Vortex (satellite)

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DNI depiction of a NRO SIGINT satellite
Vortex satellite footprints
Vortex satellite footprints

Vortex, previously known as Chalet, was a class of spy satellite operated by the United States during the 1980s and 1990s to collect signals intelligence (SIGINT) from high Earth orbit. The Vortex satellites were operated by the National Reconnaissance Office for the United States Air Force and listened to radio transmissions originating from Earth or space. The intercepted data is believed to have been fed into and analyzed by the National Security Agency ECHELON system.

The satellites each had a mass of approximately 1,800 kilograms and are operated from non-stationary geosynchronous orbits. Each reportedly carried a 38-meter-diameter umbrella-like reflecting dish to collect radio signals from Earth. At least six launch attempts were made of Chalet/Vortex satellites between 1978 and 1989. The Chalet/Vortex satellites replaced the older generation of Canyon satellites, and were superseded by the larger, more capable Mercury satellites.

Launches[edit]

Name COSPAR ID
SATCAT №
Launch date
(UTC)
Launch vehicle Launch site Orbit Remarks
OPS 9454 1978-058A
10941
10 June 1978
19:08
Titan III(23)C CCAFS LC-40
OPS 1948 1979-086A
11558
1 October 1979
11:22:00
Titan III(23)C CCAFS LC-40
OPS 4029 1981-107A
12930
31 October 1981
09:22:00
Titan III(23)C CCAFS LC-40
OPS 0441 1984-009A
14675
31 January 1984
03:08:01
Titan III(34)D/Transtage* CCAFS LC-40
USA-31 1988-077A
19458
2 September 1988
12:05:02
Titan III(34)D/Transtage CCAFS LC-40
USA-37 1989-035A
19976
10 May 1989
19:47:01
Titan III(34)D/Transtage CCAFS LC-40
* – The rockets used for the first three launches also included Transtages, however it was considered an integral component of the Titan III(23)C rocket, and an additional upper stage for Titan III(34)D launches.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  • Richelson, Jeffrey T. ed. U.S. Military Uses of Space, 1945-1991 Vol 1, Guide. National Security Archive. 1991.