U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet

The Defense Satellite Communications Systems (DSCS) is an important part of the comprehensive plan to support globally distributed military users.

Air Force Space Command operates ten Phase III DSCS satellites that orbit the earth at an altitude of more than 22,000 miles. Each satellite uses six super high frequency transponder channels capable of providing secure voice and high rate data communications. DSCS III also carries a single-channel transponder for disseminating emergency action and force direction messages to nuclear-capable forces.

The system is used for high priority command and control communication such as the exchange of wartime information between defense officials and battlefield commanders. The military also uses DSCS to transmit space operations and early warning data to various systems and users.

The Air Force began launching the DSCS IIIs in 1982. The system is built with single, multiple-beam antennas that provide more flexible coverage than its predecessor. The single steerable dish antenna provides an increased power spot beam which can be tailored to suit the needs of different size user terminals. DSCS III satellites can resist jamming and are expected to operate twice as long as the previous generation.

DSCS users operate on the ground, at sea or in the air. Members of the 50th Space Wing's 3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., provide satellite bus command and control for all DSCS satellites.

Air Force Materiel Command's Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., is responsible for development and acquisition of DSCS satellites and ground systems.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Worldwide, long-haul communications
Primary Contractor: Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space
Weight: 2,716 pounds (1,232 kilograms)
Power Plant: Solar arrays generating average of 1,500 watts
Orbit Altitude: 22,230 miles (35,887 kilometers)
Dimensions: Rectangular body is 6 feet long (1.8 meters), 6 feet high (1.8 meters), and 7 feet wide (2.1 meters); 38-foot span (11.5 meters) with solar arrays deployed
Launch Vehicle: Atlas II, later the evolved expendable launch vehicle
Unit Cost: $200 million
Inventory: 4

Point of Contact
Air Force Space Command, Public Affairs Office; 150 Vandenberg St., Suite 1105; Peterson AFB, CO 80914-4500; DSN 692-3731 or (719) 554-3731.

March 2003

Accessibility/Section 508