Table of Contents Bottom of Page

Chapter 19


The United States conducts activities in outer space to defend the nation. Space is a medium -- like the land, sea, and air -- within which military operations take place by Department of Defense space forces. These forces consist of both space-based and terrestrial systems, plus their associated facilities and personnel.

During the past decade, national security space systems have played an increasingly important role in the Department's overall warfighting capability. Consistent with the National Space Policy, Department of Defense space forces will continue to support military operations worldwide, monitor and respond to strategic military threats, and monitor arms control and nonproliferation agreements and activities. DoD will exploit and, if required, control space to assist in the successful execution of the National Security Strategy and National Military Strategy.

In the future, space power will be as important as sea power and air power are today. The control and utilization of space as a warfighting medium will help to enable the United States to establish and sustain dominance over an area of military operations. Establishing such dominance will be a key to achieving success during a crisis or conflict.


The United States is the unparalleled world leader in the use of space for defense and intelligence purposes. U.S. space forces, especially the constellations of reconnaissance, surveillance, communications, navigation, and weather satellites, have contributed significantly both to U.S. successes during the Cold War and in military operations around the globe since then. Utilization of these space systems has evolved from an initial focus on providing support to national decision makers and strategic nuclear operations to a more extensive integration into the overall military force structure and much broader use by warfighters. Currently, U.S. national security space assets are playing a crucial role in supporting national security objectives in many areas around the globe, including the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Korea, and the Middle East.

Space systems have become an integral part of the overall deterrent posture of the U.S. armed forces. They help confer a decisive advantage upon U.S. and friendly forces in terms of combat timing, battlespace awareness, operating tempo, synchronization, maneuverability, and the application of firepower. Any nation contemplating an action inimical to U.S. national security interests must be concerned about U.S. space capabilities because they help to ensure that hostile actions will be discovered by the United States in a timely manner.


National Space Policy emphasizes the need to improve the coordination and integration of DoD and intelligence space activities and architectures. This is being accomplished primarily by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Space (DUSD (Space)), the Office of the DoD Space Architect, and Joint Space Management Board (JSMB) commissioned activities, such as the National Security Space Master Plan (NSSMP) and the Review of National Security Space Programs and Activities Integrated Product Team (IPT).

DUSD (Space) was created to develop, coordinate, and oversee the implementation of DoD space policy and to provide oversight of DoD space architectures and the acquisition of DoD space programs. It is also the office of primary responsibility and the principal point of contact within the Office of the Secretary of Defense for space matters. As such, it both interfaces with Congress and other government agencies and represents the Secretary of Defense in interagency deliberations and international negotiations regarding space.

The JSMB was formed to ensure that defense and intelligence needs for space systems were satisfied within available resources, using integrated architectures to the maximum extent possible. This will be accomplished by integrating policy, requirements, architectures, acquisition, and funding for defense and intelligence space programs. The JSMB is co-chaired by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology and the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and includes the full participation of the national security space community.

The DoD Space Architect is developing space architectures across the full range of DoD space mission areas and integrating requirements into existing and planned space system architectures. Close coordination with the Intelligence Community in developing these architectures is a priority to ensure that the architectures are fully integrated, leading to improved space systems support to U.S. and allied forces.

The NSSMP provides a long-term strategic vision to guide the national security space community to the year 2020. DUSD (Space) directed the development of the NSSMP to provide this common vision for the Department and Intelligence Community, to help formulate DoD space plans, and to act as a guide for future architecture development.

The Review of National Security Space Programs and Activities IPT was directed by the Director of Central Intelligence and the Deputy Secretary of Defense to conduct a comprehensive review of the space programs and associated activities of both the Intelligence Community and DoD. In particular, it has been tasked to evaluate the ability of military and intelligence space systems and their associated resources to reliably meet critical requirements, without interruption, during the next 10 years within existing and projected fiscal guidance.


Advances in technology are fundamentally altering the conduct of modern warfare. Driven primarily by improvements in information collection, processing, and transmission technology, this revolution will have a dramatic impact on military operations. The full impact of these improvements on military operations, however, will only be realized if they are integrated with new operational concepts.

In part, this ongoing revolution involves creating an integrated system-of-systems to apply force with significantly greater precision, less risk, and increased effectiveness. Space systems support this precise application of force by providing highly accurate command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for use by precision-guided munitions.


Space systems have played an important role in every recent crisis or conflict where U.S. forces were engaged. The combination of space-based navigation, weather information, communications, reconnaissance, and surveillance has provided critical support to deployed U.S. forces.

Table 28
FY 1997 Space-Based Forces

Satellite Systems

On-Orbit (Primary Mission Capable)
Defense Support Program Missile Warning *
Global Positioning System Navigation 24
Nuclear Detonation Detection System Nuclear Detonation Detection 24
Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Weather and Environmental Monitoring 2
Defense Satellite Communications System Communications 5
Milstar Communications 2
Fleet Satcom System Communications 4
UHF Follow-On Communications 5
* Data is classified.

The first Small Tactical Terminals, providing direct weather satellite imagery at the tactical level, were fielded in Korea and Bosnia in 1996. The remaining terminals, approximately 180, will be deployed at a rate of 10 per month, beginning in early 1997. Timely receipt of high-resolution weather data addressed a shortfall noted in Operation Desert Storm and has enabled field commanders to better use weather data to exploit U.S. technical advantages over an adversary.

To enhance their contributions to U.S. military operations, space forces have been integrated into the joint and service exercise schedules, and United States Space Command components are actively engaged in supporting each combatant commander. Space systems directly enhanced military operations during a number of recent joint and coalition exercises, including Unified Endeavor, Ulchi Focus Lens, Eligible Receiver, Global Guardian, and Vigilant Overview. By fully integrating space capabilities into military operations, combatant commanders are better able to tailor their campaign planning and operations to more effectively employ available forces and achieve objectives at the least risk and cost.

Service Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) programs continue to leverage national space assets to better support the warfighter down to the tactical level by providing direct sensor-to-shooter information flow.


The DoD space force structure is comprised of constellations of satellites and their associated ground-based systems and facilities that ensure the ability to supply immediate support worldwide in four mission areas: space support, force enhancement, space control, and force application.

Space Support

The space support mission area involves operations to deploy and sustain military systems in space. This includes launching and deploying space vehicles, maintaining and sustaining spacecraft on orbit, and deorbiting and recovering space vehicles. The Eastern Range at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and the Western Range at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, are the nation's primary space launch facilities for expendable launch vehicles (ELVs). DoD employs the Space Shuttle, Pegasus, Taurus, Delta, Atlas, and Titan launch vehicles, as well as the Inertial Upper Stage and the Centaur Upper Stage to deliver payloads into orbit. The Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN) is the primary command, control, and communications support capability for DoD space systems. As a network of systems, it performs a multitude of functions: data processing, tracking, telemetry, satellite commanding, communications, and scheduling. The AFSCN has 15 worldwide fixed antennas, one transportable system, and two mission control nodes (one at Onizuka Air Force Station, California, and the other at Falcon Air Force Base, Colorado) designated as a common user network. The Naval Satellite Operations Center at Point Mugu, California, provides support for Navy satellite systems. As a backup, Air Force Transportable Mission Ground Stations can provide mobile command and control (C2) capabilities for certain DoD satellites.

Force Enhancement

The force enhancement mission area involves space combat support operations to improve the effectiveness of U.S. armed forces in all four operational media -- land, sea, air, and space -- as well as operations which support other national security, civil, and commercial users. This includes reconnaissance and surveillance, targeting, tactical warning and attack assessment, communications, navigation, and environmental monitoring. Space-based reconnaissance and surveillance systems support virtually all DoD activities. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), a combined activity of DoD and the Central Intelligence Agency, provides spaceborne assets needed to acquire intelligence worldwide for such purposes as monitoring arms control agreements, and supporting the planning and conduct of military operations. Through component TENCAP programs, selected national space systems are exploited by U.S. forces to provide tactical support to combatant commanders and operational forces.

DoD operates space and ground-based systems to provide the National Command Authorities (NCA) with timely, reliable, and unambiguous tactical warning and attack assessment data for force survival or retaliatory decisions against air, space, or ballistic missile threats. The Defense Support Program is a space-based infrared satellite system to detect and track missiles during the boost phase of flight and provide early warning to the NCA.

A network of ground-based radars provides detection, tracking, and warning of a ballistic missile attack against the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Europe. In addition, the Nuclear Detonation (NUDET) Detection System provides timely, reliable, and accurate detection, locational fixes, and yield readings of nuclear detonations for strike, damage, and attack assessments; force management; and test ban monitoring.

Space-based military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) systems provide communications services in support of numerous DoD and other U.S. government users. The Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) provides super high frequency secure voice and high data rate transmissions for worldwide military command and control, crisis management, relay of intelligence and early warning data, treaty monitoring, diplomatic and Presidential communications, and communications support for deployed tactical forces. DSCS also provides limited antijam worldwide connectivity for critical functions such as tactical warning and attack assessment and Emergency Action Message (EAM) dissemination for the NCA, Joint Staff, command centers, and other users.

The Milstar system provides extremely high frequency (EHF) voice and low to medium data rate transmissions for partial worldwide command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence support to the warfighting commanders in chief without reliance on a ground-based infrastructure, due to satellite crosslinks. Milstar provides antijam, survivable, and enduring connectivity for tactically deployed forces and carries EAMs and tactical warning and attack assessment information. This frees up critical DSCS capability for high capacity communications with forward-deployed forces and split-base operations.

The Fleet Satellite Communications and UHF Follow-On (UFO) systems provide ultra high frequency (UHF) and EHF communications for mobile forces, including fleet broadcast and EAM dissemination services and C2 of operational missions, contingency and crisis operations, and exercise support. Air Force UHF satellite communications packages perform these latter-stated functions as well as C2 to designated Single Integrated Operational Plan/nuclear-capable users for EAM dissemination, force direction, and force reporting. The last three UFO satellites will also host the military's Global Broadcast Service (GBS), providing high-bandwidth broadcasts directly to deployed forces. DoD is augmenting these dedicated MILSATCOM systems by leasing capacity on commercial communications satellites.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) provides all-weather, day/night, three dimensional positioning information and precise timing data to land-based, seaborne, and airborne U.S. and allied forces, as well as other national security, civil, and commercial users. GPS enhances force coordination, command and control, target mapping, target acquisition, flexible routing, and weapon delivery accuracy, especially at night and in adverse weather.

DoD employs a combination of military, civil, and commercial space systems to support its requirements for environmental monitoring. Civil and commercial land remote sensing systems provide multispectral imagery (MSI) of the earth in support of numerous DoD activities, as well as other national security activities. MSI data is a critical source for the production of maps, charts, and geodesy products. MSI products and data are used to support military planning and targeting, hydrography, counternarcotics operations, and monitoring arms control agreements. In addition, when it becomes operational, the GEOSAT Follow-On system will provide real-time oceanographic topographical data, such as wave heights, ocean currents, and fronts to naval users. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program collects and disseminates global visible and infrared cloud cover imagery and other meteorological, oceanographic, and solar-geophysical data in support of operational forces. DoD augments this dedicated military space system by using National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and international meteorological satellite systems.

Space Control

The space control mission area involves operations to ensure the ability of U.S. and friendly forces to exploit space, while limiting or denying an adversary's ability to exploit the medium for hostile purposes. This requires capabilities for the surveillance of space, protection, prevention, and negation. The Space Surveillance Network provides space object cataloging and identification, satellite attack warning, timely notification to U.S. forces of satellite flyover, space treaty monitoring, and scientific and technical intelligence-gathering. In addition, the Space Surveillance Network would provide targeting and damage assessment information in support of counterspace weapon system operations if such capabilities were deployed. DoD space systems are designed, developed, and operated to assure the survivability and endurance of their space mission capabilities in peace, crisis, and though appropriate levels of conflict commensurate with national security requirements. The survivability of DoD space systems is enhanced, as appropriate, through such protection measures as satellite proliferation, hardening, communications crosslinks, and communications security protection. Space prevention employs measures to prevent an enemy's use of data or services from U.S. and friendly space systems for purposes hostile to the United States. Space system negation to counter the ground- or space-based elements of an adversary's space system or its data linkages could be accomplished by various methods.

Force Application

The force application mission area involves operations to influence the course and outcome of conflicts, e.g., a space-based ballistic missile defense system. Research in this area is aimed at developing treaty compliant advanced follow-on technologies offering promise for improved performance in both tactical and strategic defenses as insurance against possible future threats. At this time, the DoD space force structure does not include any capabilities for power projection.


The Department's challenge is to operate, maintain, and modernize U.S. space forces to meet national security requirements while efficiently using allocated resources. Major improvements are being made in space transportation, space-based surveillance, communications, navigation, and remote sensing.

Space Transportation

Access to space is a key enabling capability for DoD to effectively use space. The current U.S. space launch systems differ only slightly from ballistic missiles developed during the 1950s and 1960s and have become increasingly costly to use. National Space Transportation Policy seeks to balance efforts to sustain and modernize existing launch capabilities with the need to invest in the development of improved future capabilities. DoD is the lead agency for the improvement and evolution of the current expendable launch vehicle (ELV) fleet, including the development of appropriate technology. The Department's objective for this effort is to reduce costs, while maintaining or improving capability, reliability, operability, responsiveness, and safety.

To implement this guidance, DoD has initiated an Evolved ELV (EELV) program to eventually replace current medium and heavy lift launch systems. The program is defining a new relationship with the launch industry that emphasizes a measured development effort. By using innovative methods, it hopes to allow U.S. industry a greater leadership role in free market access to space. The medium lift EELV could become operational as early as 2001, and the heavy lift version could become operational by 2003. Both would be based on a core system that would spawn a cost-effective family of vehicles. Current efforts to define the size and capabilities of future satellite architectures will more clearly define the need for medium and heavy lift versions of the EELV.

Although the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the lead agency for the development of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), DoD will work closely with NASA as it defines requirements and pursues technologies. The expertise at DoD labs on reusable technology will be a valuable asset to NASA as it develops the RLV. DoD investments will focus on technologies common to ELVs and the RLV. This technology investment will lead to improvements in evolved systems and ensures DoD-unique interests are explored in the RLV.

Space-Based Surveillance

DoD is proceeding with the development of a new constellation of infrared detection satellites to replace the Defense Support Program (DSP) satellites. The Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) provides initial warning of ballistic missile attack on the United States, its deployed force, or allies; it also has three additional missions -- missile defense, battlespace characterization, and technical intelligence. SBIRS will incorporate new technologies to enhance detection; improve reporting of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles; and provide mid-course tracking and discrimination data for National and Theater Missile Defense. The system consists of satellites in geosynchronous orbits (GEO), highly elliptical orbits (HEO), and low earth orbits (LEO), and an integrated, centralized ground station for all space elements that also consolidates all DSP operations in FY 1999. Together, the GEO and HEO constellations comprise the SBIRS HIGH architecture. The LEO is known as SBIRS LOW. The planned first launch of the HEO and GEO systems is in 2002. A May 1997 Defense Acquisition Board will review for approval documentation reflecting a new, accelerated baseline for a FY 2004 first LEO launch. Two competing demonstration programs of the SBIRS LOW alternative concepts are scheduled to fly risk-reduction satellites in FY 1999. Their objective is to mature the technology and to further investigate the contributions of infrared sensors in LEO to the overall mission.

Military Satellite Communications

Current Department of Defense planning has accentuated the increased tactical needs of U.S. armed forces for space-based communications. To meet these needs, the Department has refocused its ongoing and planned satellite communications efforts. In 1994, the Air Force began deployment of its Milstar satellite system, which reached its initial operational capability (IOC) with the launch of a second Milstar in 1995. As the Milstar constellation is deployed, strategic communication users will be transitioned from DSCS to the more secure Milstar system, significantly enhancing survivability, while at the same time freeing substantial tactical capability on DSCS. That capability will become more useful in the coming decade as older DSCS satellites are refurbished to provide greater on-orbit power, effectively doubling the capacity of that workhorse constellation. Future Milstar launches, near the turn of the century, will complete this worldwide strategic connectivity, and will also provide a robust, tactical, antijam, medium data rate capability for deployed ground and sea-based forces around the globe.

In 1996, the Department also embarked on a Global Broadcast Service (GBS) effort using the already planned UHF Follow-On (UFO) system as a host. The purpose of GBS is to leverage commercial direct broadcast capabilities on the high data rate link program needed to support the warfighter. Through streamlined planning and execution, the Department will have fielded, before the beginning of the next decade, a nearly worldwide high-data rate capability that will provide unprecedented access to national and theater information directly to the lowest echelon forces. GBS will be complemented by traditional two-way communications systems that, together, will allow the theater user to request and receive detailed imagery and intelligence products, mapping and geodesy information, and other time-sensitive data when and where it is needed.

With the deployment of the Milstar and UFO constellations, DoD will have completed the military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) architecture goal it established last decade. Even as it does, the Department has begun to work on the architecture it will use in the 21st century. This architecture, recently approved by the Joint Space Management board, takes a revolutionary approach to meeting growing satellite communications needs by taking advantage of the cost savings and capacity increases made possible by the next generation of commercial communications satellites. Within this new architecture, the Department will only pursue the development of a new communications system (i.e., advanced MILSATCOM) to meet its most stringent protected needs. All other needs will be met through the adoption of new commercial designs and technology, and the leveraging of developing personal communication systems. The lower costs and shorter schedules enabled by this approach ensure that MILSATCOM will be able to support the warfighter's vision for the next century of providing information dominance to deployed forces where and when they need it.

Navigation Satellites

The Global Positioning System (GPS) has become an invaluable asset to international civil and commercial users. In support of the National Global Positioning System Policy, the Department continues to work closely with civil agencies to enhance GPS's contribution to U.S. and allied civil and commercial users, while guarding against a breach in U.S. national security. With regard to the latter concern, DoD is continuing to perform analytical studies and limited testing on GPS signal protection to provide access to authorized users while denying its use to potential enemies on the battlefield. These efforts are key to the continuity of GPS operations in a hostile environment.

Recognizing this balance, in March 1996 the President approved a comprehensive national policy on the future management and use of GPS and related U.S. government augmentations. In it, he announced the government's intention to discontinue the use of Selective Availability, which provides increased accuracy only to authorized users, within a decade. The Department has proposed to Congress a plan for the effective maintenance of GPS services and has acquired the next block (Block IIF) of GPS satellites to sustain the constellation beyond the year 2000.

Remote Sensing

The President's decision to converge U.S. polar-orbiting operational environmental satellite systems will merge the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program and the NOAA Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite (POES) program, and capitalize on the technologies developed for NASA's Earth Observing System. An Integrated Program Office (IPO), led by NOAA, has been created for the planning, development, acquisition, management, technology transition, launch, and operation of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS). DoD is the lead agency responsible for supporting the IPO in NPOESS system acquisitions. As envisioned and directed by the National Performance Review, an objective of the program is to reduce the cost of acquiring and operating polar-orbiting environmental satellite systems, while continuing to satisfy military and civil operational requirements. In July 1996, the tri-agency NPOESS Executive Committee approved an Optimized Convergence Plan with an aggressive risk reduction effort. In March 1997, a Milestone I decision was made aiming toward delivery of the first spacecraft in FY 2007.

The NPOESS program is a three-satellite constellation which will enhance coverage and data availability to U.S. and allied forces. A NOAA-led team that includes DoD and NASA is negotiating with the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites for provision of the third satellite of the three-satellite converged constellation. DoD is working closely with NOAA and NASA to ensure that NPOESS satisfies national security requirements.


DoD will continue to ensure that the United States maintains its lead in the operation and use of space forces, which are essential for the successful execution of National Security Strategy and National Military Strategy. National security space systems provide force multipliers that complement and enhance the capabilities of U.S. operational forces worldwide. The organizational, operational, and modernization initiatives planned for the coming years will ensure that DoD space forces retain the capability and versatility to accomplish their missions effectively and efficiently in support of U.S. national security objectives.

Table of Contents Top of Page