Snapshots of Space Modernization

Jan. 1, 2000

Data sheets that follow are snapshots of 17 key Air Force space programs–experiments, development, production, sustainment, and upgrades. The list is not all-inclusive. It is based on the official Air Force Handbook for the 106th Congress and other Air Force and company documents, current as of Nov. 1, 1999.

Atlas II Launch Vehicle

Medium-weight spacelift provides access to space to deliver essential Defense Satellite Communications System and other capabilities.


Status: operational, production.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Rocketdyne, Pratt & Whitney, Honeywell, Marconi.

Inventory: N/A.

Upgrades: IIA and IIAS.


Range: 6,100 pounds to Geosynchronous Earth Orbit.

Length: up to 156 feet.

Diameter: 10 feet.

Weight: 414,000 pounds.


Will be supplanted by Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.

Delta II Launch Vehicle

Medium-weight spacelift provides access to space to deliver essential Global Positioning System capabilities.


Status: operational, production, last five procured Fiscal 1999.

Contractors: Boeing, Rocketdyne, Aerojet, Alliant.

Inventory: 28 purchased.

Upgrades: none planned.


Range: 4,120 pounds to Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.

Length: up to 125 feet.

Diameter: 8 feet.

Fairing Diameter: 9.5 feet.

Weight: 511,190 pounds.


Placement accuracy–apogee: 12,636 miles (+24 miles).

Placement accuracy–perigee: 116 miles (+0.9 miles).

Placement accuracy–inclination: 39.0 degrees (+0.0 degrees).

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle

Medium- to heavyweight spacelift to meet lift requirements for DoD, national, and civil users. Vehicles will replace current Delta, Atlas, and Titan space launch vehicles during Fiscal 2002-20.


Status: engineering and manufacturing development.

Contractors: Boeing (Delta IV), Lockheed Martin (Atlas V).

Inventory: 28 purchased. First government medium launch Fiscal 2002; government heavy launch Fiscal 2003; commercial launch Fiscal 2001.

Upgrades: N/A.


Variants: Delta IV Medium/Heavy; Atlas V Medium/Heavy.

Delta IV Range: (Medium) 9,100 pounds to GTO; (Heavy) 29,100 pounds to GTO.

Atlas V Range: (Medium) 18,900 pounds to Low Earth Orbit; (Heavy) 42,000 to LEO.

Delta IV Length: 235 feet.

Atlas V Length: 89.3 feet.

Delta IV Diameter: (Medium) 13 feet, (Heavy) 16.7 feet.

Atlas V Diameter: 12.5 feet.

Delta IV Weight: 565,000 pounds-1.6 million pounds.

Atlas V Weight: 734,850 pounds-1.2 million pounds.


Launch savings of $5 billion-$10 billion through 2020.

Competition for life of program.

Payload interface standard by class for all.

Reliability rate of 98 percent.

Space Maneuver Vehicle

Conceptual space vehicle for aircraft-like space operations with high responsiveness, on-orbit flexibility, and maneuverability. Could be launched from expendable booster, reusable booster, or space shuttle. Work undertaken in conjunction with NASA.


Status: technology demonstration.

Contractor: Boeing.

Inventory: TBD.

Upgrades: N/A.


Altitude: LEO to GTO.

Length: 25 feet.

Weight: 12,000 pounds gross liftoff weight.

Payload Capacity: 1,200 pounds.

Mission Duration: up to 6 months.


Perform significant orbital maneuvers from LEO, including transfer to GTO and aero-assisted orbital plane changes of more than 10 degrees.

Loiter on orbit for up to six months, then return to US for refit and redeployment.

Deployment, repositioning, and on orbit service and recovery of satellites.

Support of Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance missions by maneuvering ISR payloads and reconfiguring constellations for optimal coverage.

Rendezvous with and inspection of satellites.

Titan IV Launch Vehicle

Heavyweight spacelift capability to deliver nation’s highest priority satellites–Defense Support Program, Milstar, and National Reconnaissance Office satellites–into orbit.


Status: operational, production.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Alliant, Aerojet, Honeywell.

Inventory: 40 purchased, 25 launched.

Upgrades: none planned.


Range: 12,700 pounds to GEO.

Length: up to 204 feet.

Diameter: 10 feet.

Fairing Diameter: 16.7 feet.

Weight: 2.2 million pounds.


USAF’s largest, most powerful expendable launch vehicle.

Operational success rate 95 percent plus.

Advanced EHF Satellite Communications System

Extremely High Frequency communications spacecraft that will replace Milstar system and provide additional capabilities.


Status: demonstration-validation (development).

Contractors: Hughes, TRW.

Inventory: five in development, none on orbit.

Upgrades: N/A.


Coverage 24 hours a day between 65 degrees north and south.

Anti-jam protection for users exposed to fixed and mobile jammers.

Nuclear protection for networks supporting critical functions.

Provides ability to plan, control, and reconfigure resources.

Supports joint warfighter communications among EHF terminals.


Low probability of interception/detection.

High data rate.

Defense Meteorological Satellite Program

Provides capability, through all levels of conflict, to collect and disseminate visible and infrared cloud data and other meteorological, oceanographic, and space environment data.


Status: operational, sustainment.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Northrop Grumman, Hughes.

Inventory: five on orbit, one more planned.

Upgrades: solid-state data recorders.


Satellite mean mission duration: 39 months.

Primary sensor global resolution: 2.78 kilometers.

Theater Resolution: 0.56 kilometers.


Senses surface and atmospheric radiation in visible, infrared, and microwave bands.

Flies instruments that measure space environmental parameters.

Broadcasts critical regional data directly to user terminals in theater to support tactical missions.

Global data is downloaded to processing centers.

Defense Satellite Communications System

Nuclear-hardened, jam-proof satellite backbone of MILSATCOM system, providing secure and high data rate superhigh frequency communications.


Status: operational.

Contractor: Lockheed Martin.

Inventory: 10 on orbit, four in development.

Upgrades: service life enhancement plan.


28 channels on five satellites.


Worldwide, responsive wideband, and anti-jam satellite communications supporting strategic and tactical C3I requirements.

Defense Support Program

Infrared satellite system that provides global coverage and warning of ballistic missile launches, nuclear detonations, and other events.


Status: operational.

Contractors: TRW, Aerojet.

Inventory: classified number on orbit, four in storage.

Upgrades: transition to Space Based Infrared System begins in Fiscal 2002.


Classified number of GEO satellites.


Near real-time detection and reporting of missile launches against US or allied forces, interests, and assets worldwide.

Near real-time detection and reporting of endoatmospheric (0-50 kilometers), exoatmospheric (50-300 kilometers), and deep space (more than 300 kilometers) detonations worldwide.

Other classified parameters.

Discoverer II Program

Planned on-orbit demonstration of technologies that will permit acquisition of radar surveillance satellites for tactical surveillance and targeting.


Status: technical demonstration, concept definition.

Contractors: TBD.

Inventory: Fiscal 2003-04 demo, two satellites and tactical ground station planned. Eventual constellation of 24.

Upgrades: N/A.


Orbit: two satellites, LEO, 770 kilometers altitude.

Payload: phased-array radar for ground moving target indicator, imagery, and precision digital terrain elevation data.

Tasking: direct downlink.

Operations: day/night, all-weather capable.


Two Discoverer II satellites are not operational prototypes but will have technology legacy in operational system.

MILSATCOM Polar System

Satellite that provides secure, survivable communications, supporting peacetime, contingency, and wartime operations in North Pole region.


Status: engineering and manufacturing development.

Contractors: classified.

Inventory: one on orbit, two in development.

Schedule: polar 2 Fiscal 2003 launch, Polar 3 Fiscal 2004.

Upgrades: N/A.


Coverage of North Pole region 24 hours/day.

Milstar-compatible low data rate service.

EHF packages on three classified host satellites.

Supports independent submarine operations, maritime task force operations, special operations forces, strategic force reconnaissance, single integrated operations plan, tactical warning/attack assessment, and intelligence collection/dissemination activities.


Milstar-type data rates.

Low probability of interception/detection.

Anti-jam protection.

Anti-scintillation protection.

MILSATCOM Wideband System

Global Broadcast System satellite provides efficient, high data rate broadcast between many distributed information sources and warfighters using small, inexpensive terminals. Wideband Gap-filler is an interim replacement of current DoD wideband communication satellites. Advance Wideband is a DSCS follow-on, continuation of Gap-filler Ka service, and new GBS Phase 3.


Status: GBS Phase 2 Milestone 2, Wideband Gap-filler first launch Fiscal 2004, Advanced Wideband first launch Fiscal 2008.

Contractor: Raytheon (GBS Phase 2).

Inventory: two GBS-2 on orbit, one GBS-2 in development.

Upgrades: Wideband Gap-filler and Advanced Wideband systems.


Coverage: 65 degrees south to 65 degrees north.



Milstar Satellite Communications System

Satellite system that provides commanders assured, worldwide C2 for tactical and strategic forces.


Status: operational, engineering and manufacturing development.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Hughes, TRW.

Inventory: two Block I on orbit, four Block II in development.

Upgrades: new mission control facilities to support medium data rate operations.


Anti-jam capability.


Low probability of interception/detection.


Protected communications at low and medium data rates.

National Polar Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System

Remote sensing satellite that acquires environmental imagery and specialized meteorological, oceanographic, climatic, land surface, space environmental, and other data supporting DoD and civil missions.


Status: program definition and risk reduction.

Contractors: TRW, Hughes, Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace, Orbital Sciences, ITT, Saab Ericsson.

Inventory: none on orbit, five in development.

Upgrades: TBD.


Uses instruments to sense surface and atmospheric radiation in visible, infrared, and microwave bands.

Flies an instrument suite that measures space environmental parameters.


Measures 61 distinct environmental parameters such as soil moisture, cloud levels, sea ice, ionospheric scintillation, and more.

Navstar Global Positioning System

Constellation that provides highly accurate time and three-dimensional position and velocity information to unlimited number of users anywhere on or above Earth, in any weather.


Status: operational, sustainment.

Contractors: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, North American.

Inventory: 27 operational satellites.

Upgrades: modernization, second civil signal, user equipment upgrades, Navwar.


Constellation: 24+ satellites.

Altitude: 10,898 miles.


Standard positioning service accuracy: 100 meters.

Precise positioning service: 16 meters.

Timing: 100 nanoseconds. User accuracy dependent on receiver type and number of satellites acquired.

Space Based Infrared System

Proposed High and Low infrared system that fulfills needs for missile warning, missile defense, technical intelligence, and battlespace characterization.


Status: engineering and manufacturing development (High); program definition (Low).

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, TRW, Raytheon, Boeing.

Inventory (planned): five GEO satellites (High), 27 LEO satellites (Low).


Missile warning-North America and theater.

Theater missile defense.

National missile defense.

Battlespace characterization.

Technical intelligence.


Provides enhanced capabilities necessary to combat evolving theater and ballistic missile threats.

Space Based Laser

Conceptual space-based weapon that would provide effective, continuous, boost-phase interception for theater and national missile defense, as well as global surveillance, target designation, and space and air defense.


Status: technology experiment.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, TRW, Boeing.

Inventory: TBD.

Upgrades: N/A.


Satellites: 30 (proposed).

Altitude: 1,000 kilometers.

Range: more than 3,000 kilometers.

Length: TBD.

Weight: less than 48,400 pounds.

Magazine: 100 shots.


Highly automated battle management capability with assured human control.

Negation of enemy missiles within minutes.

Provide impact point predictions.

Provide data to support accurate kill assessment reports.

Perform launch point detection of missiles by using onboard sensors within a defined focus area or by using cued data.