SpaceX launches first satellites for new US spy constellation

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – SpaceX on Wednesday launched a first batch of operational spy satellites built as part of a new U.S. intelligence network designed to significantly improve the country’s space surveillance capabilities, the first deployment of several more planned this year.

The spy network was revealed in two Reuters reports earlier this year showing that SpaceX was building hundreds of satellites for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, an intelligence agency, for a vast orbiting system capable of quickly spotting ground targets almost everywhere in the world.

Northrop Grumman, a longtime space and defense contractor, is also involved in the project.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Space Station in Southern California at 4 a.m. PDT on Wednesday, carrying what the NRO called “the first launch of the proliferated systems” into space. of the NRO, equipped with responsive collection and rapid delivery of data”.

“Approximately half a dozen launches supporting the proliferated NRO architecture are planned for 2024, with additional launches expected through 2028,” the agency said, without specifying the number of satellites deployed.

Militaries and intelligence agencies around the world are increasingly relying on satellites in Earth orbit to facilitate their operations on Earth, a trend accelerated in part by the reduced costs of placing objects in the space and by evolving threats to traditional collection methods on land or in the air.

The NRO’s satellite network also shows the extent to which the U.S. government has come to rely on Elon Musk’s SpaceX for some of its most sensitive missions. The company dominated the U.S. rocket launch market and became the world’s largest satellite operator through its Starlink network, a commercial system of thousands of high-speed Internet satellites.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette in Washington; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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