Because of the greatly reduced threat of nuclear war in the post-Cold War era, Congress directed DoD in the fall of 1990 to restructure the Milstar program (now designated Milstar 2) to emphasize its utility for tactical military forces and to reduce system costs. The system's survivability and endurability features and constellation size also were reduced. The first Milstar-2 satellite, scheduled for launch in FY 1999, will carry a medium-data-rate (MDR) payload. A complete constellation of LDR and MDR satellites would be achieved with the launch of the fourth Milstar 2 satellite. Replenishment of the four-satellite Milstar-2 constellation would occur between FY 2006 and FY 2009, with the exact launch dates to be determined by actual satellite longevity. Under the plan developed by the Bush Administration, nine Milstar 2 satellites would have been purchased through FY 2011, including a spare satellite planned for delivery in FY 2003. Total expenditures for the Milstar program during FY 1994-99 would be almost $12 billion, including satellites and terminals. Milstar 2 satellites would weigh approximately 10,000 pounds and, consequently, would have to be launched on Titan 4 rockets-an expensive launching mode.(1)
Requirements for a classified payload were deleted. "Heroic" survivability features envisioned for the Cold War environment were eliminated. A higher-capacity Medium Data Rate payload was planned for the second generation Milstar 2 satellite, which expanded its tactical utility. This MDR payload will greatly increase communications capacity compared to the Low Data Rate capabilities on the initial Milstar I satellites. Use of both LDR and MDR will greatly enhance the utility of Milstar II satellites in a wide range of future potential scenarios. The restructured Milstar program also reduced the numbers of strategic terminals and defined new mobile terminals for tactical uses. It reduced program life cycle costs by 25 percent, FYDP [future years defense program] costs by 30 percent and terminal costs by 35 percent.(2)
The Medium Data Rate (MDR) payload (located on the underside of the right spacecraft wing) will be included on the fourth and subsequent Milstar communications satellites. The MDR payload will support 1.544 megabit channels that will be in addition to the 2.4 kilobit low data rate channels originally planned for Milstar satellites. The higher data rate of the MDR payload will enhance support to tactical users in the field. Other segments of the Milstar antenna suite include two crosslink antennas at the ends of the satellite wings. On the left wing are the helical Ultra High Frequency antennas, two of the three directional spot beam antennas (the third is hidden by the wing structure), and the box-shaped agile beam antennas. The large solar arrays generate power to operate the satellite.(3)
Failures within the Centaur upper stage software development, testing and quality assurance process led to a 30 April 1999 Titan IVB mission mishap that resulted in the loss of MILSTAR 3. Loaded with the incorrect software value, the Centaur lost all attitude control. The reaction control system of the upper stage attempted to correct for these errors and fired excessively until it depleted its hydrazine fuel. As a result, the Centaur went into a very low orbit and the MILSTAR 3 satellite separated from the Centaur in a useless orbit, with high and low points of 3,100 and 460 miles. Although Air Force and satellite contractor personnel at Schriever Air Force Base CO tried to save the mission, the Milstar satellite was declared a complete loss 04 May 1999.
MILSTAR 4 is slated for launch in the October-November 2000 timeframe, followed by the fifth in 2001 and sixth in 2002.
1. Department of Defense, Report on the Bottom Up Review, October 1993, pages 65-66.
2. Adapted from: Thomas P. Quinn (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence Acquisition), "Communications Satellites Changed for US Needs," Legislation and National Security Subcommittee of the House Government Operations Committee, 2 February 1994.
3. Adapted from: Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, " Tactical Support (artist's concept)," PRE 92-45, July 1992.