America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security

By Rich, Clifford E. | Aerospace Power Journal, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security


Rich, Clifford E., Aerospace Power Journal


America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security by Jeffrey T. Richelson. University Press of Kansas (http://www.kansaspress. ku.edu), 2501 West 15th Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66049-3905, 1999, 329 pages, $35.00.

Jeffrey T. Richelson, a senior fellow with the National Security Archive, has written several books on the American intelligence community and its means of data collection. His latest work, America's Space Sentinels, provides informative insight into the development and use of infrared (IR) satellite platforms and the lasting impact they continue to have on American national security. Readers who add this book to their personal libraries will find the more than 50 pages of endnotes and three appendices of data on the Defense Support Program (DSP) an invaluable baseline for further research on space-related topics. I was impressed that the author's style of writing effectively weaved history, geopolitics, and technical jargon in such a way that this work will appeal not only to people in the space and intelligence career fields but also to a cross section of operators, strategists, and engineers.

This book includes three distinct sections. Chapters one through five present the issues surrounding the deployment of DSP satellites and the vindication of the program's proponents. Chapters six through 10 cover the technical evolution and utilization of DSP satellites in response to changes in the geostrategic environment. Chapters 11 through 13 address the debate over DSP's potential successors. The author concludes the final section by presenting the future missions of DSP's replacement: the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS).

Richelson opens the book with the genesis of the cold war and the wealth of V-2 rocket data procured by the US Army from the German missile and research facility at Peenemunde, Germany. He then shifts gears to the post-sputnik debate over the viability of space-based early warning satellites as a more effective means of covering the emerging Soviet ICBM threat than ground-based radars. His focus then moves to the whirlwind of operational tests, congressional debate, contractor issues, and friction among senior defense leaders over the potential deployment of DSP's predecessor, the Missile Defense Alarm System. What makes this third chapter interesting are the parallels that one can draw to the recent controversy surrounding the proposed deployment of a national missile defense. The ensuing chapters cover events leading to the operational deployment of the DSP constellation and the stumbling blocks encountered along the way to meeting that realization.

The second section of the book addresses upgrades made to DSP satellite sensors over the years to accommodate changes in American doctrine and nuclear war-fighting strategies. …

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