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Precision microwave receiver - this page is a stub

MSR-903 is a precision microwave surveillance receiver for signals in the 1 - 16 GHz frequency range, developed around 1980 by Micro-Tel Corporation in Hunt Valley (Maryland, USA). It was was intended for use by signals intelligence organisations for interception of point-to-point links and data, such as the telemetry of Buran, the Russian equivalent of the Space Shutte, in 1983 [1].

The image on the right shows an MSR-903D, complete with the external 1-18 GHz tuner assembly. At its introduced in the early 1980s, he receiver was considered an ITAR 1 item, for which a special export licence was required.

In 1981, a West-German citizen was arrested in the US, for attempting to smuggle an MSR-903 out of the US, with the intent to sell it in the (then) Easter Block country of Hungary [3]. In the event, several people got arrested and indicted.
MSR-903D with separate 1-18 GHz tuner [4]

The German magazine Der Spiegel reported on 26 December 1983, that several people had been arrested in Germany in connection with the case, on the suspicion of smuggling hi-tech western military equipment to the Eastern Block. According to the article, the MSR-903 was built to listen to military satellites as well as to Air Force One, the US President's technology-packed jet [5].

According to an anonymous contributor [1], the receiver was used by the US Army to intercept telemetry signals during the early test flights of the USSR/Russian space shuttle Buran. Although the exterior of Buran showed great resemblance to the US Space Shuttle, it was in fact a fully Russian design, that was able to land fully autonomously on water or on a standard runway [2].

  1. ITAR = International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

  1. Anonymous, Personal correspondence
    July 2016.

  2. Wikipedia, Buran (spacecraft)
    Retrieved October 2017.

  3. UPI, West German indicted for trying to smuggle military device out of U.S.
    26 May 1981. Retrieved October 2017.

  4. Unknown author, Image of MSR-903D
    Retrieved October 2017, from

  5. Der Spiegel, SS-20 Packed with Western Technology
    Hamburg, 26 December 1983. pp 60-65.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Wednesday 18 October 2017. Last changed: Saturday, 21 October 2017 - 15:49 CET.
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