Home >> July 2008 Edition >> ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE: No Secrets From Satellites

by Dr. Len Losik
Founder and President
Failure Analysis

Today, satellites provide essential services to the public and the military environs. Those services include communications, navigation, weather, and scientific information, which has raised the standard of living and daily use of technology in the United states to the highest level in the world.

As air and space-based reconnaissance has uncovered threats to world peace, countries around the world have moved critical assets deep underground, outside the view and range of air and space reconnaissance satellites. These underground assets have been undetectable—until now! Many peace-loving nations are concerned that some countries are hiding their weapons of mass destruction deep underground.

Satellite technologies from the military and NASA weather satellite programs (DMSP and NOAA) have been married to develop satellite position information incorporating Global Positioning System (GPS) and the signal intelligence from telemetry prognostic technology developed by Failure Analysis. Failure Analysis proposed DUMSTR to the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The DUMSTR mission is to provide the information necessary to identify underground government, civil, and military assets, at any depth. The NRO has now started the development of DUMSTR.

In the 1960’s, the military was confronted with developing and maintaining plans to land troops anywhere in the world. The NRO developed the defense, mapping satellite program (DMSP). This was the first satellite-based, low-earth-orbit (LEO) weather mapping satellite to provide tactical information to troops when deployment to any global location became necessary.

In today’s global condition, expanding the information available to our military forces to include the location of threatening facilities located underground is important. The operational DUMSTR matrix consists of a 10 x 10 matrix of satellites in low earth orbit that can identify underground facilities that have been, until now, invisible. In-orbit spares will be available in the event of a satellite failure. The matrix will use more than 100 active satellites to generate the information to identify underground facilities.

Each DUMSTR satellite will orient itself in space and remain at fixed distances from each of the other satellites, at distances from 10 ft to 500 ft. This means the matrix will shrink and expand, based on the need to map underground facilities.

The DUMSTR satellites will map underground to a depth of 50,000 ft. The design driver for DUMSTR satellites’ size will be the on-board fuel necessary to maintain each satellite’s attitude and repositioning. The large number of DUMSTR satellites needed may provide, for the first time, a user for in-orbit refueling services. NASA pioneered these services for use for the International Space Station (ISS) in the 1980’s.

Early NASA concepts for the space station incorporated in-orbit refueling for commercial, communications, geostationary satellites, all due to the large number of satellites used in geostationary orbit. DUMSTR propellant tanks are expected to be the largest ever used in space. The many giant geostationary communications satellites use bi-propellant rocket fuel, carrying both oxidizer and fuel, to avoid using a solid rocket motor for apogee injection.

These are excellent candidates for DUMSTR. Using satellite technology from DMSP and GPS, each DUMSTR satellite will use a 3-axis controlled, 0-momentum biased, attitude control system, side-mounted radar, in a satellite in a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The program is planned to be long term and will use several hundred satellites during its 30 year planned program life. As more information is available, minimizing the advantages for locating military assets underground, DUMSTR underground mapping technology is expected to be replaced.

Other large constellations of satellites used for dual civil and military access include the first navigation program by Applied Physics Laboratory called TRANSIT, the National Research Laboratory TIMATION, GPS, and INTELSAT. These programs rely on the same technology DUMSTR satellites will use.

DUMSTR will provide an opportunity for satellite builders to produce satellites on an assembly line in much the same way automobiles are created. With almost 100 satellites proposed in the initial operational constellation, DUMSTR will be the first satellites to be mass-produced.

Originally, GPS satellites were seen as the first opportunity to mass-produce satellites as the system will require more than 50 satellites during its 10-year mission life. Satellite builders were originally told by the Air Force to propose mass production. After the operational GPS constellation was filled, the Air Force decided to award replacement satellites only a few at a time. New services and technology were added when such became available or were needed, which forced satellite bidders to maintain low prices.

DUMSTR will need to quickly launch more than 100 satellites for the final operational matrix. This will stretch current launch vehicle capacity—DUMSTR will be compatible with the space shuttle, ATLAS V and DELTA 4 rockets, making all available as large launch vehicles.

If DUMSTR satellites are built soon, the space shuttle may get a reprieve from its scheduled operational halt in 2010. The space shuttle could launch four DUMSTR satellites, simultaneously. The number of DUMSTR satellites needed to be launched quickly will certainly provide the needed incentive to produce a launch vehicle tailored to the DUMSTR dimensions and weight, just as the DELTA 2 rocket was designed to launch GPS Block II satellites. As DMSTR satellites will use many, well proven satellite technologies, material costs will be similar for any satellite builder. The non-recurring design engineering (NRE) costs are also low, meaning costs can be spread across many satellites.

Non-recurring design costs are often the reason many builders do not bid on large programs. Low cost, current suppliers of satellites for NASA and military missions are obvious suppliers for DUMSTR satellites. However, the large size and high number of satellites needed for DUMSTER will enable many other builders of small and large, complex geostationary and medium earth orbit satellite builders to become viable bidders.

DUMSTR will also provide geodesy science data. Geodesy, also called geodetics, is a branch of earth sciences that measures and offers representation of the Earth, including its gravitational field, in 3D, time-varying space. GPS satellite positioning information has been a great boon to geodetics. In addition to the Earth's gravitational field, geodesists also study geodynamical phenomena such as crustal motion, tides, and polar motion. DUMSTR will identify plate tectonics movement—this may well suggest that earthquake prediction is just around the corner. DUMSTR satellites will also measure the growth of lava chambers that are thought to cause earthquakes in seismically active areas.

About the author
Dr. Len Losik is President and founder of Failure Analysis and has designed many of the nations largest and advanced satellites and launch vehicles while working at all major U.S. aerospace companies. Dr. Losik will be presenting papers at the NSS ISDC 2008, AIAA Space 2008, and ITC 2008 conferences. He can be contacted at lenlosik@failureanalysisco.com and the Failure Analysis' web site is at www.failureanalysisco.com