Orion, also known as Mentor or Advanced Orion, is a class of United States spy satellites that collect signals intelligence (SIGINT) from space. Operated by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and developed with input from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), five have been launched from Cape Canaveral on Titan IV and Delta IV rockets since 1995.
These satellites collect radio emissions (SIGINT) from geostationary orbits and act as replacements for the older constellation of Magnum satellites. Observers estimate the satellites weigh close to 5,200 kg and have very large (estimated 100 m diameter) radio reflecting dishes. NRO L-32, which is seen as the fifth satellite in the series, is according to NRO director Bruce Carlson "(...) the largest satellite in the world". It is believed that this refers to the diameter of the main antenna, which might be well in excess of 100 m (330 ft). The mission and capabilities of these satellites are highly classified. Earlier satellites with similar missions, the Rhyolite/Aquacade series, were built by TRW; it is not known who made the Orion satellites.
|Launch vehicle||Launch site||Launch designation||Longitude||Remarks|
|USA-110||1995-022A||14 May 1995
|Titan IV(401)A||CCAFS LC-40||N/A||127°E||MENTOR 1|
|USA-139||1998-029A||9 May 1998
|Titan IV(401)B||CCAFS SLC-40||NROL-6||44°E (1998–2009)
|USA-171||2003-041A||9 September 2003
|Titan IV(401)B||CCAFS SLC-40||NROL-19||95.5°E||MENTOR 3|
|USA-202||2009-001A||18 January 2009
|Delta IV Heavy||CCAFS SLC-37B||NROL-26||44°E||MENTOR 4|
|USA-223||2010-063A||21 November 2010
|Delta IV Heavy||CCAFS SLC-37B||NROL-32||100.9°E||MENTOR 5|
|USA-237||2012-034A||29 June 2012
|Delta IV Heavy||CCAFS SLC-37B||NROL-15||MENTOR 6|
|USA-268||2016-036A||11 June 2016
|Delta IV Heavy||CCAFS SLC-37B||NROL-37||MENTOR 7|
- Justin Ray (11 June 2016). "Triple-barrel Delta 4-Heavy launches national security satellite". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
- Spy satellites of the NSA (fr)
- Bruce Carlson (2010-09-13). "National Reconnaissance Office Update" (PDF). Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
- William Graham (2010-11-21). "Delta IV Heavy launches with NROL-32". nasaspaceflight.com. Retrieved 2010-11-22.
- Jonathan's space report No. 369 (1998-08-22)
- T. Flohrer; R. Choc & B. Bastida (February 2011). "CLASSIFICATION OF GEOSYNCHRONOUS OBJECTS ISSUE 13" (PDF). ESA.