back to article Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully

A mysterious spy satellite got off the ground safely yesterday evening from Cape Canaveral in Florida, United Launch Alliance has said. Youtube Video A ULA Atlas V rocket stack blasted off with the clandestine payload for the National Reconnaissance Office, which was designated NROL-67 and is a "mission in support of national …

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Bronze badge

Just hope they fixed the SSL on the telemetry uplink before they launched , Dang

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It's OK. They'll be using a version old enough to be unaffected...

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No mystery....

A spy satellite is a spy satellite.

It spy's.

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Coat

Isn't it funny...

That the USA seems to have enough money lying around to launch dozens of

spy satellites, but when they want to send a couple of people to the ISS

they need the russians to do it for them ?

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Silver badge

Re: Isn't it funny...

That's because the spy satellites don't have those bonehead morons in Congress involved. Congress has tried everything to shoot down COTS despite it paying for American jobs and technology.

However, Atlas V uses Russian RD-180 engines. All the recent American attempts to design new rocket engines (with the shining exception of the SpaceX Merlin) have failed completely.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Isn't it funny...

Not as ironic as you think. Even US military satillites (including this one) are launched on Russian built engines.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Isn't it funny...

Also to be pointed out that if you lose the cargo payload it's just a big fuck-up, whereas if you lose human lives that's a PR catastrophe and politicians don't like that.

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Linux

Re: Isn't it funny...

No. It's all about budgets. NASA always gets the short end of the stick. They are lucky if they can keep the lights on. This is in stark contrast to the military that has an entire political party near dedicated to the prospect of giving the Pentagon anything it wants.

The armed services can fund a rocket program with the spare change from the couch.

NASA is lucky to have a couch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Isn't it funny...

Its all too sad to be funny... In this clip the renowned physicist Michio Kaku calls the US out on its 'we've no money healthcare & retirement for the little people' but of course we do have $ for War!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTxaGzm_v8Q

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Re: Isn't it funny...

"That the USA seems to have enough money lying around to launch dozens of spy satellites, but when they want to send a couple of people to the ISS they need the russians to do it for them ?"

Because the "I" in ISS is for International. NASA don't run the ISS. NASA has been kicking in about 40% of the ISS budget, which is a lot given how many countries are involved. So it is just a matter of fairness for Russia to contribute lift capacity to ISS. It is the least they can do, as their space toilets are garbage.

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Re: Isn't it funny...

"All the recent American attempts to design new rocket engines (with the shining exception of the SpaceX Merlin) have failed completely."

The US hasn't really attempted to build any new engines. And the US isn't really a singular group. This satellite was launched by the NRO. Normally the NRO used Titan IV Heavies, but they were really expensive. So they switched to the Atlas V, built by the United Launch Alliance. If you have the cash, the United Launch Alliance will put up an Atlas V for anyone. The Atlas V is scalable to various sizes of payloads and different orbits.

However, NASA is pretty close to obtaining a domestic RD-180. Except, until recently, there wasn't any reason to spend the money to do so.

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Re: Isn't it funny...

The launch vehicle is chosen to match the payload. I think the NRO has been the only customer for the full-fat Delta IV Heavy capable of putting about 25 tonnes into low earth orbit. The Atlas V mod 541 used for this launch is good for about 18 tonnes.

As for "new" engines, design and development has plateaued out with little extra performance to be gained from existing fuels. The aim now is simplicity, lower weight and manufacturing cost hence the development of the RS68/RS68A as used on the Delta IV, cheaper and simpler than the RS25 used on the Space Shuttle.

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Coat

Re: Isn't it funny...

American rockets. Russian rockets.

All the parts are made in Taiwan anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Isn't it funny...

Well I liked the Armageddon reference even if nobody else did!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Isn't it funny...

They should be careful. The cosmonauts might start annexing parts of the science lab or solar panel arms to protect Russian insterests...

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Bronze badge

it was so seekrit

that there was video and everything LOL

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Amazing

Still enjoy watching launches into space. A reminder of what humans can accomplish.

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Silver badge

Re: Amazing

As do I.

Unfortunately. my old age is making me cynical enough to realize it's also a reminder of what we AREN'T accomplishing.

*sigh*

Still, have an upvote.

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Re: Amazing

Yes, oddly enjoyable--but much less so when there's a sound-track and 2:45 of propagandistic cruft to slog through first.

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Bronze badge

Re: Amazing

Well, if you watch the SpaceX Dragon launch later today (14th) and you live in the UK, you might get to see Dragon as it passes overhead about an hour later:

Mon Apr 14, 10:18 PM 2 min 59° 10 above W 59 above WSW

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Devil

I wonder...

Hum, I wonder if it's smart enough to track commercial jet aircraft.

(Seems the previous models weren't.)

>:-)

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Re: I wonder...

It would seem to me that if I had the ability to track a routine flight, clear on the other side of the planet, in near-as-makes-no-difference real time, I wouldn't exactly be letting on that I could do it.

Perhaps giving a couple, discrete, helpful nudges trickled out in such a way, and on such a timetable, as to not be suspicious. That is if I felt helpful - but even then, certainly not in a way that says "Here is where it is".

Note: I am not suggesting any conspiracy here, purely that if anyone did have the information, this incident, tragic as it is, wouldn't register high enough on the strategic-importance list to tip the cards.

Karl P

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Silver badge

Re: I wonder...

"It would seem to me that if I had the ability to track a routine flight, clear on the other side of the planet, in near-as-makes-no-difference real time, I wouldn't exactly be letting on that I could do it."

That would be a rather stupendous amount of money wasted each day, to effectively be keeping real-time eyes on the entire surface of the earth, not to mention storing that data on the off-chance.

Earth is about half a billion km^2. At resolution of 1 pixel per m^2, that's 5 * 10^14 pixels. Say an 8 megapixel image is 4MB as an average (JPEG, probably useless for spotting objects of interest, but hey ho), 62.5m images, 250TB data. For a one-off snapshot.

That's a lot of data. And a lot of satellites. And a lot of bandwidth required to get it back down again.

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Re: I wonder...

If you watch the ARGUS drone video from a few years ago at about 1 minute in the system demonstrates that it is able to catalog and track individual objects. If we presume that each satellite can do similar processing, the actual imagery need not be sent back to its minders. Considering that who went where, and with whom are the primary questions that a "real time" system would seek to answer it makes even less sense to send the actual imagery rather than just the data.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBfSbdAC-3k

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Re: I wonder...

...interesting Boeing and Rolls Royce are very quiet on this. A 'friend of a friend' mentioned Boeing has the plane placed in Pakistan.

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Re: I wonder...

Yes but the maths of the scale doesn't change. The ARGUS system you refer captures about 15 square miles. Or 40km^2. That's 12.5 million satellites required to track across the whole globe.

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Re: I wonder...

Re: I wonder... ...interesting Boeing and Rolls Royce are very quiet on this.

Not really. RR often take real time telemetry from their engines in service, and when fitted to Boeing aircraft this service is combined with Boeing's offering of real time data to the airline, to better plan service schedules. However, it an option offered to airlines at extra cost, so is only present on about 75% of that model of Boeing.

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Trollface

Purpose?

Maybe the payload was a wireless router for the NSA?

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Anonymous Coward

Re. Chief Warmonger

Heh, very funny. Aren't the NSA using quantum comms then?

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Big Brother

Just wondering ...

Just a thought:

With so much (and very expensive) high-tech stuff in orbit, how come there's no sign of Malaysian Airlines MH370?

Cheers.

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Re: Just wondering ...

"With so much (and very expensive) high-tech stuff in orbit, how come there's no sign of Malaysian Airlines MH370?"

There was an article about this on El Reg recently. Basically the plane disappeared in a boring part of the world, spy-wise, and is now hidden from satellite view by 4500m of water..

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Pegasus?

the launch badge or shoulder patch, whatever you want to call it, has a picture of Pegasus on it. I wonder if that might actually mean something. At any rate, it is just another piece of hardware that will almost certainly be used by the United States government against its own citizens. Whither Bellerphon? Whither all the Gods? We need a hero!

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Coat

News

Title of this article reads,

Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully

So fucking secret we now all know about it's going into orbit!

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Re: News

Nations already notify the UN when they are going to launch into space.

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

Any nation remotely interested in space launches will have already known the launch was to take place.

upcoming launches

http://spaceflightnow.com/tracking/

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Headmaster

Re: News

There are different meanings of the word secret. As used in the title, the word "secret" is an adjective, or a "describing word", it gives more information about the noun that it describes.

As used in the title, the noun it is describing is "payload". The "payload" is the secret, not the launch.

You can tell this because of the order the author put the words in. If he had written "US payload top secretly launched into space", then that would have been a dichotomy worthy of note. You can tell the difference here because "secret" has become "secretly", an "adverb" - it is now describing the verb in the sentence, "launched".

In case it is not obvious, satellites are not very secret. It is impossible to secretly launch a satellite. Once launched, it is very hard to hide a satellite - you can simply look up and see it. Therefore, it makes no sense to hide that you are launching a satellite - as soon as you do launch it, people will know that you have launched it, and can track it.

On the other hand, those observers don't know what that satellite payload does, until it does it - perhaps not even then. Is it just taking pictures, or does it have a nuke on board to drop on Kazonistan? No-one knows, IT'S A SECRET.

2/10 Must Do Better

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