Mar 1, 1954
An analysis of the potential of an unconventional reconnaissance method is presented here — a method whereby inaccessible points on the earth may be viewed by television from a satellite orbiting at 300-mi altitude. The current code name for this project is "Feed Back."
Primarily, emphasis in the report is on reconnaissance utility, and results of interpretation of simulated satellite photographs are included. Secondarily, a typical example of hardware needed to accomplish such a task is shown with the hope that this will serve as a guide to future investigators. It is estimated that such an accomplishment will not require radically new technology or enormous cost. A rocket vehicle of 178,000-lb gross weight is indicated. Presently available propulsion, guidance, and television will suffice. It is believed that complete development and initial operation can be accomplished in about 7 years for a cost of the order of $165 million. This cost figure is believed to be reliable within a factor of two.
The over-all conclusion to be drawn from studies of simulated satellite television pictures is that reconnaissance data of considerable value can be obtained, and that complete coverage of Soviet territory with such pictures will result in a major reversal of our strategic intelligence posture with respect to the Soviets.
RAND has been working on the satellite vehicle for 8 years. During this period the metamorphosis from a feasibility concept to a useful reconnaissance purpose has occurred. Cognizance is now being turned over to the Air Force with the recommendation that the program be continued on a full-scale basis.