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Mission typeRadar imaging
OperatorUS NRO
COSPAR ID2013-072A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.39462
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeTopaz
Start of mission
Launch date6 December 2013, 07:14:30 (2013-12-06UTC07:14:30Z) UTC
RocketAtlas V 501 AV-042
Launch siteVandenberg SLC-3E
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeLow Earth (retrograde)
Perigee altitude1,108 kilometers (688 mi)[1]
Apogee altitude1,113 kilometers (692 mi)[1]
Inclination123.01 degrees[1]
Period107.35 minutes[1]
Epoch22 January 2015, 18:27:48 UTC[1]

USA-247, also known as NRO Launch 39 or NROL-39, is an American reconnaissance satellite, operated by the National Reconnaissance Office and launched in December 2013. The USA-247 launch received a relatively high level of press coverage due to the mission's choice of logo, which depicts an octopus sitting astride the globe with the motto "Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach".[2] The logo was extensively criticized in light of the surveillance disclosures in July 2013.[3]

Launch details[edit]

The satellite has been identified as a radar imaging satellite, developed as part of the Future Imagery Architecture program,[4] to replace the earlier Onyx spacecraft.[2][5]

USA-247 was launched by United Launch Alliance using an Atlas V carrier rocket flying in the 501 configuration, along with twelve CubeSats being carried as secondary payloads. Five of the CubeSats were a part of NASA ELaNa II manifest. Space Launch Complex 3E at the Vandenberg Air Force Base was used to conduct the launch, which took place at 07:14:30 UTC on 6 December 2013 (23:14 local time on 5 December).[6] Identified as NRO Launch 39, it marked the forty-third flight of an Atlas V. The rocket used had been named Belle, and had tail number AV-042.[7]


The mission's official logo was a gigantic octopus with its massive arms wrapped around the world, accompanied by the motto "Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach".[2] This image was widely deemed controversial in light of the 2013 Global surveillance disclosures.

A spokesperson for the NRO explained:[8][9][3]

NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature. Emblematically, enemies of the United States can be reached no matter where they choose to hide. 'Nothing is beyond our reach' defines this mission and the value it brings to our nation and the warfighters it supports, who serve valiantly all over the globe, protecting our nation.

After the Director of National Intelligence announced the launch on Twitter,[10] the image was criticized as "tone-deaf" to the political climate caused by the 2013 surveillance disclosures.[3]

In a segment discussing mass surveillance entitled "That Thing They Said They're Not Doing? They're Totally Doing", American political commentator Jon Stewart commented on the logo:[11]

I feel like, at this point, our intelligence community is pretty much even owning the fact that they are getting nefarious.
Last week, the National Reconnaissance Office launched this spy satellite into orbit;
And the logo they chose for their spy rocket—this is real—a giant octopus sucking the face off North America.

The ODNI gave a more mundane explanation for the patch design in an internal magazine, stating that it originated from an engineering in-joke regarding a piece of cabling called an "octopus harness" that caused problems during testing for the satellite, leading the engineering team to joke that "the octopus harness had taken over the world."[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Peat, Chris (22 January 2015). "USA 247 - Orbit". Heavens-Above. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Graham, William (5 December 2013). "Atlas V launches NROL-39 from Vandenberg". Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c "U.S. Spy Rocket Has Octopus-Themed 'Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach' Logo. Seriously". Forbes Magazine. 'Nothing is beyond our reach' defines this mission and the value it brings to our nation and the warfighters it supports...
  4. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "Topaz 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (FIA-Radar 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  5. ^ Molczan, Ted (6 December 2013). "NROL-39 search elements". SeeSat-L. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  6. ^ Ray, Justin (6 December 2013). "Atlas Launch Report - Mission Status Center". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  7. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "NROL launches". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
  8. ^ Davis, Lauren (8 December 2013). "US spy agency launched this Earth-conquering octopus logo into orbit". io9. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  9. ^ Mullin, Joe (9 December 2013). "New US spy satellite features world-devouring octopus". Ars Technica. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  10. ^ "Twitter / ODNIgov: Ready for launch? An Atlas ..." Twitter. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Ready for launch? An Atlas 5 will blast off at just past 11PM, PST carrying an classified NRO payload (also cubesats)
  11. ^ Kelley, Michael (10 December 2013). "A US Spy Agency Came Up With The Worst Possible Logo — And Jon Stewart Ripped It To Shreds". Business Insider. Archived from the original on 10 December 2013.
  12. ^ Brown, JPat (20 January 2016). "The Story Behind the Comically Villainous Octopus Logo of U.S. Spy Agency". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 3 August 2019.