and security.

Canada could in principle provide (Polanyi, 1982) an ISMA with software and hardware for high resolution radar. This type of observation can be made in day-night, all-weather conditions.




European Capabilities

Early European space efforts were marked by confusion and competition. But in the 1980s, the European work has become "purposeful, successful and, to a remarkable degree, integrated" as expressed by J. Hoagland in "The Other Space Powers: Europe and Japan" (Ra'anan, 1984). Eleven countries are members of the European Space Agency (ESA): Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Australia, Canada and Norway also participate in the organization. The ESA promotes cooperation in space research and technology among these states. In order to maintain autonomy from the US, the ESA developed its own launcher, the Ariane. Ariane launches are made from Kourou, French Guiana, a near equatorial launch site. The Ariane is in competition with the U.S. Space Shuttle and even before the Challenger disaster of early 1986, several American corporations had booked launches on it. Intelsat, the multinational communications satellite organization, has also reserved several launches with Arianespace (which launch satellites with the Ariane). The Swedish Space Corporation will launch its direct broadcast satellite using Ariane.

The ESA headquarters, located in Paris, is staffed by 1,500 people drawn from member states. It maintains the European Space Research and Technology centre in the Netherlands, and its operations centre is located in Darmstadt, Germany. This centre is responsible for satellite orbital operations and tracking. Ground stations which feed data to the centre are located in Belgium, Germany, Italy and Spain.

Britain, like Canada, has given particular attention to the development of communications satellites. British industries and military cooperated with American industries to develop the Skynet military communications satellites. These satellites provide communications between ships, submarines and land terminals. The next important new satellite to be launched for Britain and the ESA is the L-SAT (Large Communications Satellite) which will relay television, telephone and data signals. Britain will contribute one-third of the cost and Canada has a ten percent share. France and Germany will not participate because they are working on their own Franco-German five-channel direct television broadcast and telecommunications system. Britain does not have any remote sensing satellites but has shown a desire to participate in the Canadian Radarsat project and is developing its own electronic reconnaissance satellite (Gordon, 1987).

France was the fourth country to orbit a satellite and the third to build and launch its own satellite. On February 22, 1986, France, with the cooperation of Belgium and Sweden, launched the most advanced civilian remote sensing satellite currently in orbit: SPOT 1 (CNES, 1986; Spaceflight, 1986a). It circles the planet in 70 minutes in a near-polar orbit and retraces its path over most of the earth's surface every 26 days. SPOT has two principal sensors: a High Resolution Visible (HRV) sensor, based on charge coupled devices, with a resolution of 10m in panchromatic mode; and an infrared imager. SPOT 1 provides stereoscopic, color-enhanced pictures. It has a steerable mirror that can be controlled from the SPOT preprocessing centre in Toulous, France. It also has two on-board recorders capable of storing 23 minutes of data each. The SPOT pictures are for sale to anyone, including government agencies, corporations, universities, media and private individuals (at 40 F for a "Quick-Look" image). Some countries (including Canada) will be able to take direct readouts using their own receiving stations while others can contact SPOT Image, the marketing firm. SPOT Image plans to sell 30,000 images per year.

France, in a noteworthy cooperation, participated in the 1982 Soviet manned space mission to the Salyut 7 space station. The French "spationaut" and two Soviet cosmonauts went aboard the Soviet Space Station together. Other visits are planned.

The Eastern European states participate in space exploration by membership in the Interkosmos council, established in 1965. The members are: Bulgaria, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, GDR, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Romania and the USSR. There have been no reports of military satellite activities by any of these countries except the USSR.

Programs of Other Nations

China has a well developed satellite launching capacity. As mentioned China was the third country to launch a reconnaissance satellite. China has now begun to compete in the commercial satellite launching market (Spaceflight, 1986b). It has offered to launch satellites for foreign countries and private companies. They are negotiating with the Swedish Space Corporation for launching the country's Mailstar satellites (for electronic mail). Several American companies, including Universal Satellite Corporation of New York have booked flights for Chinese rockets to carry communication satellites. In the remote sensing area, in 1980 China signed an agreement with the U.S.A. to receive Landsat data (Secretary-General, 1981).

Japan has a rapidly expanding space program. It has been chiefly administered (since 1969) by the National Space and Development Agency (NASDA). While emphasis has been placed on satellite programs with immediate applications (such as broadcast, weather and communications), scientific programs are gaining importance under the auspices of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). There are plans for a Japanese remote sensing satellite, the JERS-1, which will have a similar structure to the ERS satellites.

The Indian experimental earth observation satellite, SEO-1, was launched by the Soviet Union on June 7, 1979. The satellite is equipped with both visible light and near infrared cameras and is used to transmit meteorological and oceanographic data. Since 1977 India has been processing Landsat data and it began receiving data using its own ground station in 1979. In July 1980, an Indian-built experimental satellite was launched using an indigenously built launcher (Secretary-General, 1981).

In addition to those mentioned above, the following countries have Landsat receiving stations: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Italy, Sweden and Thailand. A summary of the current and planned civilian remote sensing satellite projects is presented in figure 3.4. The figure presents each satellite's (expected) launch year and the length of time that it is expected to remain functional.


The technical requirements for a peace-keeping satellite are broadly outlined in the ISMA Study (Secretary-General, 1981) and the Canadian Paxsat studies (SPAR, 1986). The latter contain more technical detail, while the former explores a wider range of applications.

If the satellite is to perform the task of verification of an arms control treaty it will have different technical requirements than it would if it were to monitor of crisis situations. While the technology overlaps in many areas, the most efficient designs will incorporate instruments which are optimized to their tasks. The parameters which characterize a surveillance satellite are much the same as those which characterize resource satellites. They include: resolution, spectral frequency coverage, land area coverage, frequency of coverage, response time and auxiliary data input.

Data Requirements

The resolution is a key parameter. A table of the resolution required to identify various objects is given in table 3.4. The table distinguishes between four levels of observation: detection, recognition, identification and description. For many tasks, the detection level is sufficient. Given the best civilian technology available at present, only one third of the objects listed in the table could be detected.

Table 3.4 Ground Resolution (in metres) required to observe various targets.











Supply Dump





Troop Units





Airfield facilities










Missile Sites





Surface Ships










Land Minefields










Costs and Landing Beaches





Railway yards










Urban Areas










Surfaced Submarines





Sources: Jasani, 1978.




Most of the arms control and disarmament treaties listed in table 2.3, would require an area surveillance capability of resolution 3-5 m supplemented by a close-look capability of resolution 0.5 m. Most would require both optical and IR coverage. The Antarctic Treaty would additionally require radar coverage (which can be optimized to distinguish objects against a background of ice) and nuclear detection capability. The same is true about the Partial Test Ban Treaty.

The amount of land coverage required for different treaties may vary greatly. The Antarctic continent stretches over an area of 14 million square kilometres. However this might easy to observe, since there is little movement in the region and computers can easily detect differences in landscape when they occur (by the subtraction of images taken at different times). The Partial Test Ban Treaty would be more difficult to observe, since it involves over a hundred States. Table 3.5 presents the amount of data to be collected in with area and close-look surveillance satellites. From this tally, the total number of scenes to be handled per month would be of the order of 850.


Table 3.5 Estimated Coverage Required for a Two "Typical" Operational Modes.



Area Surveillance

Close-look Surveillance

Area surveyed (sq. km)

15 million

10 x 200

Scene size (sq. km)

100 x 100

10 x 10

Frequency of observation

twice a year (per site)

once a day

Number of scenes:

3,000 per year

or 250 per month

or 600 per month

Source: Secretary-General, "Feasibility of an International Satellite Monitoring Agency", 1981.

Certain treaties, such as the Geneva protocol would require reporting at least once every 24 hours on activities of concern. Others, such as the Antarctic and Partial Test Ban Treaty, might require reporting intervals of up to half a year with the provision for an immediate report when deemed necessary. For example, if an explosion is known to have occurred in the Antarctic, the satellite can verify within days the nature of the site and the activities which occur in the region.

The outer space treaty could be observed by a PAXSAT A type of satellite for space-to-space observation. The PAXSAT concept is reviewed, along with technical details, in Chapter IV. It is noted that the earth observation and space observation satellites would be configured in a significantly different manner.

The satellites which will monitor crisis situations could be configured with the same technology as required by many of the treaty verification satellites. The resolution requirement would be quite high: of the order of 1m or higher. The satellite should be capable of manoeuvering in outer space so as to reach the place above the area of conflict as soon as possible. This time may vary from hours to two weeks. The ISMA Study states that coverage of an given area once in every five to seven days may be adequate in a pre-crisis period, but a higher frequency of several times a day could be required during the crisis period.

The auxiliary data requirements for various tasks could be quite large. For the operation of visible sensors, it would be useful to have information about cloud coverage, which is already available from weather satellites. High resolution photographs of territories stored in a data bank or accurate maps could be necessary for proper interpretation. IN the case of the Partial Test Ban Treaty, information form the IAEA regarding weapons-grade fissile material production could be useful for information correlation. For crisis monitoring, detailed information on the military strengths, hardware and installations would be useful.

Image Processing and Interpretation

The ISMA Study recommends the formation of an Image Processing and Interpretation Centre (IPIC). The Centre would keep a catalog of the data submitted to it, which could be in a digital electronic or a photographic form. A computer subsystem, housed at the centre, would be used for image storage, correction enhancement, and interpretation. It would be able to perform the wide range of data analysis functions currently known.

The manpower resources needed for the IPIC are estimated in the ISMA Study. It includes people for administration and support, development and checking methods, archiving, computer and photo processing, photointerpretation, editing and distribution. The total number of people is then between 205 and 285.

Evolution and Cost

The Group of Experts suggested a three phase development of ISMA. In Phase I, the IPIC would be established and use imagery from civilian satellite systems and (perhaps) non-civilian systems. They envisaged the delivery of this imagery either in the form of photographic images or as data on magnetic tape or via a data network, possibly from a satellite network. The cost was estimated to be $ 25-30 million (in 1980 dollars), given the manpower requirements listed above, and excluding any fees that might have to be paid to States providing data.

In Phase II, ISMA would set up and operate a global system of 10 ground stations to receive data directly from national satellites. At a capital cost of 6 to 8 million dollars per station and an operating cost of two million per station per year, the total investment would be in range of 60 to 80 million dollars.

In Phase III, ISMA would launch its own satellite(s), which could be optimized to meet the requirements of a fully functional satellite surveillance agency. Ideally, there should be (1) an area surveillance system of three or more satellites employing optical, synthetic radar aperture and nuclear explosion sensors and (2) a close-look satellite system with resolution in the range 0.5-1 m. They note that the cost of developing and launching a single satellite varies between 300 to 400 million dollars (spread over a period of four to six years). The cost of renewal (assuming the launch of a new satellite every two to three years) would vary in the range 50-200 million dollars. Thus this third stage would cost between 500 million and, for an ideal configuration, 3 billion dollars.

The experts note in their conclusions that even with Phase III, which is the most complete and expensive phase, an "ISMA would cost the international community each year well under 1 per cent of the total annual expenditure on armaments."