SpaceX launches first new constellation of US spy satellites

SuchTV  |  May 23, 2024

The spy network was made public earlier this year by two Reuters stories that showed SpaceX is constructing hundreds of satellites for the US National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence organization, to create a massive system in orbit that will enable it to quickly identify ground targets practically anywhere in the world.

The project also involves veteran space and defence firm Northrop Grumman (NOC.N).

At 4 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket took out from the Southern Californian Vandenberg Space Force Base, launching what the NRO described as the "first launch of the NRO's proliferated systems featuring responsive collection and rapid data delivery."

Without specifying how many satellites would be deployed, the agency stated, "About six launches supporting NRO's proliferated architecture are planned for 2024, with additional launches expected through 2028."

To support operations on Earth, militaries and intelligence services worldwide have come to rely more and more on satellites in Earth's orbit. This trend has been pushed in part by declining launch costs and changing risks to conventional ground-based and aerial data collection techniques.

The NRO's satellite network also demonstrates how much the US government now depends on SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, for some of its most critical missions. Thanks to its Starlink network, a commercial constellation of thousands of broadband internet satellites, the company has become the largest satellite operator in the world and has dominated the US rocket launch market.

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