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Quasar 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 (SDS-3 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Satellite Data System (SDS) spacecraft are communication relay satellites for transmitting real-time data from US reconnaissance satellites (e.g. KH-11) in polar areas. They are also used for communications to USAF aircraft on polar routes and connect the various ground stations of the Air Force Satellite Control Network (AFSCN). The spacecraft relay the downlinked data to a ground station at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

These satellites are the third generation of the system, the SDS-3. Some of them (#12, #15, #16) are in highly elliptical Molniya orbits, but the other (#13, #14, #17, #18, #19) have a geostationary position. Unlike the Trumpet Follow On SIGINT satellites, the SDS-3 satellites are not placed directly into the Molniya orbit, but use a lower apogee transfer orbit. The replensihment of the Molniya-orbit constellation appears to have ended with the 2007 launch.

The code-name QUASAR has been confirmed by leaked budgets in 2013 to be associated with these satellites.

Note: The numbering is not sure, as it is not confirmed, how many first generation Quasar were launched. Possibly Quasar 12 could be part of the Quasar second generation/a>.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Comsat / Relay, early warning
Operator: NRO
Contractors: ?
Equipment: ?
Configuration: ?
Propulsion: ?
Mass: ?
Orbit: Molniya Orbit (#12, #15, #16), GEO (#13, #14, #17, #18, #19)
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
Quasar 12 (SDS-3 1, USA 137, NROL 5) 1998-005A 29.01.1998 CC SLC-36A Atlas-2A
Quasar 13 (SDS-3 2, USA 155, NROL 10) 2000-080A 06.12.2000 CC SLC-36A Atlas-2AS
Quasar 14 (SDS-3 3, USA 162, NROL 12) 2001-046A 11.10.2001 CC SLC-36B Atlas-2AS
Quasar 15 (SDS-3 4, USA 179, NROL 1) 2004-034A 31.08.2004 CC SLC-36A Atlas-2AS
Quasar 16 (SDS-3 5, USA 198, NROL 24) 2007-060A 10.12.2007 CC SLC-41 Atlas-5(401)
Quasar 17 (SDS-3 6, USA 227, NROL 27) 2011-011A 11.03.2011 CC SLC-37B Delta-4M+(4,2)
Quasar 18 (SDS-3 7, USA 236, NROL 38) 2012-033A 20.06.2012 CC SLC-41 Atlas-5(401)
Quasar 19 (SDS-3 8, USA 252, NROL 33) 2014-027A 22.05.2014 CC SLC-41 Atlas-5(401)