Cold war science in black and white: US intelligence gathering and its scientific cover at the naval research laboratory, 1948-62

  • Van Keuren D
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Abstract

In the immediate post-World War II era, researchers with the US Naval Research Laboratory's Radio Counter Measures (RCM) Branch was active in developing electronic intelligence (`elint') technologies and techniques for collecting information on the Soviet Union and its allies. The work of the Branch was often hidden behind unclassified research and engineering programmes at the Laboratory. The first result of this effort was `Project PAMOR' (PAssive MOon Relay), which built radio antennae for capturing Soviet radar signals reflected from the moon's surface. Starting in 1954, RCM engineers established a working relationship with the Laboratory's Radio Astronomy Branch. The cooperation was directed towards the development of a 600-ft radio telescope for dual-purpose use in intelligence gathering and astronomical research. Although the 600-ft telescope was never built, a satellite-based alternative, called `GRAB' (Galactic RAdiation Background), was launched in June of 1960. Again, this was a dual-use system. The world's first elint satellite and astronomical observatory were integrated into the same satellite bus, with astronomy serving as an operational front for the whole. A second GRAB was launched in 1962. This interface of classified and basic research tells us about the pursuit of science and science-based technologies during the Cold War.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Electronic intelligence (elint)
  • Friedman
  • GRAB
  • Project PAMOR
  • Radio astronomy
  • Sugar Grove
  • Trexler

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Authors

  • David K. Van Keuren

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