Cape Canaveral AFS Aerostat Radar Site
Cape Canaveral AFS Aerostat Radar Site (1974-1993) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Aerostat Radar Station located on Cape Canaveral in Brevard County, Florida. Assigned a JSS ID of J-17. Closed in March 1993.
Seek Skyhook System
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was part of the experimental 1974 Seek Skyhook System in which General Electric provided four unmanned tethered 250K Aerostat balloons equipped with GE DPS-5 radar at Cape Canaveral AFS and Cudjoe AFS. The GE DPS-5 radar was an S-band single-channel radar weighing about 1000 pounds with a parabolic antenna rotating at 5 rpm. The Aerostat operated at a nominal altitude of about 12,000 feet and radar provided a look-down range of about 150 nmi. IFF gear onboard provided IFF/SIF/Beacon target data. Radar and IFF data were transmitted to the ground. The status of and commands to the gear on board was passed by telemetry.
The ground systems to support the airborne radar and IFF systems included a FYQ-47 common digitizer to identify and correlate targets. Later a Litton Data Systems GYQ-51 Advanced Tracking System (ATS) was added to reduce false targets generated by ground clutter from the down-looking radar.
As the Seek Skyhook System evolved other government agencies implemented similar systems and by 1992 there were three separate systems operated by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Customs. In 1992 Congress mandated that DoD consolidate and manage the separate programs. The Air Force was designated as the executive agent. The Air Force made the 4700th Operations Support Squadron (OSS), a component of the Air Combat Command (ACC), responsible for the management of the system. The resulting system became known as the Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS).
Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS)
Immediate problems emerged as USAF accepted the turnover of sites from other agencies. The newly acquired systems had not gone through the acquisition process and proper support was not in place. Provisioning problems caused five TARS sites to be nonoperational for up to 28 months. In the midst of these problems, testing determined that the Cape Canaveral balloon could not withstand another inflation and deflation. Interim solutions were short-lived when a winter storm destroyed the aerostats at Key West and Cape Canaveral. The decision was made to close the Cape Canaveral Aerostat Site.
The Cape Canaveral Aerostat Site was deactivated in March 1993.
The deactivated TARS launch site still exists adjacent to the inactive launch complexes 1, 2, 3, and 4 at the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral. A single building remains near the center of the circular launch pad.