Disabled Intel Satellite Restored to Operation by NRO

By August 6, 2008

A U.S. intelligence satellite that had ceased to function was recently restored to operation by engineers from the National Reconnaissance Office and its industry affiliates, the NRO said.

The episode was first publicly described last month in a glossy two-page NRO brochure (pdf), which simply said: “Technical experts from both the NRO and industry recently performed extraordinary engineering on the ground that returned a non-operating satellite to full operation.” See “National Reconnaissance Office Accomplishments,” July 2008.

Secrecy News asked NRO spokesman Rick Oborn to elaborate on the statement in the promotional brochure. (“I didn’t know anyone actually read that,” he said.)

He said the action occurred around “one and a half or two months ago,” after the satellite in question had been “non-responsive for a while.”

It was a “very interesting and pretty extraordinary” turn of events and “much to everybody’s semi-surprise,” satellite operation was restored.

What kind of satellite was it? “I can’t tell you that,” he said.

When was it launched? “That would reveal too much.”

How long was the satellite non-operational? “I don’t think I’m going to tell you.” And he didn’t.

Mr. Oborn said that NRO had prepared a classified account of the matter which was circulated in the intelligence community and to Congress.

The story shows, he said, that “we’ve got some really smart people doing the job.”

Categories: Secrecy