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GRAB
Grab
Grab
First American military signals intelligence satellite, launched 1960-1962; not declassified until 1998. ELINT, Research satellite built by Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) for Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) / US Navy, USA. Launched 1960 - 1962.

AKA: Greb;Solrad;Tattletale. Status: Operational 1960. First Launch: 1960-04-13. Last Launch: 1962-04-26. Number: 6 . Gross mass: 18 kg (39 lb). Height: 0.51 m (1.67 ft).

The project was originally called "Tattletale," then renamed GRAB. Since the true nature of the satellite was supposed to not be apparent to the Russians, this was revised to GREB (the acronym Galactic Radiation Experimental Background was retroactively dreamed up to explain the name). To further muddy the waters the satellites were launched under the title SOLRAD (the cover purpose being to study solar radiation).

Work on GRAB began around the time of the first successful Vanguard launch. Reid Meyo of the Naval Research Laboratory Countermeasures Branch had developed an electronic intelligence antenna for submarine periscopes. At the same time NRL was seeking quick military exploitation of the Vanguard satellite that it had developed. Reid was sitting in a hotel restaurant in Pennsylvania one night and got the idea that they could simply put his periscope antenna in orbit aboard a Vanguard. The original calculations, in the best tradition of aerospace engineering, were done on the restaurant placemat.

GRAB's receivers were used to catalogue the waveforms and pulse repetition frequencies of Soviet air defense radars. GRABs were launched not by Vanguard rockets but as piggy-back or cluster payloads with other satellites. One inert dummy was used to prove the multiple satellite launching technique. Of five operational GRAB satellites, only two reached orbit and operated successfully. GRAB data was given by NRL to the Strategic Air Command and the National Security Agency (which may indicate communications were also intercepted).

Operational ELINT satellites were taken over by the NRO, and remain classified.

Electric System: 0.006 average kW.


More at: GRAB.

Family: Medium earth orbit, Military naval signals reconnsat, SIGINT, Surveillance. Country: USA. Launch Vehicles: Thor, Delta, Scout, Thor Ablestar, Scout X-2, Thor Agena D, Thor SLV-2A Agena D, Thor SLV-2 Agena D. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral LC17B, Vandenberg SLC2E, Vandenberg SLC1E, Vandenberg SLC2W, Vandenberg SLC5. Agency: NRL. Bibliography: 126, 2, 279, 280, 4, 6, 6538, 12517.
Photo Gallery

Solrad 1Solrad 1
Credit: Manufacturer Image



1960 April 13 - . 12:02 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Ablestar.
  • Dummy subsatellite - . Payload: GRAB dummy. Mass: 18 kg (39 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: GRAB. Decay Date: 1960-07-17 . USAF Sat Cat: 33 . COSPAR: 1960-Gamma-3. Apogee: 615 km (382 mi). Perigee: 285 km (177 mi). Inclination: 51.3000 deg. Period: 93.60 min. Mass model of GRAB ELINT satellite..

1960 June 22 - . 05:54 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Ablestar.
  • Solrad 1 - . Payload: Grab 1. Mass: 19 kg (41 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: GRAB. USAF Sat Cat: 46 . COSPAR: 1960-Eta-2. Apogee: 935 km (580 mi). Perigee: 596 km (370 mi). Inclination: 66.7000 deg. Period: 100.20 min.

    ELINT satellite, retransmitting to US ground stations signals from Soviet radar stations. Classified at time; official purpose and secondary payload collected solar radiation data. Officially: Spacecraft engaged in research and exploration of the upper atmosphere or outer space (US Cat B).


1960 November 30 - . 19:50 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Ablestar. FAILURE: Failure.
  • Solrad 2 - . Payload: Grab B. Mass: 18 kg (39 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: GRAB. ELINT satellite..

1961 June 29 - . 04:22 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Ablestar.
  • Solrad 3 - . Payload: Grab 2. Mass: 18 kg (39 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: GRAB. COSPAR: 1961-Omicron-xx. ELINT satellite, retransmitting to US ground stations signals from Soviet radar stations. Classified at time; official purpose and secondary payload collected solar radiation data..

1962 January 24 - . 09:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC17B. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Ablestar. FAILURE: Failure.
  • Solrad 4 - . Payload: Grab D. Mass: 18 kg (39 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: GRAB. ELINT satellite..

1962 April 26 - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC5. LV Family: Scout. Launch Vehicle: Scout X-2. FAILURE: Failure.. Failed Stage: U.
  • Solrad 4B - . Payload: Grab E. Mass: 91 kg (200 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USN. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: GRAB. Decay Date: 1962-04-26 .

    The first Scout vehicle (#111) was launched from Vandenberg AFB and carried the Navy's Solar Radiation (SOLRAD 4B) payload (which was actually the last classified Grab ELINT satellite). However, a third stage failure resulted in payload impact 225-NM downrange. Solar radiation monitor.



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