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National Reconnaissance Office Satellite

Spetember 9...The National Reconnaissance Office lauched a sattellite. It's purpose?
I can't really find anything out about this except a few brief news stories. I first learned about it through a 'ticker tape' on CNN (hey, it's good to know what is not being reported). Only saw it once, even though a group of friends kept an eye out for it for an extended time. It never appeared again. On on-line 'group' told me it was to remain in a stationary orbit over the U.S. Can anybody confirm? Has anybody else even heard anything about this? OK, we all know what it is for....but anything solid.
stationary orbit? 10.Sep.2003 10:07

that is weird.

The NRO (which is essentially composed of NSA people), as you probably know, is the government organization in charge of sending up and using most of the nation's spy satellites. Spy satalites are usually launched into a low (close to earth, better for pictures) North to South orbit which allows the satalite to cover as much of the earth as possible, in the shortest possible time. If the NSA needs a photo of China, the satalite swings around the earth a few times as the earth rotates East, and shortly the satellite is in position, all without having to fire its rockets.

It would be strange for the NSA to launch a spy-sat into stationary (geosyncronous, meaning it rotates in the same direction as the earth in order to stay above one location) orbit. That would mean that the satellite was meant to stay over an area of interest, but it would also mean that the satellite be further from the earth (geosyncronous orbits must be further from the Earth so they are less effected by the gravity and do not fall down) and thus not able to take very good/close pictures. Or perhaps they have large enough cameras now so they can afford to keep the "birds" up higher.


confirmed 10.Sep.2003 10:10


Did you check the NRO website? Looking at there news section, we find this Press Release:



10 September, 2003

A National Reconnaissance Office payload was successfully launched aboard a Titan IVB rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla. Sept 9 at 12:29 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

"This launch was a tremendous team effort by the Air Force, the NRO and our contractor partners," said Col. Chip Zakrzewski, director of the NRO's Office of Space Launch and mission director for the launch.

The Lockheed-Martin Titan IVB was launched from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 40.

very interesting... 10.Sep.2003 10:23

another source

Just found some stuff by searching for "national recon... office satellite". While NRO spy sats have not been geosyncronous in the past, it looks like that is what they are going for now, so they have more "persistence", meaning, they can stay over interesting areas longer. This would be good for them if things on the ground were changing lots (like if they were watching a battlefield... or a protest?), or if they just want to pick up signals and transmissions from possible terrorists (or political enemies...).


US To Boost Reconnaissance With Powerful New Birds
Washington - Feb 15, 2002

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) will spearhead research and development activities to identify new intelligence collection technologies including new longer dwelling satellites, Peter Teets, under secretary of the Air Force and director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), told reporters at the Pentagon last week.

"NRO has a history of breakthrough technology, we want NRO to have research and development activity to come up with new technologies, Teets said.

Specifically, the space and intelligence communities are interested in finding better ways to get "persistent" coverage and collection over targets and areas, Teets explained.

The war in Afghanistan has shown, while the U.S. collection capabilities are good, "we need to add persistence," Teets added.

For example, there is a need for more satellites in stationary orbit and to develop new technologies that can collect capabilities at high altitudes, he said.

"You'd like to have more long dwell and have focused view on hot spots," Teets said.

[more from that site cropped]

aha! here it is. 10.Sep.2003 10:41

cnn repost


Air Force launches top secret satellite

Tuesday, September 9, 2003 Posted: 9:29 AM EDT (1329 GMT)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida (CNN) -- The Air Force launched a top-secret satellite Tuesday for the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the United States' fleet of spy spacecraft.

A Titan IV-B rocket was used to launch the large spacecraft, believed to be an electronics listening satellite, into a position 22,300 miles above the Earth's equator.

The National Reconnaissance Office would not reveal any details about the satellite, including its cost, purpose or which contractor built it.

"I cannot discuss what the payload is other than to tell you that it will provide additional capabilities for our nation's leadership and military," said Art Haubold, a spokesman for the NRO.

This particular satellite was delayed for more than three years due to technical problems and had been scheduled for launch as recently as several months ago.

The NRO's electronics listening satellites use baseball diamond-size antennas which fold up like an umbrella for launch.

The large antennas permit the satellite to monitor extremely faint signals, even individual cell phone conversations.

It's believed that similar satellites have been used to monitor and track terrorists.

Astronomer and satellite observer Ted Molczan said: "These satellites are so large they can be seen in high quality backyard telescopes. Some amateur satellite observers have photographed these satellites in their operational locations."

The launch marked the first NRO satellite from Florida in five years.

The previous launch, a less sophisticated listening satellite, did not reach orbit because the rocket's guidance system failed.

From Journalist Philip Chien

Total informaton Awareness stuff? 10.Sep.2003 16:02

I wounder if

we could petition for photos under the freedom of information act?