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USA 46



USA 46, a communications satellite also known as FLTSATCOM 8, was launched using the Atlas-Centaur launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral AFS. It was the last Atlas launch that NASA would manage; future unmanned NASA launches will be contracted from the private sector. FLTSATCOM provided worldwide UHF voice and teletype communications for US armed forces. It was specifically designed to communicate with small, inexpensive terminals used by field troops, and platforms aboard aircraft, ships and submarines. Twelve UHF channels were used by the Air Force, 10 by the Navy and one by the National Command Authority. An experimental EHF package aboard was a test bed for next-generation communications systems. Built by TRW Space and Technology Group, the 2,310-kg satellite's hexagonal body measured 2.46 m in diameter and 6.76 m high. It hosted an 18-turn helical UHF receive antenna and 4.9-m transmit antenna. Two 2.76 by 4 m solar panels and 3 nickel cadmium batteries provided 1,500 W of power over its 5-year service life. This satellite joined 5 operational satellites that had served the DoD since 1978.

Alternate Names

  • 20253
  • USA46

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1989-09-25
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Centaur
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 2310 kg
Nominal Power: 1500 W

Funding Agency

  • Department of Defense (United States)


  • Communications
  • Surveillance and Other Military

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Coordinated Request and User Support Office

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