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NRO successfully launches three satellites, with fourth in the wings
The government agency that designs and operates surveillance satellites for the U.S. armed forces and domestic agencies, such as DHS, said it has successfully launched three of the four satellites it plans to put in orbit in 2012.
The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the government organization that designs and operates intelligence-gathering surveillance satellites for policy makers and military forces, said the latest launch was successfully completed on June 29, while the last is still planned.
The United Launch Alliance, the group that handles the launch operations for the satellites, said the NRO’s last launch this year -- NROL-36 -- is slated for Aug. 14. The launch had been delayed because of range instrumentation problems at the Vandenberg Air Force range in California, according to reports in Sat News. There wasn’t a problem with the Atlas V rocket carrying the NRO payload, however.
The agency didn’t disclose specific details of the payloads of any of the launches, but it is tasked with supporting the armed services, the intelligence community, Departments of State, Justice and Treasury, and civil agencies.
A statement on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Web site explained NRO systems provide support for a myriad of critical surveillance duties, including: monitoring weapons of mass destruction; tracking international terrorists, drug traffickers, and criminal organizations; developing highly accurate military targeting data and bomb damage assessments; supporting international peacekeeping and humanitarian relief operations; and assessing the impact of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and fires.
NRO launches its payloads from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, as well as Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The agency provided some details on each of the successful launches on its Web site, as well as links to videos of the operations:
An NRO payload, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket, was successfully launched from Space Launch Complex-6, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on April 3, 2012. This is the first in a series of four launches in five months for the NRO this year.
A National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) payload was successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida, on June 20, 2012. This is the second in a series of four launches in five months for the NRO this year.
An NRO payload was successfully launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Florida, on June 29, 2012. This is the third in a series of four launches in five months for the NRO this year.