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    Nieuwe historische docs: US intelligence and the Soviet space program

    Bronnen door Eric Hennekam

    Bericht van het National Security Archive:

     During much of the Cold War Soviet space activities — civilian and military — were a major focus of U.S. intelligence collection and analysis. As one of the key areas of technological competition with Moscow — one where the Soviet Union jumped to an early lead in some space activities — the space race generated profound concern in Washington over the need to understand and respond to new developments. To that end, U.S. analysts resorted to the full-spectrum of intelligence techniques — from assorted forms of technical collection to scrutinizing Soviet documentary films on the flights of Yuri Gagarin and Gherman Titov (to obtain data on the USSR’s closely guarded manned space launch facilities).

    Today, the National Security Archive posts a compilation of over 50 documents concerning U.S. intelligence collection and analysis on the Soviet space program from its earliest years to just before the Soviet collapse. This briefing book supplements an earlier Archive posting that concerned, in part, U.S. intelligence and Soviet lunar activities. Today’s posting includes National Intelligence Estimates on the Soviet space program from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s — estimates that covered Soviet earth satellites (particularly those with military applications), lunar-related activities, and probes to Mars and Venus.

    More recent analytical documents in the posting deal with the Soviet space program in the Gorbachev era. They include a 1986 CIA assessment of Soviet military and space systems in development and their implications for improving Soviet capabilities in the 1990s, a possible Soviet manned Mars landing mission, and the Soviet sale of satellite images on the commercial market — a revealing reversal of Moscow’s longstanding policy of hiding the activities of its spy satellites.

    Specifically, the documents:

    * Discuss the U.S. ability to detect the camera events associated with Soviet photographic reconnaissance satellite missions.
    * Examine the 21-year search for a Soviet deep space signal and the role of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) effort in resolving the mystery.
    * Provide a history of the role of U.S. SIGINT facilities, particularly the STONEHOUSE system in Ethiopia, in monitoring the Soviet space program.
    * Reveal the evolution of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s understanding of the status of key Soviet military space programs — including photographic reconnaissance, electronic intelligence, early warning, and ocean surveillance programs.
    * Reveal information about the Soviet directed energy anti-satellite (ASAT) program and Soviet vulnerability to the U.S. projected U.S. ASAT system
    * Provide assessments at various points in time concerning actual or possible other Soviet space activities — including plans for lunar and Mars landings, and the orbiting of nuclear weapons.
    * Discuss developments in the early 1990s, specifically the growth in capability of Soviet space transportation systems, which the CIA rightly predicted would prompt Moscow to seek economic benefits through trade and technological cooperation with the West.

    [NSA, 6 februari 2015]