Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 3: Space Vehicles
Copyright © 2005-2008 Jos Heyman
 (HTML formatting by Andreas Parsch) 

Navy Ocean Surveillance Satellite (NOSS)

The Navy Ocean Surveillance Satellite (NOSS) system is possibly the most secretive of US military satellite programmes. The satellites in this programme use radar and other electronic equipment to locate enemy naval vessels. It is believed that the satellites carry side and forward looking radars, multi-spectral scanners and infrared detectors. The latter have a capability to detect warm water in the wake of a submerged submarine.

The first generation operational system (NOSS 1) consisted of a number of satellites placed at 120° apart and has also been referred to as Whitecloud. Since 1986 the satellites are also identified in the USA series of military satellites. They did not receive a designation in the S-for-Satellite series.

Image: Author's collection
NOSS-1 (1976 038A)

A precursor programme, in which no satellites were launched, was known as Oasis or Program 749.

NOSS 1 satellites were usually accompanied by sub-satellites which were deployed from the parent satellite on a 5 km tether which was later cut. The sub-satellites were used in triangulation methods to calculate a ship's position. The early NOSS satellites had a mass of 590 kg but the mass has increased to 6800 kg. A second generation was commenced with NOSS 2-1 whilst the third generation commenced with NOSS 3-1.

The accompanying sub-satellites have been identified by a variety of names, including Surveillance Satellite Unit (SSU), as well as GB, JD, SS or EP, acronyms for which the meaning is not known. Early precursor satellite had a mass of 123 kg. The first operational series, between 1976 and 1987, operated at a distance of 50 to 240 km between individual satellites. A second generation was introduced in 1990 and these were of a new design with updated reconnaissance and data communication equipment and they operated at a closer distance of 30 to 110 km. Some sub-satellites in this series, were launched separately. With the commencement of the NOSS 3 generation of satellites, sub-satellites are no longer separately acknowledged. Visual observations have, however, confirmed their presence and they are formally identified as 'debris'.

Name Intl. Designation Launch Re-entry Notes
NOSS-11976 038A30-Apr-1976 Also known as Ops-6431
NOSS-21977 112A8-Dec-1977 Also known as Ops-8781
NOSS-31980 019A3-Mar-1980 Also known as Ops-7245
NOSS---9-Dec-1980--- Also known as Ops-3255; failed to orbit
NOSS-41983 008A9-Feb-1983 Also known as Ops-0252
NOSS-51983 056A9-Jun-1983 Also known as Ops-6432
NOSS-61984 012A5-Feb-1984 Also known as Ops-8737
NOSS-71986 014A9-Feb-1986 Also known as USA-15
NOSS-81987 043A15-May-1987 Also known as USA-22
NOSS-91988 078A5-Sep-1988 Also known as USA-32
NOSS-101989 072A6-Sep-1989 Also known as USA-45
NOSS-111992 023A25-Apr-1992 Also known as Ops-4221 and USA-81
NOSS 2-11990 050A8-Jun-1990 Also known as USA-59
NOSS 2-21991 076A8-Nov-1991 Also known as USA-72
NOSS 2-3---2-Aug-1993--- Failed to orbit
NOSS 2-41996 029D12-May-1996 Also known as USA-122
NOSS 3-12001 040A8-Sep-2001 Also known as USA-160
NOSS 3-22003 054A2-Dec-2003 Also known as USA-173
NOSS 3-32005 004A3-Feb-2005 Also known as USA-181
NOSS 3-42007 027A15-Jun-2007 Also known as USA-194

Launch dates of the NOSS series

Name Intl. Designation Launch Re-entry Notes
---1971 110C14-Dec-1971 Precursor
---1971 110D14-Dec-1971 Precursor
---1971 110E14-Dec-1971 Precursor
SSU-A1975 051C8-Jun-1975  
SSU-11976 038C30-Apr-1976  
SSU-21976 038D30-Apr-1976  
SSU-31976 038J30-Apr-1976  
SSU-41977 112D8-Dec-1977  
SSU-51977 112E8-Dec-1977  
SSU-61977 112F8-Dec-1977  
EP-11980 019C3-Mar-1980  
EP-21980 019G3-Mar-1980  
EP-31980 052C18-Jun-1980 Also known as Ops-1292
SS-A1983 008E9-Feb-1983  
SS-B1983 008F9-Feb-1983  
SS-C1983 008H9-Feb-1983  
SS-D1983 008B9-Feb-1983  
GB-11983 056C9-Jun-1983  
GB-21983 056D9-Jun-1983  
GB-31983 056G9-Jun-1983  
JD-11984 012C5-Feb-1984  
JD-21984 012D5-Feb-1984  
JD-31984 012F5-Feb-1984  
USA-161986 014E9-Feb-1986  
USA-171986 014F9-Feb-1986  
USA-181986 014H9-Feb-1986  
USA-231987 043E15-May-1987  
USA-241987 043F15-May-1987  
USA-251987 043H15-May-1987  
USA-601990 050C8-Jun-1990  
USA-611990 050D8-Jun-1990  
USA-621990 050E8-Jun-1990  
USA-741991 076C8-Nov-1991  
USA-761991 076D8-Nov-1991  
USA-771991 076E8-Nov-1991  
------2-Aug-1993--- Three satellites failed to orbit
USA-1191996 029A12-May-1996  
USA-1201996 029B12-May-1996  
USA-1211996 029C12-May-1996  

Launch dates of NOSS sub-satellites (excluding those formally identified as 'debris')

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 3

Last Updated: 18 January 2008