The Nov 22 launch of the heaviest satellite known has everyone a twitter. A Delta IV Heavy booster out of Kennedy put up NROL-32, a "classified spy satellite cargo for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office".
"I believe the payload is the fifth in the series of what we call Mentor spacecraft, a.k.a. Advanced Orion, which gather signals intelligence from inclined geosynchronous orbits," Ted Molczan, an established satellite tracker told Spaceflight Now.
Some have called it the largest, but with a suspected 100 meter antenna, it's potentially smaller than earlier test NRO antennae. On the other hand, if NRO is saying it's the largest, they probably know best. NROL-32 is bigger than SkyTerra1, the largest commercial antenna in space. Of course, the International Space Station (ISS), built in sections, covers 109 x 51 x 20m, making it as long as but with less area than NROL-32.
Some have called NROL-32 the heaviest, at a suspected 5,200 kg, but that is not accurate (and NRO has not claimed to be heaviest). As one example, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory from NASA was 17,000kg. And the International Space Station (ISS) is the current non-Moon satellite heavyweight, at 370,000 kg.
Meanwhile, NASA annuonced a new FASTSAT microsatellite launch on Nov 20, "NASA’s first microsatellite". FASTSAT means 'Fast, Affordable, Science and Technology Satellite' and is "the size of a washing machine and weighing about 400 pounds", according to the Huntsville Times.
I still call that big, but that's because I'm using a TubeSat picosatellite, at sub-kg weights. One shouldn't forget Bob Twiggs' comment "Don't bet against Cubes", where the Cubesat pioneer himself had doubts on how small payloads could be. As the tale goes, he doubted a conventional CMOS camera would work on the Tokyo Institute's CubeSat "CUTE", and now "he now gets a picture by email every time one is taken by the craft."
So we are in a boom age of space, where your photo and transmissions are just as likely to be captured by a DIY picosatellite, an amateur nanosatellite, a NASA minisatellite, or a NRO behemouthellite. Lucky us!
Launching Project Calliope, sponsored by Science 2.0, in 2011
News every Tuesday at The Satellite Diaries, every Friday at the Daytime Astronomer
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Top Secret: On Confidentiality On Scientific Issues, Across The Ring And Across The Bedroom
- The Mystery Of The Red Sea
- Would New Planet X Clear Its Orbit? - And Any Better Name Than "Planet Nine"?
- Stop Using BMI To Determine Health
- The Greenhouse Effect Fallacy
- Why Diamonds Are More Of A Scientific Miracle Than You Think
- From Allergens To Anodes: Pollen Derived Battery Electrodes
- "Just curious, When was the last time you (the author) generated a mathematical model? On what?..."
- "Hi jmv, no I'm just referring to the article and the author of the piece. Sorry...."
- "@PWInn: Are you referring to the blog, or to the comments (including mine)? Please clarify. ..."
- "Wow, this is some pretty bad stuff. Tell me Frank, why is Venus hotter than Mercury. Seriously..."
- "This article calls to mind the Diamond Group at the Reading University Physics Department. They..."
- Florida Declares Zika Virus State of Emergency
- Indonesia’s Many Human Physical Deformities: A Closer Look
- Spinal ‘Column’: Love for Hunchback Dog, Breakthrough for 8-Yr-Old Girl
- BMI is Bologna
- Energy Drinks: The Dose Makes the Poison
- California’s Prop 65: Bad For Public Acceptance Of Science, About To Get Worse
- Cambridge researcher develops smartphone app to map Swiss-German dialects
- Studies link healthy workforces to positive stock market performance
- Pioneering discovery leads to potential preventive treatment for sudden cardiac death
- Online shopping might not be as green as we thought
- Gene family turns cancer cells into aggressive stem cells that keep growing