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DSP F12 was part of the oldest segments of North America's early warning system. These Defense Support System satellites were the space-based segment of a 2-tiered ballistic missile launch detection and warning system. Orbiting 23,000 mile above Earth, these satellites provided the first look at potentially hostile ballistic missiles launched from land or sea, anywhere in the world, in near-real time. For tactical missile warning, satellite data could be transmitted directly to the theater commander via the Tactical Event System. DSP sensors also detected nuclear detonations. The speed and accuracy have greatly reduced the potential for surprise attack and is vital to effective deterrance to war. The DSP sytem has one satellite watching the eastern hemisphere and two spacecraft watching the western hemisphere for missile launches. Since there was less time associated with a submarine launch from a Soviet boat at the US mainland, these was a great concern that this type of missile must be detected.

The satellite's infrared sensors detected and tracked exhaust heat generated by balistic missiles. The data were then relayed almost instantaneously to USSPACECOM Missile Warning Center in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. DSP satellites were used during the Persian Gulf War to detect Iragi Scud missile launches.

Alternate Names

  • 15453
  • DSP F12
  • USA7

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1984-12-22
Launch Vehicle: Titan 34D
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 1670 kg

Funding Agency

  • Unknown (United States)


  • Surveillance and Other Military

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. H. Kent Hills



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Image courtesy of the USAF Defense Support Program.

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