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With the rapid development of the "space age," many applications of orbiting satellites are being implemented primarily for scientific purposes. Among the first practical applications, with broad military and commercial implications, is communicationsvia an active satellite repeater. A military research and development program for such communications capability is underway to satisfy the ever-present need for reliable military communications. This program is broadly reviewed with primary emphasis on the development of the surface (as opposed to space) environment. The paper outlines briefly the military requirements for satellite communications and the advantages to be accrued through its employment. The current military active satellite communication program is presented, including support of NASA's SYNCOM program and development of the Defense Communications Satellite System. Areas of research and development for the improvement of initial capability are described, including communication techniques, system approaches, subsystem design and component development.