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Fact Sheets

Defense Satellite Communications System


Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) constellation provides long haul communications to users worldwide through contested environments.

DSCS supports: the defense communications system, the military’s ground mobile forces, airborne terminals, ships at sea, and Department of Defense (DOD).


The first DSCS III satellite was launched in October 1982. The final DSCS III satellite, B6, was launched in August 2003. In all, DSCS III successfully launched 14 satellites, six of which are still operational and continue to be used in various capacities, from operational communications in Southwest Asia to research and development of ground-based support capabilities.

Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., sustains the DSCS Space Segment contract.


DSCS III satellites support globally distributed DOD and national security users. Modifications made to these satellites will provide substantial capacity improvements through higher power amplifiers, more sensitive receivers, and additional antenna connectivity options. The DSCS communications payload includes six independent Super High Frequency (SHF) transponder channels. Three receive and five transmit antennas provide selectable options for Earth coverage, area coverage and/or spot beam coverage. A special purpose single-channel transponder is also on board.

DSCS satellites provide the capabilities needed for effective implementation of worldwide military communications. It can adapt rapidly to dynamic operating conditions and perform under stressed environments. DSCS operates with large or small terminals. DSCS’s independent channels group users by operational needs or geographical location by allocating receiver sensitivity and transmitter power, thus providing maximum efficiency.

General Characteristics

Primary function: High-capacity military communications satellite
Payload: Six-channel transponded system Single Crossband Channel Transponder
Antennas: Wideband multi-beam and two earth coverage receive antennas; two transmit multi-beam, gimbaled dish, and two earth coverage antennas
Capability: Up to 200 Mbps

A-1 Oct. 30, 1982 Decommissioned
B-4 Oct. 3, 1985 Decommissioned
B-5 Oct. 3, 1985 Decommissioned
A-2 Sept. 4, 1989 Decommissioned
B-14 Feb. 11, 1992 Decommissioned
B-12 July 2, 1992 Decommissioned
B-9 July 19, 1993 Decommissioned
B-10 Nov. 28, 1993 Decommissioned
B-7 July 31, 1995 Operational
B-13 Oct. 25, 1997 Operational
B-8 Jan. 21, 2000 Operational
B-11 Oct. 20, 2000 Operational
A-3 Mar. 11, 2003 Operational
B-6 Aug. 29, 2003 Operational

(Current as of Oct 2020)