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America's Space Sentinels: DSP Satellites and National Security Paperback – April, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


"From the beginning with the MIDAS program to the present-day DSP system, Richelson provides a wealth of new information." -- Journal of American History

"Highly recommended." -- The Intelligencer

"Richelson's outstanding study merits a wide readership and is highly recommended. All levels." -- Choice

From the Back Cover

"This is far and away the most comprehensive account of the MIDAS/DSP program that exists--and I can't imagine it will be superseded soon. It will certainly become the book on the subject of early warning satellites." --Gregg Herken, author of Cardinal Choices: Presidential Science Advising from the Atomic Bomb to SDI

"A fascinating report on a little-known type of military satellite that still has a vitally important ongoing mission to deter ballistic missile attacks by 'rogue states' against the United States and its allies."--Philip J. Klass, author of Secret Sentries in Space and former senior editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology

"A very significant contribution in the field of intelligence studies that should attract a diverse readership among persons interested in Cold War and diplomatic history, national security issues, and the aerospace industry."--John Prados, author of Presidents' Secret Wars

"The definitive account, providing extraordinary details of the satellites and their ground control stations, as well as the bureaucratic politics that have shaped the development of the system."--Desmond Ball, author of The Transformation of Security of the Asia-Pacific Region

"Richelson knows more about these satellites than anyone outside the U.S. government--and probably more than most inside the U.S. intelligence community as well."--Robert Windrem, NBC Nightly News


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern War Studies
  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kansas (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700610960
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700610969
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,663,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on May 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Defense Satellite Program (DSP)-truly one of the most innocuous code names ever devised for a critical military program-arose in the earliest years of the space age as a means of detecting the launch of a rocket from anywhere in the world. With the development of ballistic missiles in the 1950s, for the first time in the history of the United States our two great oceans could not protect us from sustained attack and destruction. To warn against a Soviet ballistic missile attack, and thereby to allow time for the launch of a counterattack, the Department of Defense sponsored the development of satellites ringing the globe that would use infrared photographic technology to detect missile launches. The theory behind the system was that the heat signature from the rocket blast would be detected by satellites in space and then show up on infrared scopes at military monitoring posts. Through this process the time and place of launch, as well as the missile trajectory, could be ascertained within seconds of launch.
It was a brilliant concept but it took years for it to come to fruition. The first effort, Project MIDAS, experienced numerous technical problems, but finally reached a turning point in 1963 when MIDAS 7 detected the first missile launch from space. MIDAS confirmed the concept, and the DSP program, with first launch in 1970, has provided early warning of missile launches ever since. Through 1997 eighteen DSP satellites had been placed in orbit, not all of them operational of course at the same time.
Jeffrey T. Richelson's history of this program, "America's Space Sentinels," is an especially important and welcome addition to the literature of the military space program.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 3, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book gives an excellent overview of America's Missile Warning satellites, beginning with MIDAS in the 1960s and ending with SBIRS for the 21st Century. The information included in the text is more in-depth that the fact sheets given out by the United States Air Force.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Joseph T. Page II on February 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Dr. Jeff Richelson has provided some of the greatest reads dealing with United States military satellite systems - "America's Secret Eyes in Space", "The US Intelligence Community", and now "America's Space Sentinels." This book covers the genesis and evolution of the US' space-based missile warning system, commonly known as DSP, or defense support program. Dr. Richelson takes us through the teething of MIDAS, Program 646, and DSP's early predecessors, in addition to its successors of ALERT and SBIRS.

One high point in the text is the information on SCUD missile launches during Operation Desert Storm. While the news media reported bits and pieces on the launches, Dr. Richelson gives us a "bird's eye" view of what crews in Colorado saw half-a-world away, and what their contribution did to the defense of the US troops in the desert.

The only downside to this book is its currency - This is a volume in definite need of updating due to the bringing online of the SBIRS constellation, the battles fought during the Clinton era about space systems and emerging technologies that have DSP/SBIRS ready for the scrap-heap. If you're a military space-nut like me, this needs to be in your library.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jose M. Lopez on July 8, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I worked the DSP program on crew and as an engineer for almost a decade, on Air Force active duty and as a reservist. This is one of the best and most accurate description of a superb program. Although the author does not describe all of the DSP accomplishments -- many are still classified -- he writes an excellent review of the unclassified ones. I highly recommend this book. There is one warning, I have seen the book with two different titles by the same author. I bought both and the books are identical. So I gave it as a present to a DSP comrade.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, this history is marred by a complete lack of reference to a most critical period in DSP's development--the DoD-level review and decision, in 1979-1980, to enhance the DSP satellite and ground systems, upgrading to DSP-1(Sat 14 thru Sat 23) configuration rather than implementing a staring sensor technology.
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