Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Space Event in a different way!

      This is a somewhat unknown story about  US's Bin Laden operation on Sunday.

      How many are aware that space technology had played a key role in this mission?

      Satellltes, both private and those of the military, provided data to the US intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, and helped planners of this mission to identify Osama Bin Laden's hidehout at Abottabad in Pakistan. It is absolutely clear that but for space technology, this mission would not have succeeded.

      The two main satellite systems which had played a major part in this operation were those of the Defence Satellite Communication Systems and Milstar short for Military Strategic and Tactical Relay.

      On Sunday, when action was in full swing at ground zero in Abottabad, the data was transmitted to the satellites, which in turn flashed the information to the situation room in White House allowing President Obama and his team of advisers to watch the drama unfold in real time.

      The satellites also provided communication between ground zero and US military bases  The Navy Seal Team which carried out the attack wore helmets equipped with cameras which captured the action live and transmitted the images to the satellite which in turn flashed it to the Situation Room at the White House.

      They helped to corroborate the tip off from Humint.  The satellite imageries provided the US assault team a detailed view of Bin Laden's compound which were processed at the National Geo Spatial Intelligence Agency (NGSA), near Washington DC.

      The NGSA applied a range of geospatial intelligence (geoint) capabilities including imagery, geospatial and targeting analysis, along with image sciences and modelling which supplemented the data from the CIA and the National Security Agency. Through they were able to produce a mock up of the Bin Laden compound for rehearsing the attack.

      Let us first talk about the satellites of the Defence Satellite Communication System (DSCS). There are nearly 20 satellites under this system which provide military communication to American military bases across the globe.

      Designated as DSCS-3, these satellites have improved resistance to hostile activities such as jamming. The satellites beam signals to ground stations having a diameter ranging from 35 inches to 60 feet. Signals were broadcsst in six channels between 7250 and 8400 MHz. They also carry a single channel transponder which can be used to transmit emergency action messages from the American President to nuclear force.

      The DSCS-3 weighs 2580 pounds and it costs about dollars 100,000,000. The project is managed by the Air Force Space Command and the satellites are placed 22,300 miles above the equator in the geo synchronous orbit The solar arrays spanning 38 feet generate 1,100 watts of electricity..

       The satellites's communication sub system includes six independent radio frequency channels and what are known as jammer location electronics. According to the US Air Force. each satellite uses six super high frequency transponder channels.

       The system is built single and mutiple beam antennas that provide more flexible coverage than the earlier version of the satellites.

       The satellites provide secure military communication services in each of the five areas which are east Pacific, West Atlantic, East Atlantic, Indian Ocean and West Pacific. In all probability, the Bin Laden operation was a part of the Indian Ocean Region.

       The Milstar system consists of three segments. These are (1) the satellite, (2) ground terminal and users and (3) stations which command and control the satellites. Each satellite costs 800 million dollars having a design life of 10 years. They weigh 9,900 pounds and serve as a switchboard to direct traffic between the satellite and terminals on the earth.

      The Pentagon also obtained pics of the hideout from private space bodies like GeoEye and Digital Globe.

       It was truly a space event in a difference sense!


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