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Orion (satellite)

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Orion (satellite)

USA-202 shows up as a magnitude +8 "star" in this image. Note how the real stars are trailed in this 10 second exposure: the geostationary satellite is pinpoint.
USA-223 (NROL-32), the fifth "Mentor" satellite, atop a Delta IV rocket
USA-202 and the nearby commercial geostationary satellite Thuraya 2

Orion, also known as Mentor or Advanced Orion, is a class of United States spy satellites that collect signals intelligence (SIGINT) from space. Operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and developed with input from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), five have been launched from Cape Canaveral on Titan IV and Delta IV rockets since 1995. These satellites collect radio emissions (SIGINT) from geostationary orbits and act as replacements for the older constellation of Magnum satellites. Observers estimate the satellites weigh close to 5,200 kg and have very large (estimated 100 m diameter)[1] radio reflecting dishes. NRO L-32, which is seen as the fifth satellite in the series, is according to NRO director Bruce Carlson "(...) the largest satellite in the world".[2] It is believed that this refers to the diameter of the main antenna, which might be well in excess of 100 m (330 ft).[3] The mission and capabilities of these satellites are highly classified. Earlier satellites with similar missions, the Rhyolite/Aquacade series, were built by TRW; it is not known who made the Orion satellites.[4]


Launch date
Launch vehicle Launch site Launch designation Longitude Remarks
USA-110 1995-022A 14 May 1995
Titan IV(401)A CCAFS LC-40 N/A 127°E[3]
USA-139 1998-029A 9 May 1998
Titan IV(401)B CCAFS SLC-40 NROL-6 44°E (1998–2009)
14.5°W (2009—)[3]
USA-171 2003-041A 9 September 2003
Titan IV(401)B CCAFS SLC-40 NROL-19 95.5°E[3]
USA-202 2009-001A 18 January 2009
Delta IV-H CCAFS SLC-37B NROL-26 44°E[3]
USA-223 2010-063A 21 November 2010
Delta IV-H CCAFS SLC-37B NROL-32 100.9°E[5]


  1. ^ Spy satellites of the NSA (fr)
  2. ^ Bruce Carlson (2010-09-13). "National Reconnaissance Office Update". Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d e William Graham (2010-11-21). "Delta IV Heavy launches with NROL-32". Retrieved 2010-11-22. 
  4. ^ Jonathan's space report No. 369 (1998-08-22)
  5. ^ T. Flohrer, R. Choc, and B. Bastida (February 2011). "CLASSIFICATION OF GEOSYNCHRONOUS OBJECTS ISSUE 13". ESA. 

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