Naval Ocean Surveillance System

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The NOSS 3-4 duo (2007-027A and C) crossing through the Pleiades. Movement in this 10 second exposure is from top to bottom, the A object is leading.
A NOSS satellite trio passes the Moon.
NOSS 3-3 duo passing by Polaris (bright star at the bottom). Movement in this 12.3 seconds exposure is from upper-left to bottom-right; the A object is leading. 6 February 2016, 18:52 (UT+2), Kyiv

The Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) is a series of signals intelligence satellites that have conducted electronic signals intelligence for the U.S. Navy since the early 1970s.[1] The first series of satellites were codenamed "White Cloud" or "PARCAE", while second and third-generation satellites have used the codenames "Ranger" and "Intruder".

The system is operated by the United States Navy and its main purpose was tactical geolocation of Soviet Navy assets during the Cold War. NOSS involves satellite clusters operating in low Earth orbit to detect radar and other electronic transmissions from ships at sea and locate them using the Time Difference of Arrival technique.[2]


Name ID Launch date Launch vehicle Launch site NROL designation Perigee Apogee Inclination Remarks

First generation[edit]

OPS 6431 SSU-1 1976-038C 30 April 1976 Atlas E/F-MSD VAFB, SLC-3W N/A 1,092 km 1,128 km 63.5° Dispenser designated OPS 6431 and catalogued as 1976-038A.
OPS 6431 SSU-2 1976-038D
OPS 6431 SSU-3 1976-038J
OPS 8781 SSU-1 1977-112D 8 December 1977 Atlas E/F-MSD VAFB, SLC-3W 1,054 km 1,169 km 63.4° Dispenser designated OPS 8781 and catalogued as 1977-112A.
OPS 8781 SSU-2 1977-112E
OPS 8781 SSU-3 1977-112F
OPS 7245 SSU-1 1980-019C 3 March 1980 Atlas E/F-MSD VAFB, SLC-3W 1,035 km 1,150 km 63.0° Dispenser designated OPS 7245 and catalogued as 1980-019A.
OPS 7245 SSU-2 1980-019D
OPS 7245 SSU-3 1980-019G
OPS 3255 SSU-1 N/A 9 December 1980 Atlas E/F-MSD VAFB, SLC-3W Failed to orbit Dispenser designated OPS 3255, loss of control after engine failure, followed by explosion.
OPS 3255 SSU-2 N/A
OPS 3255 SSU-3 N/A
OPS 0252 SSU-1 1983-008E 9 February 1983 Atlas H-MSD VAFB, SLC-3E 1,063 km 1,186 km 63.40° Dispenser designated OPS 0252 and catalogued as 1983-008A.
OPS 0252 SSU-2 1983-008F
OPS 0252 SSU-3 1983-008H
OPS 6432 SSU-1 1983-056C 9 June 1983 Atlas H-MSD VAFB, SLC-3E 851 km 1,363 km 63.4° Dispenser designated OPS 6432 and catalogued as 1983-056A.
OPS 6432 SSU-2 1983-056D
OPS 6432 SSU-3 1983-056G
OPS 8737 SSU-1 1984-012C 5 February 1984 Atlas H-MSD VAFB, SLC-3E 1,052 km 1,172 km 63.4° Dispenser designated OPS 8737 and catalogued as 1984-012A.
OPS 8737 SSU-2 1984-012D
OPS 8737 SSU-3 1984-012F
USA-16 1986-014C 9 February 1986 Atlas H-MSD VAFB, SLC-3E 1,049 km 1,166 km 63.0° Dispenser designated USA-15 and catalogued as 1986-014A.
USA-17 1986-014F
USA-18 1986-014H
USA-23 1987-043E 15 May 1987 Atlas H-MSD VAFB, SLC-3E 1,045 km 1,179 km 62.9° Dispenser designated USA-22 and catalogued as 1987-043A.
USA-24 1987-043F
USA-26 1987-043H

Second generation[edit]

USA-60 1990-050E 8 June 1990 Titan IV(405)A CCAFS, LC-41 N/A 1,071 km 1,146 km 63.4° Dispenser designated USA-59 and catalogued as 1990-050A.
USA-61 1990-050F
USA-62 1990-050H
USA-74 1991-076C 8 November 1991 Titan IV(403)A VAFB, SLC-4E 1,052 km 1,164 km 63.4° Dispenser designated USA-72 and catalogued as 1991-076A.
USA-76 1991-076D
USA-77 1991-076E
Unnamed N/A 2 August 1993 Titan IV(403)A VAFB, SLC-4E Failed to orbit Exploded due to crack in solid rocket motor caused by poor repair.
Unnamed N/A
Unnamed N/A
USA-119 1996-029A 12 May 1996 Titan IV(403)A VAFB, SLC-4E 1,050 km 1,166 km 63.4° Dispenser designated USA-122 and catalogued as 1996-029D.
USA-120 1996-029B
USA-121 1996-029C

Third generation[edit]

USA-160 2001-040A 8 September 2001 Atlas IIAS VAFB, SLC-3E NROL-13 1,100 km 1,100 km 63.0°
Unnamed* 2001-040C
USA-173 2003-054A 2 December 2003 Atlas IIAS VAFB, SLC-3E NROL-18 1,013 km 1,200 km 63.4°
Unnamed* 2003-054C
USA-181 2005-004A 3 February 2005 Atlas IIIB CCAFS, SLC-36B NROL-23 1,011 km 1,209 km 63.4°
Unnamed* 2005-004C
USA-194 2007-027A 15 June 2007 Atlas V 401 CCAFS, SLC-41 NROL-30 1,053 km 1,163 km 63.4° Launched into lower orbit than planned, spacecraft corrected under own power, at expense of operational life.
Unnamed* 2007-027C
USA-229 2011-014A 15 April 2011 Atlas V 411 VAFB, SLC-3E NROL-34 1,015 km 1,207 km 63.46°
Unnamed* 2011-014B
USA-238 2012-048A 13 September 2012 Atlas V 401 VAFB, SLC-3E NROL-36 1,056 km 1,158 km 63.4°
Unnamed* 2012-048P
USA-264 2015-058A 8 October 2015 Atlas V 401 VAFB, SLC-3E NROL-55 1,013 km 1,201 km 63.4°
Unnamed* 2015-058R
USA-274 2017-011A 1 March 2017 Atlas V 401 VAFB, SLC-3E NROL-79 1,010 km 1,204 km 63.4°
Unnamed* 2017-011B
USA-3XX 2021-XXXA December 2021 (planned) Falcon 9 Block 5 CCAFS, SLC-40 NROL-85 1,100 km 1,100 km 63.4° Awaiting a launch.
Unnamed* 2021-XXXB
* One satellite from each third generation pair is officially catalogued as debris.
data from [1], [2]


The costs of the NOSS satellites (excluding costs for the launch vehicle), which were destroyed in a Titan IV launch failure in 1993, were US$800 million (inflation adjusted US$ 1.4 billion in 2022).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Display: SSU 1/2 1976-038C". NASA. 14 May 2020. Retrieved 29 October 2020. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ "NOSS Double and Triple Satellite Formations".
  3. ^ Weiner, Tim (4 August 1993). "Titan Lost Payload: Spy-Satellite System Worth $800 Million". The New York Times.

External links[edit]