Whatever Happened to USA-247?

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Also known as National Reconnaissance Office Launch 39 or NROL-39, its monopulse radar 3-D imaging technique uses 1-D range image and monopulse angle measurement to get the real coordinates of each scatterer. Using this technique, the image doesn’t vary with the change of the target’s movement. Monopulse radar 3-D imaging utilizes the ISAR techniques to separate scatterers in the Doppler domain and perform monopulse angle measurement.

Monopulse radar 3-D imaging can obtain the 3 views of 3-D objects by using any two of the three parameters obtained from the azimuth difference beam, elevation difference beam, and range measurement, which means the views of front, top and side can be azimuth-elevation, azimuth-range, and elevation-range, respectively.

USA-247 and its sister satellites are part of the Future Imagery Architecture program. The last of the five to be launched was USA-281 (NROL-47 or 43145)

They’re still in orbit but the new game (not radar mapping) is the Next Generation Electro-Optical (NGEO) – satellite series, or KH-11 Block 5, the latest of which was launched this past April (USA-314). Each of them costs more than a Ford Class aircraft carrier.

The logo was deemed to be insensitive by many.

The National Reconnaissance Office explained, back eight years ago, “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.”

The answer to the question of where it is – physically – is classified, but it’s still up there. And it’s rumored to have an advanced LIDAR capacity as well which means that it can see underground – mine shafts and such.

Back to the KH series:


Note: All of this is open-source information.


Can they read the time from your wristwatch? Count on it. It’s the Hubble Space Telescope looking down,  and there are several of them.


    • Your oligarchs love you, Ed, even if you don’t love Big Brother.

      “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – Orwell

      “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history… “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” If you want to understand the Democrat playbook, the best way is simply to read 1984.

    • The X-37b is a big part of the present program, even though it’s not flying constantly.

  1. Wow, more than a Ford class carrier; that is truly a chunk of money. Way back in the day I did classified launch support while I was stationed at Vandenberg and was told to be careful since the satellite cost 3/4 of a billion. Hardly a drop in the bucket now.

  2. As they say, “You can run, but you can’t hide.” It is amazing that it can track underground activity. As for telling the time on your watch, be careful what and where you write in you notebook or iPad.

    • It can’t track underground activity per se but consider all of the Aztec ruins disclosed under jungle canopies and actually buried. Same tech, not as elegant.

      • Which was first ‘anonymously released’ when the US reported on all the buried waterways and buildings in the Nile Delta. Which, of course, was a polite way of saying to the Soviets “We can see everything you do, muhahahahahaha.”

        What the newer satellites can do, from what open source info there is, is track temperature variations. Like the difference between an unoccupied cave and an occupied cave. Or hidden tunnel and cave entrances. And, of course, excess heat from under normal buildings, like when someone puts a hidden bunker under a house, or a factory under a factory, like they do in Iran.

        So, well, subtle hint to all you out there with your underground bunkers. Don’t mean squat unless you also work very hard to hide your IR signature.

        • True. And I’ve pointed this out to others. A bunker as a basement has a better chance of concealment than a stand-alone setup, unless it’s very deep under. bedrock.

          Do you know when the light first came on for me? I remember trying out the new IR gear from Litton while flying in a helicopter and we started tracking deer in the forest by the IR trace of their hoofprints. That was circa 1980, as best I recall. Maybe a couple of years before? I have to think of what I was doing when.

          Fast forward to 2021, forty years of development later, and ask yourself where you’d hide if the big gun turned on you. There is no way to build a “hooch” in the middle of nowhere and keep it concealed. In any temperature gradient.

  3. it’s rumored to have an advanced LIDAR capacity as well which means that it can see underground – mine shafts and such.

    That’s like the water LEO telling me his ordinary-looking jet ski can do 70 MPH. The military likes to report performance claims which are basically real, and inspire awe, then build on that awe by adding one ridiculous claim on top. The “L” in LIDAR stands for “light”. It’s near-visible wavelength light and doesn’t penetrate dirt much.


    Telescopes pointed down from orbit are limited in resolution for the reason everybody has trouble getting laser weapons to work: the roiling atmosphere disrupts the beam. Yes, if the target holds still they can average the fluctuations away, but not if the object is moving like a watch on your arm would be.

    • The point was resolution and granularity, not necessarily reading the time. But you can dispute what you like. This blog takes no stake in military claims or denials.

    • The big frontier in ground-based telescopes looking up is active optics, the deform the mirror in synchronization with the atmospheric distortions. It’s done with a laser that excites ions in the upper atmosphere.

      Can it be done while looking down? Does it need to be done? They’re not looking at point sources of light, they’re looking at extended objects.

      “Able to read a watch from orbit” allows anyone familiar with astronomy to take a good SWAG at the size of the mirror.

  4. This high tech I n da sky is the reason I think the grainy gun camera video of u f os is bs. The can see my watch from 5-10-15 miles up but no clear pictures E T.
    But of course the aliens are likely using Klingon Cloaking devices .

    • Gun cameras aren’t designed for 4K HD ultra pinpoint capability. The ability to video a flying object and confirm it is blowing up is all that is needed.

      So, well, I don’t see an issue with the lack of resolution of the ‘UFO’ videos.

      And really, if the aliens are that good, they will have an adaptive camo system that mirrors what is on the other side of the vehicle, so visible targets are highly suspect. Same with IR scans. I mean, if we can do some of this using WWII tech (lights on the bottom of a plane to mimic what light is coming down from Sun, yes, it really works, weirdly enough (I before E except after C with some weird exceptions like… weird.)

  5. “Eye in the Sky” — Between enough satellites to cause a danged space traffic jamb (not complaining, we use Starlink that has a newly added “net” of sat’s), and as life often follows science fiction, and with amazing electronic zoom lens tech…and let’s not forget in-house spying devices like Alexa – that b$$ch (sorry, my attempt at being funny), spying tech is at an all time high.

    Guess us rural folks might need to be more careful waling around as God made us.

      • Exactly why we don’t subscribed to such things, no WiFi connect on the flatscreen either. We like our privacy, as much as can be gotten these days.

          • Starlink is coming online for me later in the year. They’re taking subscriptions now – wait in line. I have not plopped down my cash but plan to circa November ’21.

          • It’ll change your online capability life…no stupid $$ for data, watching usage at the cycle end, or clamped bandwidth when too many users are on. I swear Verizon et al are nothing but used car salesmen.

            Tip: If you want to be top of the list buy the package as soon as you can, otherwise you’ll wait in a potentially long line.

  6. What? The KH-11 line? Well it looks just like the Hubble telescope. Wonder why? Tee hee.

    Funny how people got freaked out about the patch and not the ability of our government to spy on someone talking ‘treason’ in a duck blind. And that the government has shown the willingness to use said intelligence assets to spy on it’s own citizens.

    I just re-read the above. Sounds like I am one of those conspiracy nutters, but am I a conspiracy nutter if the conspiracy is real?

    • Don’t be silly. Government is our friend. Government is just another way of saying “lovingkind cooperation” so that we, together, can achieve kindnesses and wonderfulnesses that we could never achieve as weak, atomized individuals.

      Anyone who claims that Government is against us is a moral wrecker and saboteur.

      Anyone who slanders the good people who run things by saying crazy things such as “they consider you merely soul-less animals in the shape of human beings, cattle to be milked and ultimately slaughtered” (by proper ritual, mind you!) are bad people who must not be believed, because they are mentally ill. If you know anyone like that, shun them so that their illness will not contaminate you. And give their names to Government so that mental health professionals can be dispatched (with lovingkindness) to help heal their diseased minds.

      • I don’t plan on offering myself voluntarily at the knacker’s shed. But your point is well taken. I know that the progs don’t like or trust those living in fly-over country because they’ve been infected by eating the fruit of the Tree of Liberty. (tastes like an apple)

  7. Sometimes I wonder what is it that our specie is seeking to achieve? When the cost exceed the benefits, where does our priority lie.

    I don’t know how true Nostradamus’ predictions could be. Hopefully, we, as a specie in a shared world, could learn to be better.

  8. Yes, I’m silent on this subject.

    aka “Don’t know nuthin’, ain’t never worked on that stuff, have no idea how it works, don’t know nobody that ever done it”……..

  9. Cost more than a Ford class carrier? I am going to hazard a guess that it works better than our newest super carrier.

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