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Quill
Part of WS-117 Family
Quill
Quill
Quill
American surveillance radarsat. First test of a side-looking radar from outer space. The mission lasted only four days, as planned, delivering by radio link and a reentry capsule imagery with a resolution of 4 m over an area of 100,000 square kilometers. Reconnaissance, Radar (Tape return type) satellite built by Lockheed, Goodyear, Environmental Research Institute of Michigan for NRO, USA. Launched 1964.

AKA: P-40. Status: Operational 1964. First Launch: 1964-12-21. Last Launch: 1964-12-21. Number: 1 . Gross mass: 1,250 kg (2,750 lb).

The project originated in the fall of 1961 when Colonel William King, on the Special Projects staff of SAMSO, took up the possibility of launching a proof-of-concept synthetic aperture radar satellite. Major David Bradburn, with prior experience in airborne SAR systems, was selected to head the effort. A goa-ahead was given by NRO Director Joseph Charyk in mid-November 1962. Moving with the alacrity customary in those days, contracts were awarded by the end of the same month to Lockheed for the space vehicle, Goodyear for the radar, and a still-classified contrator for the optical correlator. The goal was to see if such a satellite was feasible, and understand technical issues of a spaceborne system. Therefore the radar itself was a stripped-down 170-kg version of Goodyear's AN/UPQ-102 pulse doppler system used on the Navy's RF-4C reconnaissance aircraft. Changes were made (such as potting of components, heat-sink cooling, and improved inspection) to suit the system for operation in a vacuum. First test of a side-looking radar from outer space. The spacecraft was designed for 96 hours of operation, with 5 minutes of radar imaging per orbit. Only areas on the continental United States would be imaged, in order to provide ground truth verification, and avoid any political or intelligence issues.

The basic Corona optical reconnaissance satellite bus was modified to accomodate the radar electronics. The antenna, produced in Lockheed's own machine shop, was protected by fairing jettisoned after burnout of the Thor first stage. Data from the radar could be broadcast to ground stations using a UHF wide-band link. Data was also recorded on film using a Westinghouse cathode ray tube. The 40-kg worth of film would be loaded into a reentry capsule, as on the basic Corona missions, and returned to earth at the midpoint of the mission. There were delays during development due to the radar transmitter failing in altitude tests, but the vehicle was finally ready for launch eight months later than originally planned, but still only two years after go-ahead.

The mission was launched on 21 December 1964 and lasted four days, as planned, before the batteries ran out of power during orbits 72-73. The radar operated 14 times in orbit, between 22 and 26 December, imaging swaths of the northeastern and western United States. Data collected from the 14 radar passes were transmitted over a wide-band (UHF) data link as they were obtained ("real time") to the Vandenberg or New Boston ground station in view. In addition, during the first seven radar passes data were recorded on film on board the satellite, and on 23 December, during the 33rd orbit, the reentry capsule was jettisoned and recovered. The vehicle and payload performance were within acceptable limits on all parameters. The radar maps covered about 80,000 square miles (200,000 square km) and the resolution was better than 3 m in azimuth and 20 m in ground range. The mission, not declassified until 2012, proved the feasibility of space-based surveillance, leading to the operational Lacrosse satellites of the 1980's.


More at: Quill.

Country: USA. Engines: Bell 8096. Launch Vehicles: Thor, Thor SLV-2A Agena D. Launch Sites: Vandenberg SLC2E. Bibliography: 12994.

1964 December 21 - . 19:08 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC2E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor SLV-2A Agena D.
  • OPS 3762/Agena D 2355 - . Mass: 1,500 kg (3,300 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO, USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: Quill. Duration: 4.00 days. Decay Date: 1965-01-11 . USAF Sat Cat: 964 . COSPAR: 1964-087A. Apogee: 264 km (164 mi). Perigee: 238 km (147 mi). Inclination: 70.1000 deg. Period: 89.50 min.

    First test of a side-looking radar from outer space. The mission lasted only four days, as planned, before the batteries ran out of power during orbits 72-73. The radar operated 14 times in orbit, between 22 and 26 December, imaging swaths of the northeastern and western United States. Data collected from the 14 radar passes were transmitted over a wideband (UHF) data link as they were obtained ("real time") to the Vandenberg or New Boston ground station in view. In addition, during the first seven radar passes data were recorded on film on board the satellite, and on 23 December, during the 33rd orbit, the reentry capsule was jettisoned and recovered. The vehicle and payload performance were within acceptable limits on all parameters. The radar maps covered about 80,000 square miles and the resolution was better than 15 feet in azimuth and 80 feet in ground range. The mission, not declassified until 2012, proved the feasibility of space-based surveillance, leading to the operational Lacrosse satellites of the 1980's.



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