An Atlas 5 rocket carrying a top secret military satellite blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station today, kicking off a “classified mission” for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
NRO is one of the most secret intelligence services in the US. It designs, builds, and operates all the spy satellites of the United States government, and coordinates the analysis of aerial surveillance and satellite imagery from several intelligence and military agencies.
See video: NRO - National Reconnaissance Office http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrys7Q7v5Gs
The Director of the NRO reports to both the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense. Director NRO also serves as Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force (Intelligence Space Technology). The Agency has the following directorates:- SIGINT Systems; Communications Systems; IMINT systems; and Advanced Systems and Technology (SIGINT=signals intelligence; IMINT=imagery intelligence.
The NRO is funded through the National Reconnaissance Program, which is part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program. The NRO has an annual budget of $16 billion dollars a year.
The NRO works closely with its intelligence and space partners, which include the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the United States Strategic Command, Naval Research Laboratory and other agencies and organizations.
Explore more - see website: www.rno.gov.us
The NRO operates ground stations all over the world that collect and distribute intelligence gathered from U.S. reconnaissance satellites.
A vitally important mission of NRO satellites is rumored to be the tracking of non-US submarines on patrol or on training missions in the world's oceans and seas.
Unconfirmed rumors suggest this satellite launch was part of something that would increase our ability to track subs on the high seas.
The NRO declined comment on the new satellite capabilities.
While we don’t know exactly what kind of top secret satellite the NRO deployed it was suggested earlier that it was "mission critical.”
At the National Space Symposium in April 2010 NRO director General Bruce Carlson, USAF (Ret.) announced that till the end of 2011 NRO is embarking on "the most aggressive launch schedule that this organization has undertaken in the last twenty-five years. There are a number of very large and very critical reconnaissance satellites that will go into orbit in the next year to a year and a half." ( Bruce Carlson - April 14, 2010. "Bruce Carlson, Director, NRO, National Space Symposium, Remarks").
In a post-launch statement, the NRO termed the mission “a success”, reporting that the payload made it to its planned preliminary orbit.
"This morning's flawless launch is the product of many months of hard work and collaboration of government and industry teams," Col. James Fisher, director of NRO's Office of Space Launch, said in the statement. "We hit it out of the park again as we continue to deliver superior vigilance from above for the nation."
It is the second of four scheduled missions planned this year for the NRO.