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Misty (satellite program)

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Misty is reportedly the name of a classified project by the United States National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to operate stealthy reconnaissance satellites. The satellites are conjectured to be photo reconnaissance satellites[1] and the program has been the subject of atypically public debates about its worthiness in the defense budget since December 2004. The estimated project costs in 2004 were, at the time of statement, US$9.5 billion (inflation adjusted US$15.3 billion in 2023).[2]



The first satellite (USA-53 or 1990-019B,[3] 19,600 kg) launched for the program was deployed on 1 March 1990 by the Space Shuttle Atlantis as part of Mission STS-36. Objects associated with the satellite decayed on 31 March 1990, but the satellite was seen and tracked later that year and in the mid-1990s by amateur observers.[2] The second satellite (USA-144 or 1999-028A [4]) was launched on 22 May 1999, and by 2004 the launch of a third satellite was planned for 2009.[5] Circumstantial evidence suggested that the third satellite might be the payload of the Delta IV Heavy launch designated NROL-15, which was launched in June 2012.[citation needed]

Launch date
Launch vehicle Launch site Launch designation Orbit Remarks
USA-53 1990-019B
28 February 1990
Space Shuttle Atlantis KSC LC-39A STS-36 804 km × 804 km, i=65°[citation needed]
USA-144 1999-028A
22 May 1999
Titan IV(404)B VAFB SLC-4E NROL-9 Enhanced Imaging System



Porter Goss, a former Congressman and former CIA director, and George Tenet, former CIA director, have both vigorously supported successors to Misty, despite several attempts by Senators Dianne Feinstein and John D. Rockefeller IV to terminate the program. The primary contractor is Lockheed Martin Space Systems.[citation needed]

On 21 June 2007, the Associated Press reported that Director of National Intelligence John Michael McConnell had cancelled the Misty program. A spokesperson for McConnell confirmed that McConnell has the authority to cancel projects, but declined to comment further.[7]

See also



  1. ^ "Transcript: Jim Popkin, Author "Code Name Blue Wren"". Washington Post. Retrieved 15 January 2023.
  2. ^ a b Keefe, Patrick Radden (February 2006). "I Spy". Wired. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  3. ^ 1990-019B Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ 1999-028A Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  5. ^ Priest, Dana (11 December 2004). "New Spy Satellite Debated On Hill: Some Question Price and Need". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
  6. ^ Jonathan's Space Report: List of satellite launches
  7. ^ ""Misty" Stealth Spy Satellite Program Cancelled?". SatNews. 26 June 2007. Retrieved 28 December 2010.[permanent dead link]