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US scrubs spy satellite launch during the final countdown

by on31 August 2020

CIA will have to wait to suck up mobile calls

The launch of America's classified NROL-44 spy satellite, was scrubbed during the final countdown after the engines failed to ignite.

A new launch time has not been set yet. There will be a minimum seven day recycle period before the next launch attempt. We will edit this article with new launch date and time details when released by ULA.

NROL-44 is a huge signals intelligence, or SIGINT, satellite, says David Baker, a former NASA scientist who worked on Apollo and Shuttle missions, has written numerous books, including US Spy Satellites and is editor of SpaceFlight magazine.

"SIGINT satellites are the core of national government, military security satellites. They are massive things for which no private company has any purpose", says Baker.

"It weighs more than five tons. It has a huge parabolic antenna which unfolds to a diameter of more than 100 meters in space, and it will go into an equatorial plane of Earth at a distance of about 36,000 kilometers (22,000 miles)", Baker said.

It can "hoover up" of hundreds of thousands of cell phone calls or scour the dark web for terrorist activity. 

Apparently the move from wired communication to digital and wireless is a godsend to governments because you can't cut into wires from a satellite, but you can literally pick up mobile phone towers which are radiating this stuff into the atmosphere. It takes a massive antenna, but you're able to sit over one spot and listen to all the communications traffic, said Baker.


Last modified on 31 August 2020
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