Monday, August 30, 2010

Observable Classified Satellites

The US classified fleet includes IMINT satellites, SIGINT satellites, MASINT satellites and covert communications satellites. The satellites shown in this simulation can be observed either with the unaided eye, binoculars, telescopes and/or photographic techniques. The number shown is presumably less than the entire classified fleet since stealth technology is used by some. The element sets for this simulation are from Heavens Above and Mike McCants' Satellite Tracking TLE ZIP Files. The software used is JSatTrak.

The Joint Functional Component Command for Space (JFCC-SPACE) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) are tasked with operating these satellites. The following is a quote which explains (note: in 2002 USSPACECOM was absorbed into USSTRATCOM to eventually become JFCC-SPACE):
The DoD has two organisations dealing with satellite reconnaissance---the US Space Command (SPACECOM) and the NRO. Before 1992, the SPACECOM was responsible for the launching and maintenance of what were called "white world satellites", that is, satellites, whose launchings and existence in orbit were openly admitted by the DoD.These were meant for military communication, weather and navigation purposes. The NRO was responsible for the launching and maintenance of "black world satellites", that is, satellites meant for clandestine intelligence collection purposes, whose launchings and existence were not admitted. In fact, before 1992, even the existence of the NRO as an organisation was not admitted.

However, in 1992, it was decided to declassify the fact of the existence of the NRO and, since then, the launchings and existence of a number of intelligence collection satellites of the NRO have been announced. Like the chiefs of other intelligence agencies, Director, NRO, too now testifies in public before the congressional intelligence oversight committees. However, he has a right to demand that sensitive portions of his testimony be treated as classified.

Before being absorbed into USSTRATCOM, USSPACECOM was supported by three commands: Air Force Space Command (AFSPACECOM), Naval Space Command (NAVSPACECOM) and Army Space Command (ARSPACECOM).

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