The site was first developed by the Naval Research Laboratory in the early 1960s as the site of a 600 ft radio telescope that would gather intelligence on Soviet radar and radio signals reflected from the moon and would gather radioastronomical data on outer space, but the project was halted in 1962 before the telescope construction was completed. The site was then developed as a radio receiving station. The site was activated as "Naval Radio Station Sugar Grove" on May 10, 1969, and two Wullenweber Circulary Disposed Antenna Arrays (CDAAs) were completed on November 8, 1969. Numerous other antennas, dishes, domes, and other facilities were constructed in the following years. Some of the more significant radio telescopes on site are a 60 ft dish (oldest telescope on site), a 105 ft dish featuring a special waveguide receiver and a 150 ft dish (largest telescope on site).
Though the CDAAs were decommissioned in the 1990s, the site is still active, and photographs taken between 2000 and 2004 show significant construction on the site.
The site is part of the ECHELON communications network operated by the United States and its allies to intercept and process electronic telecommunications. The network operates many sites around the world including Waihopai Valley in New Zealand, Menwith Hill in the United Kingdom and Yakima, Washington.
Sugar Grove is located in an officially designated National Radio Quiet Zone that covers 13,000 square miles in West Virginia and Virginia. The zone was established by Congress in 1958 to facilitate its mission and that of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory located 30 miles away at Green Bank in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
The small community of Sugar Grove is located several miles south of the installation. Its ZIP Code is 26815.
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