Encyclopedia Astronautica
Rhyolite


American military naval signals reconnaisance satellite. 4 launches, 1970.06.19 (Rhyolite 1) to 1978.04.07 (Rhyolite 4).

Rhyolite geostationary signals intelligence satellites were positioned to intercept communications transmissions, especially line-of-sight microwave links, from the Soviet Union and China. For this purpose they were stationed in geosynchronous orbits over Indonesia. Other sources indicate that the primary mission was telemetry interception.

The project became unusually public as it was the key element in the espionage trial of the 'Falcon and the Snowman', Boyce and Lee. Rhyolite was also known as Program 720, Program 472, and Aquacade.

The primary downlink station was named Pine Gap, in isolated Alice Springs, Australia. This was to prevent Soviet or Chinese spies from intercepting the interceptions ... and then being able to determine which of their communications were being listened to. The signal streams received at Pine Gap would be encrypted, then beamed via another geosynchronous satellite to Fort Meade for code breaking and signal and traffic analysis.

AKA: Program 720; Program 472; Aquacade.
Gross mass: 700 kg (1,540 lb).
First Launch: 1970.06.19.
Last Launch: 1978.04.07.
Number: 4 .

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Atlas The Atlas rocket, originally developed as America's first ICBM, was the basis for most early American space exploration and was that country's most successful medium-lift commercial launch vehicle. It launched America's first astronaut into orbit; the first generations of spy satellites; the first lunar orbiters and landers; the first probes to Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn; and was America's most successful commercial launcher of communications satellites. Its innovative stage-and-a-half and 'balloon tank' design provided the best dry-mass fraction of any launch vehicle ever built. It was retired in 2004 after 576 launches in a 47-year career. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • Atlas The Atlas rocket, originally developed as America's first ICBM, was the basis for most early American space exploration and was that country's most successful medium-lift commercial launch vehicle. It launched America's first astronaut into orbit; the first generations of spy satellites; the first lunar orbiters and landers; the first probes to Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn; and was America's most successful commercial launcher of communications satellites. Its innovative stage-and-a-half and 'balloon tank' design provided the best dry-mass fraction of any launch vehicle ever built. It was retired in 2004 after 576 launches in a 47-year career. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • USAF American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. United States Air Force, USA. More...

Bibliography
  • McDowell, Jonathan, Jonathan's Space Home Page (launch records), Harvard University, 1997-present. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • JPL Mission and Spacecraft Library, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 1997. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • McDowell, Jonathon, "US Reconnaissance Satellite Programs Part 2", Quest, 1995, Volume 4, Issue 4, page 49.
  • Lockheed Martin Coporation, Atlas Family Fact Sheets, September 1998.. Web Address when accessed: here.

Associated Launch Sites
  • Cape Canaveral America's largest launch center, used for all manned launches. Today only six of the 40 launch complexes built here remain in use. Located at or near Cape Canaveral are the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, used by NASA for Saturn V and Space Shuttle launches; Patrick AFB on Cape Canaveral itself, operated the US Department of Defense and handling most other launches; the commercial Spaceport Florida; the air-launched launch vehicle and missile Drop Zone off Mayport, Florida, located at 29.00 N 79.00 W, and an offshore submarine-launched ballistic missile launch area. All of these take advantage of the extensive down-range tracking facilities that once extended from the Cape, through the Caribbean, South Atlantic, and to South Africa and the Indian Ocean. More...
  • Cape Canaveral LC13 Atlas launch complex. Originally built in 1958 for the Atlas ballistic missile program, Complex 13 supported 51 Atlas and Atlas/Agena launches from 1958 to 1978. More...

Rhyolite Chronology


1970 June 19 - . 11:37 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC13. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena D SLV-3A. LV Configuration: SLV-3A Agena D 5201A / Agena D 1551.
  • OPS 5346 - . Payload: AFP-720 Rhyolite 1. Mass: 700 kg (1,540 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; CIA. Class: Military. Type: Military naval signals reconnaisance satellite. Spacecraft: Rhyolite. USAF Sat Cat: 4418 . COSPAR: 1970-046A. Apogee: 33,685 km (20,930 mi). Perigee: 178 km (110 mi). Inclination: 28.2000 deg. Period: 588.90 min. Summary: First launch of Rhyolite geostationary ELINT satellite. Reportedly left in transfer orbit; other sources indicate a successful mission. Positioned in geosynchronous orbit over the Indian Ocean..

1973 March 6 - . 09:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC13. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena D SLV-3A. LV Configuration: SLV-3A Agena D 5202A / Agena D A 1552.
  • OPS 6063 - . Payload: AFP-720 Rhyolite 2. Mass: 700 kg (1,540 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; CIA. Class: Military. Type: Military naval signals reconnaisance satellite. Spacecraft: Rhyolite. USAF Sat Cat: 6380 . COSPAR: 1973-013A. Apogee: 35,855 km (22,279 mi). Perigee: 35,679 km (22,169 mi). Inclination: 0.2000 deg. Period: 1,435.10 min. Summary: Second launch of Rhyolite geostationary ELINT satellite..

1977 December 11 - . 22:45 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC13. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena D SLV-3A. LV Configuration: SLV-3A Agena D 5504A / Agena D A 1553.
  • OPS 4258 - . Payload: AFP-472 AQUACADE 3. Mass: 700 kg (1,540 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; CIA. Class: Military. Type: Military naval signals reconnaisance satellite. Spacecraft: Rhyolite. USAF Sat Cat: 10508 . COSPAR: 1977-114A. Apogee: 35,855 km (22,279 mi). Perigee: 35,679 km (22,169 mi). Inclination: 0.2000 deg. Period: 1,435.10 min. Summary: Third launch of Rhyolite geostationary ELINT satellite. Code name changed to Aquacade after Rhyolite name came out in trial of spy Boyce..

1978 April 7 - . 00:45 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC13. LV Family: Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Atlas Agena D SLV-3A. LV Configuration: SLV-3A Agena D 5505A / Agena D A 1554.
  • OPS 8790 - . Payload: AFP-472 AQUACADE 4. Mass: 700 kg (1,540 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO; CIA. Class: Military. Type: Military naval signals reconnaisance satellite. Spacecraft: Rhyolite. USAF Sat Cat: 10787 . COSPAR: 1978-038A. Apogee: 35,855 km (22,279 mi). Perigee: 35,679 km (22,169 mi). Inclination: 0.2000 deg. Period: 1,435.10 min. Summary: Fourth and final launch of Rhyolite geostationary ELINT satellite. Code name changed to Aquacade after Rhyolite name came out in trial of spy Boyce..

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