Title: Shift to Software Demodulation in Misawa Expands Collection, Saves Money
Release Date: 2017-04-24
Document Date: 2009-03-23
Description: This 23 March 2009 article from the internal NSA newsletter SIDToday describes technological advances at the NSA facility in Misawa, Japan and progress towards the Agency’s goal of “collecting it all”: see the Intercept article Japan Made Secret Deals With The NSA That Expanded Global Surveillance, 24 April 2017.
Document: DYNAMIC PAGE -- HIGHEST POSSIBLE CLASSIFICATION IS
TOP SECRET // SI / TK // REL TO USA AUS CAN GBR NZL
(S//SI//REL) Shift to Software Demodulation in Misawa Expands Collection, Saves Money
Technical Director, Mission Operations, MSOC (F79)
Run Date: 03/23/2009
(S//SI//REL) Editor's summary: The SIGINT site in Misawa, Japan, is now
using software demodulation to process many low-data-rate signals, thereby
freeing up expensive hardware demodulators to concentrate on the more
demanding processing tasks. This approach is expected to both save millions
of dollars and to allow the site to collect more SIGINT than was ever
(S//SI//REL) SIGINTers at the Misawa Security Operations Center (MSOC) and Fort Meade* have
developed the ability to demodulate dozens of low-rate satellite signals using software stored on a single
Dell 2950 server. This initiative, known as WORDGOPHER, currently enables simultaneous processing
of up to forty-eight 64kbps phase-modulated carriers on a single server. The approach essentially negates
the requirement for significantly more expensive hardware demodulators to handle these signal types.
(S//SI//REL) WORDGOPHER is poised to save both the site and the extended enterprise millions of
dollars over the course of the next five years. This cost savings will accelerate other developments and
open a viable avenue to expand the MSOC's collection posture consistent with DIRNSA's "collect it all"
How WORDGOPHER Has Been Used at MSOC (S//REL)
(S//SI//REL) Current antenna resources provide MSOC with access to over 8,000 signals on 16 targeted
satellites. As is the case with most FORNSAT facilities, collection of these signals is limited by a finite
inventory of hardware, in this case approximately 400 demodulators. It is estimated that WORDGOPHER
can take on processing of nearly 1,000 low-data-rate systems, which will free up valuable resources and
increase throughput of the station. WORDGOPHER should bolster the site's collection ability at a fraction
of the cost of conventional hardware.
This effort has already saved the enterprise over $300,000 dollars -- the amount
it would have cost to purchase additional hardware modems.
How WORDGOPHER Was Developed (U//FOUO)
(S/SI//REL) MSOC worked together with the S33123 FALLOWHAUNT team and obtained a 90%
solution for the WORDGOPHER demodulator using previously developed software. Using S2B-procured
hardware, MSOC integrated the code/hardware into the site infrastructure for processing of additional
signals. This combined software and field programmable gate array (FPGA) solution works best on links
less than 2 Mbit/sec. The bit snap uses FPGA technology on an ICEPIC digital capture card, while the
actual demodulation is performed in software. The demodulated bits are sent to WEALTHYCLUSTER
using SHAREDVISION's Data Distribution Service (DDS) protocol.
Future Plans (U)
(TS//SI//REL) In the future, MSOC hopes to expand the number of WORDGOPHER platforms to enable
demodulation of thousands of additional low-rate carriers. As an example,
These targets are ideally suited
for software demodulation. Additionally, MSOC has developed a capability to automatically scan and
demodulate signals as they activate on the satellites. There are a multitude of possibilities, bringing our
enterprise one step closer to "collecting it all."
(S//SI//REL) MSOC would like to thank the FALLOWHAUNT team, SHAREDVISION, FORNSAT, and
the Office of China and Korea for their support of this effort.
(U//FOUO) Questions? Contact Resident Signals Engineer, MSOC.
WORDGOPHER at the
(SHSWREL) View of the racks at Misawa (left)
and a close-up view of the WORDGOPHER servers.
* (S//SI//REL) Specifically, SID's Office of China and Korea (S2B) and Mobile Satellite Services
(S33123) collaborated on WORDGOPHER.
** (S//SI//REL) The Director announced his "collect it all" goal in a Director's Message in February 2007.
*** (TS//SI//REL) The People's Republic of China (PRC) MFA VSAT network is a global network used
for digital-network intelligence (DNI), voice, and fax communications spanning seven satellites. It
operates between the PRC MFA Headquarters in Beijing and over 200 PRC embassies and consulates