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DSCS-3 (Defense Satellite Communications System 3) are geostationary communications satellites, which provide a robust anti-jam, nuclear hardened capability that supports Department of Defense (DoD) worldwide requirements, White House and Diplomatic communications. They are the follow-on generation of the DSCS-2 satellites.

The system is used for high priority communications such as the exchange of wartime information between defense officials and battlefield commanders. The system provides uninterrupted secure voice and high-data rate communications to globally fixed and mobile DoD users, NATO, the United Kingdom, the Diplomatic Telecommunications Service, and the White House Communications Agency.

DSCS-3 carries:

  • six independent Super High Frequency (SHF) transponders and one special purpose single channel transponder operating on both SHF and Ultra High Frequency
  • Three receive antennas (two Earth coverage horns, one steerable 61-beam nulling lens)
  • Five transmit antennas (two Earth coverage horns, two steerable 19-beam wave guide lens, one high gain parabolic gimbaled dish)

DSCS-3 B7 also carried the CHARGECON-GEO (Charge Control at Geosynchronous Altitude, S90-3) experiment for the Space Test Program.

Two solar wings produce 1700 Watts of onboard power at the beginning of life and 1230 watts at the end of life.

DSCS-3 satellites were designed to be injected directly into GEO by the launch vehicle (Titan-34D IUS, Titan-34D Transtage or Shuttle IUS) without the need to incorporate an apogee kick engine. Switching to Atlas-2, Atlas-2A and Delta-4M launch vehicles made it necessary to include a dedicated apogee kick stage (IABS) with the satelite for injecting the DSCS-3 into GEO orbit.

Another DSCS-3 satellite was constructed under the name STARSAT to be used as a test object in the "Huron King" nuclear weapons test for the effects of system generated electromagnetic pulse (SGEMP) on a full-scale operating DSCS-3 military communications satellite. The spacecraft was contained in a large above-ground tank.

The DSCS-3 is succeeded by the WGS series of satellites.

DSCS-3 B12 was retired in 2015 and was moved into a graveyard orbit above the geostationary belt.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Communication
Operator: US Air Force (USAF)
Contractors: Lockheed Martin
Equipment: 6 SHF transponders, 1 special purpose transponder (SHF and UHF)
Configuration: DSCS-3 Bus, 3-Axis stabilization
Propulsion: ?
Power: 2 deployable solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: 10 years
Mass: 1235 kg (2733 kg including IABS stage)
Orbit: GEO
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
DSCS-3 A1 (#1) 1982-106B 30.10.1982 CC LC-40 Titan-34D IUS with DSCS-2 16
DSCS-3 A2 (#4) (USA 44) 1989-069B 04.09.1989 CC LC-40 Titan-34D Transtage with DSCS-2 15
DSCS-3 A3 (#13) (USA 167) 2003-008A 11.03.2003 CC SLC-37B Delta-4M IABS
DSCS-3 B4 (#2) (USA 11) 1985-092B 03.10.1985 CCK LC-39A Shuttle IUS with Atlantis F-1 (STS-51-J), DSCS-3 B5
DSCS-3 B5 (#3) (USA 12) 1985-092C 03.10.1985 CCK LC-39A Shuttle IUS with Atlantis F-1 (STS-51-J), DSCS-3 B4
DSCS-3 B6 (#14) (USA 170) 2003-040A 29.08.2003 CC SLC-37B Delta-4M IABS
DSCS-3 B7 (#9) (USA 113) 1995-038A 31.07.1995 CC LC-36A Atlas-2A IABS
DSCS-3 B8 (#11) (USA 148) 2000-001A 21.01.2000 CC SLC-36A Atlas-2A IABS
DSCS-3 B9 (#7) (USA 93) 1993-046A 19.07.1993 CC LC-36A Atlas-2 IABS
DSCS-3 B10 (#8) USA 97) 1993-074A 28.11.1993 CC LC-36A Atlas-2 IABS
DSCS-3 B11 (#12) (USA 153) 2000-065A 20.10.2000 CC SLC-36A Atlas-2A IABS
DSCS-3 B12 (#6) (USA 82) 1992-037A 02.07.1992 CC LC-36A Atlas-2 IABS
DSCS-3 B13 (#10) (USA 134) 1997-065A 25.10.1997 CC LC-36A Atlas-2A IABS with Falcon Gold
DSCS-3 B14 (#5) (USA 78) 1992-006A 11.02.1992 CC LC-36A Atlas-2 IABS
STARSAT - not launched


  • Donald H. Martin: Communication Satellites, Aerospace Press, 1991, p 111-113

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