Just when Americans have been assimilating the fact that the NSA has been spying on Americans in a manner so extensive that it seems to egregiously violate the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, another super-secretive US spy agency has launched a new satellite to conduct even more spying activities.  
Have you ever heard of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)? I’ll bet most people haven’t. The NRO was secretively formed in 1961 to oversee “all satellite and overflight reconnaissance projects whether covert or overt (emphasis added).” The first link offers information about the NRO including its above-cited mission statement, but its mission statement does make one wonder if the NRO is the boss of the NSA, the DHS, the FBI, the CIA, etc. in overseeing all overt and covert satellite and overflight spying activities conducted by the US government. The term “overflight” means that it is in overall charge of all spying done by airplanes, helicopters and (before too long) aerial drones. Perhaps the NRO is no longer the boss of these other agencies, but that is unclear to average citizens (and maybe even Congress itself). Indeed, one wonders how many other secretive governmental agencies may exist that haven’t been publicly disclosed.
The NRO just launched what was reported to be one of the heaviest payloads ever into space aboard a massive rocket. CNN reported the missile sending the new payload into space is the “heaviest” rocket in the US arsenal and that the payload was “25 tons” sent into a low-earth orbit (second link). That is a 50,000 pound payload! That is a lot of hardware sent into space! The third link adds the rocket propelled the payload to space with the “most powerful liquid hydrogen rocket engines ever built.” I wonder how many more of these massive rockets are being built to send what other payloads into space?
The reports indicate the payload was a recon satellite. Perhaps it was. But given the secrecy involved with such top-secret missions, maybe a space-weapons platform was actually sent into space. Maybe both kinds of payloads were sent to space at the same time. We really don’t know. The fact that the payload was sent into low-earth orbit indicates to me that it may have been a space-based weapons platform that was sent into space. Other media stories have reported the US very badly needs a weapon to shoot down the new Chinese ballistic missiles that are designed to be fired at US aircraft carriers and sink them. Perhaps the NRO was the agency sending this payload into low-earth orbit, but what if it is actually a military weapons platform to eventually be placed into geosynchronous orbit over the Pacific Rim to shoot down Chinese ballistic missiles when they enter low-earth space regions to descend on US carriers or other targets? That is when Chinese (or Russian) ballistic missiles would be most vulnerable to attacks from a US space weaponry platform that could shoot kinetic interceptors or aim a plasma/laser weapon at any Chinese missile. Such a space-based weapons platform could also defend vital US satellites already in space from attacking Chinese missiles (China has already demonstrated an anti-satellite capability). There is no question that such a defensive, space-based system is badly needed by the US military. Was the new payload sent into space maneuverable? I’ll bet it is maneuverable so it can be sent to wherever it is needed. If it does have a military application, it can still be called a “reconnaissance” satellite as any military platform designed to fire weaponry will necessarily have reconnaissance hardware on it to locate, track and intercept any Chinese-fired ballistic missile. On the other hand, maybe the Obama administration really, really wants another massive satellite to watch what you are barbecuing in your backyard.
The fourth link is from the Chinese-run state media and it offers China’s publicly-released comments on this new, massive American payload sent into space. What Chinese authorities are privately saying about it is, obviously, not included in the report. However, this report confirms that China has a keen interest in the very heavy payload that the NRO just launched into space. I think their interest is justified.
Here’s hoping that this payload was a major military advance by the USA.
  1. http://www.nro.gov/about/nro/index.html
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/28/us/spy-satellite-launch/index.html
  3. http://www.space.com/16362-air-force-rocket-launches-spy-satellite-nrol-15.html
  4. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/sci/2013-08/29/c_125269705.htm