A behemoth spy satellite blasted into space Sunday night aboard the country's biggest heavy-lift rocket, the second satellite launched by by the National Reconnaissance Office in the past three months. Stats on the megasat are classified, but the NRO boasted this fall that it would be the biggest satellite in the world.
Government officials won't confirm what the satellite is for, but NROL-32's huge antenna would make it possible to eavesdrop on enemy communications, as the BBC says. Satellite watchers believe it hosts sensitive radio receivers and an antenna spanning 328 feet across, nearly five times the size of the largest commercial antenna ever launched.
"This mission helps to ensure that vital NRO resources will continue to bolster our national defense," said Air Force Brig. Gen. Ed Wilson, commander 45th Space Wing, after the launch. It had been delayed two days because of a temperature sensor glitch.
United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, launched the satellite aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket. It was only the fourth launch for the Heavy since its 2004 debut, which launched a small demonstration satellite. It involves three boosters that provide 2 million pounds of thrust to send 13-ton payloads to geostationary orbit. The other two satellites were also secret spy payloads.
Last week, Boeing announced the successful launch of SkyTerra 1, which has a 72-foot-wide antenna reflector, the largest on a commercial satellite. The previous record was TerraStar-1's 60-foot antenna.
Specs on the country's military and spy satellites are classified, but NRO director Bruce Carlson, a retired Air Force general, said at a conference in September that NROL-32 would be the biggest satellite in the world.
He added that the current plan for NRO satellite missions "is the most aggressive launch campaign that the National Reconnaissance Office has had in 20 years, almost a quarter of a century," according to Space.com.
Satellite watchers told SpaceFlightNow and NASAspaceflight blogs they believe the payload is an electronic signals intelligence satellite; there are four already in orbit. ELINT satellites known as Mentor or Advanced Orion have been in service since 1995.
Of course. The military just had to ruin rockets and space for me, too.
-IMP ;) :)
This won't be to spy on US enemies. It will be to spy on US citizens.
What will Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers do with this thing? Will they put Beck in charge of world communications?
boka, I think you're further out in orbit than this satellite.
posteriori, I think you drank the kool-aid.
I'm pretty sure the Space Shuttle has a larger payload capacity.
wow that was fucking awesomely beautiful
@Craigboy - Depends on where you want to put it
Delta IV lift capacity:
LEO: 23,040 kg
GTO: 13,130 kg
Shuttle lift capacity:
LEO: 24,400 kg
GTO: 3,810 kg
oops should have said payload capacity not lift capacity
It's the Starcraft Terra-Tron!
Who ever wrights the headlines is fucking retarded. So are you saying the Energia, N1, Saturn V, space shuttle, Ariane 5 and Atlas V don't count for some reason? Ok I can understand the N1 not counting but what about the rest.
That was an amazing launch. Im not sure if I like the secrecy behind this thing though.
I would like to make an amendment to the comment on it being used to spy on US citizens, yep, probably, along with everyone else in the world.
OMG ITS TO SPY ON THOSE DAMN CHINESE!!! Jk, that was very amazing to watch, I want to see one in person some day.
boka 11/22/10 at 1:45 pm
This won't be to spy on US enemies. It will be to spy on US citizens.
Ha! I was thinking the same thing...
Someone tell me, what's the difference between the launch of something like this Delta IV and launching an ICBM? Assuming that you place a spy satellite over your enemy's land of course.
How could/do the Russians tell the difference? Was reading up on the cold war the other day & it occured to me that a launch is a launch, doesn't matter what the payload...
<How could/do the Russians tell the difference? Was reading up on the cold war the other day & it occured to me that a launch is a launch, doesn't matter what the payload...>
It's the trajectory. Sats can tell in 30 seconds or less what the trajectory is. Going into orbit is a completely different trajectory from landing a payload somewhere on earth. Plus per treaty, we have to notify each other about launches:
<In September 1971 the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War, which entered into force from the moment of its signature and has an unlimited duration. The Agreement inter alia provides for an obligation of both Parties to notify the other Party in advance of planned missile launches in case missiles are launched beyond its national territory in the direction of the other Party.>
If there's some kind of mistake, that's what the red phone hotlines are for.
This stuff is easily found using Google. If you do that yourself, you'll learn more rather than making comments that sound like we're all about to die.
As for spying on US citizens haven't you been following the news the last few years? Anyone who gets hauled in front of a congressional commitee and either lies and is found out or admits that he authorized that is in deep crap. Not to say it can't happen but I kinda doubt it. They couldn't keep the Pentagon Papers secret I doubt something like that would stay hidden for long either. One side or the other would use that to win the next election.
Ok, I had pasted this into my previous post but it got left out when I hit post? Whatever. This was supposed to go after I said "we have to notify each other about launches"
In September 1971 the United States and the Soviet Union signed the Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Outbreak of Nuclear War, which entered into force from the moment of its signature and has an unlimited duration. The Agreement inter alia provides for an obligation of both Parties to notify the other Party in advance of planned missile launches in case missiles are launched beyond its national territory in the direction of the other Party.
and wait. the successor to Hubble is 10 years and 20 billion behind schedule. yet this sat was probably proposed 5 years ago and cost 100000 billion to make.
And this is going into orbit and not a far off Lagrange point. There is a vast difference in distance. Furthermore, this has a giant antenna where as the Webb has mirrors and other fun delicate things.
As for the Russian launch thing, another logical point to make would be the giant rocket sitting on a pad in the middle of no where as opposed to a rocket coming from some underground silo. Although a "pass fake" like that would be kind of clever.
wow, that is some big fire cracker - beautiful.
chill out people-it is the largest rocket in our current inventory-it can deliver more into geo-sync orbit than the shuttle, which has maybe 1 launch left (and much cheaper than a shuttle launch)
That was awesome, I still like space shuttle launches, I have seen a few in person.