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back to article Sat-spotters find secret payload launched by giant US rocket

Amateur skywatchers say they have located the secret spacecraft launched aboard a giant US rocket on Friday. It is thought to be an optical spy satellite of a type which had been retired, but has now been brought back into service due to the failure of its replacement. The spacecraft, initially referred to as NROL-49*, has now …

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Black Helicopters

Everybody look up...

And say CHEESE!

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feet per second

Do NASA really work in feet per second and pounds of fuel load or do they just translate for the American public on the commentary.

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Anonymous Coward

Not so sure

...there's a small impact crater somewhere on mars which says even NASA/JPL gets it's metres and it's feet mixed up every now and then.

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Aerospace does indeed still use pounds.

Historically, pounds were used as a standard in aerospace circles for stating such things as fuel loads, paylods and takeoff weights. It remains that way as a legacy system because it's too hard to change to metric (people might confuse metric or imperial weights).

In spite of this, there was one high profile instance a few years ago of a space mission getting bolloxed up because one team used metric units and the other team used imperial without converting between units.

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foots per second

they also talk about rates of speed which must be something to do with acceleration as speed is already a rate.

But then they're not the only ones to have been buggerisedly with da lingo...

ish

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Gimley Glider

Possibly you area thinking of this incident:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimley_Glider

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Ooops! Here it is...

Okay, the Gimley Glider page actually had a link to the following page, which is pretty certainly the incident you had in mind:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_Climate_Orbiter

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RJ

There is no title

Ok, spooky as spy sats are I have to take my hat off to the black humour of the mission patch, very amusing.

(I am of course assuming the "devil" is referring to the older satellites rather than telling us that the devil is "American spy sats" rather than other ones.)

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Not that the Iranians have infiltrated?

Better the Great Satan you know....

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It would be funnier...

It would be funnier if they had actually used the correct verb. The motto makes no sense.

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Headmaster

reminds me of..

Romanes Eunt Domus

now write it out 100 times....

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Anonymous Coward

The devil you know...

...is probably the regiment, 'fertiliser' factory or nuclear facility you are spying on.

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yup

Dunno why El Reg say it means 'roughly' better the devil you know, though. There's no 'roughly' about it, it's a word-for-word rendition.

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Happy

Just an upgraded Google Street View with better coverage

The only difference between this bit of hardware appears to be the transportation techniques as well as the optics.

Guess other governments won't be filing privacy complaints about this 'bird'.

Just think the whole thing is financed on bonds sold to the Chinese!

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Boffin

privacy complaints

You don't have to fire off privacy complaints; Just point a very intense light source upwards, and it can't "see" as it passes overhead.

In the US, telescopes are not allowed to use adaptive optics for this reason unless they publish their intended operations in advance and get authorisation to use them. However in other countries you can use them all you want.

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Black Helicopters

Wooohooo more orbital spanner launchers.........

theres no point looking up to see them coming, they are too small and too slow to get too hot on reentry.

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Anonymous Coward

Damned if the old farts

don't win over the new whiz kids again.

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Mr

Why did they bother spending $100m to upgrade the Vandenburg launchpad? Supposedly a west coast launch makes it harder for amateur spotters to track where the payload ends up. Clearly the spotters are going to find it anyway, so they might as well have used Canaveral and saved the $$$.

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Boffin

Polar orbits give good coverage for reconnaissance, but cost in other ways

Polar orbits have high inclination relative to the equator, giving good earth coverage.

A launch vehicle must depart the ground as close as possible to the ultimate inclination of the desired orbit. Any deviation from that track is wasted energy that must be made up. Wasted energy means you carry more fuel and less payload.

If you look at a map centered over Florida, you will see centers of population to the north and south of a launch pad. Some the countries located southward are unfriendly towards the U.S. Government, and wouldn't appreciate a launch flying overhead. Even before thinking about secrecy, diplomacy and safety dictate a flight path more towards the east so the vehicle heads out over water.

At Vandenberg, they get a high inclination launch (usually at night) on a southbound track, quickly taking the vehicle out over the ocean. Much safer if something goes wrong.

Search on "polar orbit launch sites" for more information - far better than I could write.

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Boffin

Vandenburg launchpad

My understanding was that Vandenburg is better placed for launching into certain orbits.

If the rocket can launch more mass to orbit from another base, you can have more fuel in the bird for longer life and more orbit changes to spy on different targets.

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Joke

On another note.

"If you look at a map centered over Florida, you will see".....a grand piano on a sandbank?

This would be the Florida Keys I rekon.

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@Magnus_Pym

They use both. Which has caused a few problems when sone uses cm and some else uses inches on the same project.

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Thumb Down

Metric?

They still use US gallons per minute for fuel flow, psi for pressure and feet and inches for length in aerial refuelling, which means we have to use it too. It's annoying to say the least.

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Pint

Why not just connect this spy telescope directly

to WikiLeaks, so that we don't have to take a detour over the deathless prose of US State Department employees and that country's military ?...

Henri

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Joke

$15bn?

"by some accounts after some $15bn had been spent to little effect"

Why didn't they just buy Google Streetview?

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@Google Streetview

Because you have to let the streetview cars into the country - which would mean that the country had to be friendly to you before you invaded.

So you would only be able to invade countries that used to be your staunch muslim allies in the fight against the evils of communism and are now evil muslim dictators in the fight against terrorism.

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Anonymous Coward

The reason the Hubble Telescope was orignially out of focus...

..was due to a metric / imperial cock-up I thought.

Either this was mis-information at the time, or Wikipedia has been 'tweaked' to avoid stating this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubble_Space_Telescope#Flawed_mirror

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Anonymous Coward

It was refractive index

They set the mirror curvature to focus in air, not the vacuum of space, so it was their refractive index calculations that were wrong.

Many years ago I ordered Belkin RS232 cable (for those that don’t go back that far, dumb terminal cable) for a job measured in metres but it shipped in reels measured in feet. We promptly ran out of cable long before finishing the office relocation and it took us a while to work out why.

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Unhappy

Nope (again)

There is in fact a perfectly ground primary Hubble mirror in existance, made by Kodak and on public display at the National Air and Space Museum (seen it myself). The flown mirror was made by Perkin-Elmer, using a improperly assembled null corrector. Testing by Perkin-Elmer showed they'd cocked up, but delivered the mirror to NASA anyway who never tested it themselves before sending it into space.

Funny thing is, do a search at perkinelmer.com for "hubble" returns autocorrected results for "bubble".

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Unhappy

Nope

Was due to a shoddy subcontractor doing shoddy work with shoddy NASA oversight.

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Joke

NROL-49

I thought that meant Not Really Our Launch. It/s friday, and I think I'll have beer for lunch.

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So why is this big payload so heavy ?

A telescope is mostly air, or not.

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FAIL

Isn't it funny...

Isn't it funny that they always seem to get economic approval for these kinds of projects.

The whole country's economy is going to the toilet and they still feel the need to spend $15 billion dollars to spy on their neighbours. Oh, actually that would be "some other countries thousands of miles away".

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