Mentor (satellite)

Mentor (satellite)
Mentor 4 (USA 202, 2009-001A) 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. Photograph by amateur satellite observer Marco Langbroek, the Netherlands

MENTOR, sometimes called Advanced Orion by observers, is reportedly a code-name for 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), three were launched from Cape Canaveral on Titan IV and Titan IVB rockets between 1995 and 2003, with a fourth launched on a Delta IV-H in 2009. These satellites collect radio emissions (SIGINT) from geostationary orbits and act as replacements for the older constellation of Magnum/Orion 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 Mentors.[4]

List of Launches and survey areas

NROL-32 (USA-223, believed to be an Advanced Orion SIGINT satellite) on the launch pad in November 2010
Mentor 4 (USA 202) and the nearby commercial geostationary satellite Thuraya 2 photographed on 8 Dec 2010 from the Netherlands
Name Launch date Longitude Alt. name Launch desig. COSPAR ID[5]
Advanced Orion 1 14 May 1995 127°E[3] USA-110 - 1995-022A
Advanced Orion 2 9 May 1998 14.5°W (since 2009, before at 44°E)[3] USA-139 NROL-6 1998-029A
Advanced Orion 3 9 Sep 2003 95.5°E[3] USA-171 NROL-16 2003-041A
Advanced Orion 4 18 Jan 2009 44°E (replacing USA-139)[3] USA-202 NROL-26 2009-001A
Advanced Orion 5 21 Nov 2010 100.9°E[6] USA-223 NROL-32 2010-063A

References

  1. ^ Spy satellites of the NSA (fr)
  2. ^ Bruce Carlson (2010-09-13). "National Reconnaissance Office Update". Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2010. http://www.afa.org/events/conference/2010/scripts/AFA-100913-Carlson.pdf. Retrieved 2010-11-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d e William Graham (2010-11-21). "Delta IV Heavy launches with NROL-32". nasaspaceflight.com. http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2010/11/live-delta-iv-heavy-launch-with-nrol-3/. Retrieved 2010-11-22. 
  4. ^ Jonathan's space report No. 369 (1998-08-22)
  5. ^ List of satellite launches from Jonathan's Space Report |-
  6. ^ T. Flohrer, R. Choc, and B. Bastida (February 2011). "CLASSIFICATION OF GEOSYNCHRONOUS OBJECTS ISSUE 13". ESA. http://www.kfetter.com/EAS/ESAclassificationIssue13.pdf. 

External links


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