Amateurs identify U.S. spy satellite behind President Trump's Tweet

Sept. 4, 2019
The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011, writes Geoff Brumfiel for NPR.

TEHRAN, Iran - Amateur satellite trackers say they believe an image tweeted by President Trump on Friday came from one of America's most advanced spy satellites. The image almost certainly came from a satellite known as USA 224, according to Marco Langbroek, a satellite-tracker based in the Netherlands. The satellite was launched by the National Reconnaissance Office in 2011. Almost everything about it remains highly classified, but Langbroek says that based on its size and orbit, most observers believe USA 224 is one of America's multibillion-dollar KH-11 reconnaissance satellites, writes Geoff Brumfiel for NPR. Continue reading original article

The Intelligent Aerospace take:

September 4, 2019- Langbroek explained to NPR that the USA 224 satellite is essentially similar to the Hubbel Space Telescope, except it looks down on Earth instead of looking out into outer space. USA 224 is believed to be in the KH-11 electro-optical spy satellite family, which remains highly classified. It is the first time since 1984 that a photo of this quality has "leaked" (though it technically does not fit the definition of the term, as the POTUS can declassify anything he or she wishes).

“When we saw this photo we were kind of blown away,” says David Schmerler, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies told NPR. “A president tweeting out national intelligence assets is a whole new level.”

While the United States was assumed to have some powerful reconnaissance tools at its disposal, having a look under the hood of the KH-11 satellite program to see how high quality photography above-the-atmosphere has gotten in the last 35 years is a unique opportunity brought about by a presidential tweet.

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Jamie Whitney, Associate Editor
Intelligent Aerospace

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