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USAF Launches Another of Many Top Secret NRO Satellites

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USAF Launches Another of Many Top Secret NRO Satellites

spy satellitesOn Sunday, Novemember 21st, the U.S. Air Force, in conjunction with the United Launch Alliance (ULA), launched a top secret spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office using a Delta 4 heavy launch vehicle.

In recent past years, the USAF has conducted several successful launches. In all of these cases, the launches carried various imaging or “listening” spy satellites for the NRO.

Even though the NRO, USAF, and ULA are keeping tight-lipped about the payload, there are other sources that believe they have a pretty good idea of what was launched.

The growing consensus in the satellite tracking community is that the NRO launched its largest spy satellite to date. The spy satellite is thought to be specifically designed to gather electronic intelligence for the NSA.

In an interview with Spaceflight Now, satellite tracker Ted Molczan made the following statement:

“I believe the payload is the fifth in the series of what we call Mentor spacecraft, a.k.a. Advanced Orion. The spy satellite likely consists of sensitive radio receivers and an antenna generally believed to span up to 328 feet to gather electronic intelligence for the National Security Agency.”

spy satellites

Mentor or Advanced Orion is reportedly code-names used for a class of United States spy satellites designed to collect signals intelligence (SIGINT) from space.

These spy satellites collect radio emissions from a geosynchronous orbit directly above the Earth’s equator. Observers estimate the satellites weigh close to 11,440 lbs and usually have 300 ft diameter (or larger) radio reflecting dishes. The mission and capabilities of these satellites are always highly classified. So classified that it is not even known who made the Mentors.

The Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, Bruce Carlson, did not go into much detail about the satellite except to say that it is the “largest in the world.”

If Carlson is implying that this is the largest Mentor satellite ever built and launched; it is a safe assumption that this spy satellite will be able to “eavesdrop” on the electronic transmissions of just about any enemy around the globe.

Originally published on

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