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Advanced Orion
American military signals intelligence satellite. Highly classified.

Status: Operational 1995. First Launch: 1995-05-14. Last Launch: 2012-06-29. Number: 6 .



Family: Geosynchronous orbit, Military naval signals reconnsat, SIGINT, Surveillance. Country: USA. Launch Vehicles: Titan, Titan 4, Titan 4B, Titan 401A/Centaur, Titan 401B/Centaur, Delta IV, Delta 4H. Launch Sites: Cape Canaveral, Cape Canaveral LC37B, Cape Canaveral LC40. Agency: USAF. Bibliography: 172, 2, 4, 6, 6326.

1995 May 14 - . 13:45 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC40. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 401A/Centaur.
  • USA 110 - . Payload: Orion 3. Mass: 5,200 kg (11,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: CIA, NRO. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 23567 . COSPAR: 1995-022A. Apogee: 35,787 km (22,236 mi). Perigee: 35,787 km (22,236 mi). Inclination: 0.0000 deg. Period: 1,440.00 min. First launch of 'Advanced Orion' (real code name unknown) new model geostationary ELINT satellite..

1998 May 9 - . 01:38 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC40. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 401B/Centaur.
  • USA 139 - . Payload: Orion 4. Mass: 5,200 kg (11,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO, NSA. Manufacturer: El Segundo. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 25336 . COSPAR: 1998-029A. Apogee: 35,800 km (22,200 mi). Perigee: 35,780 km (22,230 mi). Inclination: 0.0000 deg. Period: 1,440.00 min.

2003 September 9 - . 04:29 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC40. Launch Pad: SLC40. LV Family: Titan. Launch Vehicle: Titan 401B/Centaur.
  • USA 171 - . Payload: Orion 5. Mass: 5,200 kg (11,400 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 27937 . COSPAR: 2003-041A. Apogee: 35,800 km (22,200 mi). Perigee: 35,780 km (22,230 mi). Inclination: 0.0000 deg. Period: 1,440.00 min.

    American signals intelligence satellite placed into geostationary orbit. It was believed the payload was a successor to the USA-110 and USA-139 satellites launched in May 1995 and May 1998, referred to as 'Advanced ORION' by those not in the know. They were thought to be successors to the RHYOLITE missions of the 1970s. The satellite was originally to have launched April 28, 2002. Launch delayed seven times.


2009 January 18 - . 02:47 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC37B. Launch Pad: SLC37B. LV Family: Delta IV. Launch Vehicle: Delta 4H.
  • USA 202 - . Payload: Orion 6 / NROL-26. Mass: 5,400 kg (11,900 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: NRO. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 33490 . COSPAR: 2009-001A. Apogee: 38,077 km (23,659 mi). Perigee: 35,943 km (22,333 mi). Inclination: 3.0000 deg. Period: 1,440.00 min. Classified signals intelligence satellite. It was speculated that it was a large-antenna spacecraft with the same mission as earlier Rhyolite, Aquacade, Magnum, and Orion missions..

2010 November 21 - . 22:58 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC37B. Launch Pad: SLC37B. LV Family: Delta IV. Launch Vehicle: Delta 4H.
  • USA 223 - . Payload: Orion 7 / NROL-32. Mass: 5,400 kg (11,900 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 37232 . COSPAR: 2010-063A. Apogee: 35,800 km (22,200 mi). Perigee: 35,800 km (22,200 mi). Inclination: 0.0000 deg. Period: 1,436.00 min. Probable geosynchronous signals intelligence satellite..

2012 June 29 - . 13:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC37B. Launch Pad: SLC37B. LV Family: Delta IV. Launch Vehicle: Delta 4H.
  • USA 237 - . Payload: Orion 8 / NROL-15. Mass: 5,400 kg (11,900 lb). Nation: USA. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 38528 . COSPAR: 2012-034A. Apogee: 35,800 km (22,200 mi). Perigee: 35,800 km (22,200 mi). Inclination: 0.0000 deg. Period: 1,440.00 min. Probable geosynchronous signals intelligence satellite..

2016 June 11 - . 17:51 GMT - . Launch Site: Cape Canaveral. Launch Complex: Cape Canaveral LC37B. Launch Pad: Cape Canaveral SLC37. LV Family: Delta IV. Launch Vehicle: Delta 4H.
  • USA 268 - . Payload: SIGINT. Nation: USA. Class: Surveillance. Type: ELINT. Spacecraft: Advanced Orion. USAF Sat Cat: 41584 . COSPAR: 2016-036A. Apogee: 36,000 km (22,000 mi). Perigee: 35,612 km (22,128 mi). Inclination: 7.5000 deg.

    The NROL-37 mission was a large signals intelligence (SIGINT) satellite, placed in geosynchronous orbit at 103 deg E over the Indian Ocean. Possibly the second Orion/Sharp model. There were two main lineages of GEO SIGINT satellites operated by the US National Reconnaissance Office: MERCURY (originally CANYON); and RHYOLITE (later AQUACADE), which was replaced in the 1980s by ORION (whose other rumoured codenames include MAGNUM and MENTOR). Launches of the MERCURY series ended in 1998, at which time it was rumoured that its capabilites would be merged into the ORION series. A number of observers suggested that the 2014 GEO SIGINT launch of USA 250 on an Atlas V was a one-off mission not part of the ORION series, and that with an increase in mass ORION had moved to using the RS-68A-powered Delta 4 Heavy rockets. It was further been suggested that the 2014 launch might be the NEMESIS 2 satellite mentioned in leaked FY2013 budget documents; however a close reading of those documents showed that funding for the latter project was cut off after FY2011, which implies that it was either launched by then or cancelled (more likely given the sudden drop from half-billion-dollar-level funding to zero). The documents also mention SHARP, the SIGINT High Altitude Replenishment Program, funded at a high level in FY2011-2013 and reportedly also since. It's possible the 2012 and 2016 launches may represent a new ORION/SHARP series, or that they are beefed up ORION and the 2014 launch was a SHARP prototype. The shorter fairing used for the 2014 launch suggests that it was not in fact an ORION.



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