A Glossary of satellites from the 1950s to the early 21st century
Palladium was a project that measured Soviet radar sensitivity and operator skill by projecting a false radar return.
This return would appear as a ghost aircraft to lead the radar operators to believe that they had acquired a
PASS - Phased Array Subsystem
Pave Paws was an SLBM early warning radar at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts.
Penetration aids are fake warheads designed to increase the chances of a real warhead getting through a protection
system. (See MRV, MIRV).
The lowest point in the orbit of a satellite. (See Inclination, Apogee, Period).
The Period is the time required for a satellite to make one complete orbit. (See Inclination, Apogee,
This optical company produced high-resolution cameras for spy satellites. Perkin Elmer cameras were used in
the 4th Generation of US Recoverable Satellites, called "Big Bird," that were part of the Defense Support Program (DSP)
that began operation in 1970. The satellites were 50 feet long, 10 feet in diameter, weighed 25,000 pounds, and were
launched by heavy-lift Titan 3D/Agena boosters. In the commercial optics market, during this same time period, Perkin
Elmer is famous for manufacturing 600mm and 800mm catadioptric (mirror) lenses for 35mm cameras. These lenses were
unique because they used solid glass instead of separate mirrors, and were relatively short for their effective
focal length. The lenses were sold by Vivitar, a lens company, under the name "Vivitar Series 1."
A 1956 Lockheed project to build a reconnaissance satellite. It was also known as project WS-117L, and subsequently
named Pied Piper.
This is the launch of two electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites by one launch vehicle. One satellite is inserted
into a 300 mile orbit to intercept initial electronic intelligence and the other goes into a 75 mile orbit to intercept
detailed signal data.
Pine Tree Line
An early warning radar system built in 1952 in Canada to detect Soviet bombers.
Pine Gap, Australia
Pine Gap, on Australia's northwest cape, is 11 ½ miles southwest of Alice Springs. It was chosen as a data
collection and processing facility, called the Joint Defense Space Research Facility (JDSRF). It received signals
intelligence (SIGINT) data from the NRO's Rhyolite and KH-11 Keyhole SIGINT satellites in orbit over Borneo and the
Horn of Africa to intercept telemetry from Soviet and Chinese missile tests.
The code name for Pine Gap was Merino. The Pine Gap facility was completed in 1971, just prior to the launch of series
DSP 647 early warning satellites.
Although Pine Gap is in a location that allows reception of data from satellites that are outside of the reception
capability in the US, due to atmospheric and geographic phenomena, it is also a "window" for monitoring Russian HF
telemetry from launches in the area of the Caspian Sea. (See Exmouth Gulf).
Plesetsk Soviet Launch Facility
This launch facility was established by the Russians 600 miles north of Moscow in 1965 to provide a site for
due east and polar launches. The story of its discovery by the Allies has not been proven to be true, but it goes like
this: In 1965 the Kettering Grammar School in England had a science teacher, Geoffrey E. Perry, who taught his students
how to calculate satellite orbits by visually observing a satellite's path at night, then plotting it on a map. Using
the plot, the launch point could be determined. However, the launch point appeared to be from an area several hundred
miles north of Moscow where there was no known rocket activity at that time. The teacher turned his student's
calculations over to the government, and subsequent intelligence information proved that Plesetsk was an operational
launch facility. (See Tyuratam and Kapustin Yar entries in this Glossary).
Named for an 18th Century Russian prime minister, Grigori Potemkin, these were fake villages set up along the
Volga River to fool Catherine The Great into thinking that recently conquered lands were prosperous, and the war had
not been a waste of resources. As Catherine's boat moved passed a village and floated down the river, the village was
disassembled and moved down the river so that Catherine's boat would pass it again.
It is suspected that the Soviets used camouflage to hide missile silos and other weapons systems from US spy
satellites. However, infrared film can detect camouflage because it is sensitive to light frequencies below those of
visible light. For example, canvas painted green to look like grass will look different from grass in an infrared
This was a TRW satellite. Secrets of its design were sold to the Soviets by Boyce and Lee, who had also sold
TRW's Rhyolite secrets to the KGB. Argus was the follow-on to Rhyolite.
PROGNOZ is a Russian satellite system similar in concept to SBIRS. The US shares SBIRS data with Russia, and
Russia reciprocates by sharing its PROGNOZ data with the US. (See SBIRS).
Project West Ford
This was a communication test project consisting of 75 pounds of copper wire that was placed on board with
MIDAS 4. The satellite was launched October 21, 1961 from the Pacific Missile Range at Vandenberg Air Force
This was a project to measure the infrared plume of ICBMs and IRBMs following launch to calibrate the infrared
sensors on MIDAS satellites. The measurements were made by launching Nike Javlin rockets carrying infrared sensors.
Simultaneously, ICBM and IRBM missiles were launched to measure their infrared emissions.
Quill was a radar imagery satellite launched around 1968. It transmitted radar pulses that were reflected back
to the satellite. The resulting images were stored in the satellite.