Record Shattering Spy Satellite Now Operating In Orbit

Record Shattering Spy Satellite Now Operating In Orbit

One of the official mission patches. Image courtesy NRO.

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Defense Daily reported that “The Air Force and United Launch Alliance (ULA) Saturday successfully launched the NROL-37 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Liftoff took place … on a Delta IV Heavy at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., according to a ULA statement. Launch was originally scheduled for June 9, but was delayed due to poor weather.”

Space flight journalists at Space Flight Now describe the satellite as “one of the pinnacles of U.S. intelligence-gathering”.

According to Space Flight 101, “Due to the size of their antennas, the Advanced Orion satellites are the brightest satellites in Geostationary Orbit compared to communications or weather satellites residing in their orbital neighborhood.”

This makes it easier for amateur astronomers and the public in general to spot these types of satellites while they’re spying down at us.

Courtesy: Wikipedia.org

The Delta Heavy rocket program will enable intelligence agencies like the NRO to access space until 2020.

“The NRO, with a 2013 budget request of $10.3 billion, is among the top five U.S. intelligence agencies in terms of spending… The agency’s budget has grown 12 percent since 2004, a far slower pace than the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency or the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the documents show”, Space News reported.

The NRO is considering to be one of the “big five” intelligence agencies and has received attention to do several scandals and alternative theories. For example, an inquiry in 1995 revealed that up to $1.7 billion was being embezzled by the NRO and hidden from the CIA, Pentagon and Congress.

The agency was back in the spotlight following a strange coincidence on September 11th, 2001 when it was planned to run a war-game involving an aircraft crashing into their building. The goal of the drill was to train employees on evacuation and with alternate routes out in the event of a disaster.

Thanks to a FOIA request by the Federation of American Scientists submitted in 2012 and fulfilled in 2015, the following document was made public:

“National Geospatial-lntelligence Agency (NGA) Congressional Budget Justification Book (CBJB) for Fiscal Year 2013.”

A more itemized look at the NRO’s budget from 2013:
$1.8 billion for geospatial intelligence (electro-optical).
$278.3 million for geospatial intelligence (radar).
$482 million for sensitive technical collection.
$927.5 million for signals intelligence (high orbit).
$446.4 million for signals intelligence (low orbit).
$1.5 billion for geospatial intelligence/spatial intelligence.
$1.0 billion for ground stations.

A glimpse at NRO operations and their spy satellite fleet. Courtesy: Wikipedia.org

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Updated 8:46 P.M. to include this really cool vintage documentary narrated by Scully from the X-Files.