Secret In The Sky

Round and round the Earth it goes, who or what it’s spying on very few people know.

Delta 4 rocket successfully lofts surveillance satellite

A Delta 4 rocket made a thunderous departure from California on Tuesday afternoon, only to slip into a news blackout minutes later while it climbed higher and faster to deploy a classified spy satellite, a success-defining milestone that was confirmed by hobbyist observers.

The United Launch Alliance-made booster roared away from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 4:12:57 p.m. local (7:12:57 p.m. EDT; 2312:57 GMT) on a southwesterly course to reach a retrograde orbit inclined 123 degrees relative to the equator.

. . .

The hush-hush nature for the rest of flight is all part of launching covert payloads for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the secretive agency that operates the country’s fleet of spy satellites. The NRO does not disclose the purpose of its spacecraft being sent up on each launch, saying only that the flight was called the NROL-25 mission.

See also:
Rocket Launches Secret Spy Satellite for US Military
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office
United Launch Alliance Delta IV Rocket Successfully Launches Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office
US launches new spy satellite NROL-25
Delta 4 lifts off
Spy satellite-carrying rocket blasts off
U.S. rocket carrying classified payload launches
ULA Successfully Launches Delta IV Rocket
Rocket carrying classified payload launches from California’s central coast
Rocket launch includes key parts from Utah’s ATK sites
List of NRO Launches
National Reconnaissance OfficeNational Reconnaissance Office

According to the listed launch designation, NROL-25 is a radar imaging satellite operating in a retrograde low Earth orbit.

/if I had to guess what it’s looking at, I’d guess Iran

Sentinel Down

And yet again, after leaving behind a cutting edge stealth helicopter during the bin Laden raid, the U.S. conducts another, involuntary, state-of-the-art military technology transfer to the enemy.

Iran’s capture of US drone shines light on spy mission, but may reveal little

The Iranian capture of a high-tech, stealth U.S. drone shines a light on the American spying mission there, but probably doesn’t tell Tehran much that it didn’t already know, a senior U.S. official said.

The RQ-170 Sentinel was providing surveillance over Iran and didn’t just accidentally wander away from the Afghanistan border region, as first suggested. The official said Wednesday that the Iranians will no doubt be able to tell where the aircraft flew. A bigger U.S. concern, the official said, was that the Iranians are likely to share or sell whatever they have recovered of the aircraft to the Chinese, Russians or others. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the mission.

Experts and officials acknowledge that there is no self-destruct mechanism on the Sentinels — which are used both by the military and the CIA for classified surveillance and intelligence gathering missions.

. . .

U.S. officials said that while they have enough information to confirm that Iran does have the wreckage, they said they are not sure what the Iranians will be able to glean technologically from what they found. It is unlikely that Iran would be able to recover any surveillance data from the aircraft.

See also:
US admits downed drone spied on Iran
Iran says US spy drone was flying deep inside its airspace when it was downed
Malfunction likely put U.S. drone in Iranian hands
Iran Probably Did Capture a Secret U.S. Drone
U.S. Military Sources: Iran Has Missing U.S. Drone
Drone that crashed in Iran may give away U.S. secrets
China, Russia want to inspect downed U.S. drone
Sentinel unmanned drone lost in Iran among US most valuable warfare assets
Drone belonged to CIA, officials say
Downed drone was on CIA mission
Officials: Drone downed in Iran on CIA mission
Drone Lost in Iran Was Joint CIA-Military Reconnaissance Plane
Iran’s downing of U.S. drone rattles Washington
US ‘concerned’ over drone lost near Iran border
Experts: Iran capture of stealth drone no worry
US considered missions to destroy RQ-170 Sentinel drone lost in Iran
Spy drone may provide little help to Iran
U.S. debated sending commandos into Iran to recover drone
U.S. Made Covert Plan to Retrieve Iran Drone
Iran: The Stealth War Continues
Drone Drama Proves Iran Is Ready to Rumble
Stealth drone highlights tougher U.S. strategy on Iran
U.S. drones have been spying on Iran for years

The good news is that we seem to be paying close attention to what Iran is up to, have been for years, and can penetrate Iranian airspace with near impunity. These past and, hopefully, ongoing intelligence gathering and surveillance activities should help provide a detailed blueprint for when push comes to shove and Iran has to be dealt with militarily, which is sure to eventually become a necessity.

/that said, it’s a total unforced strategic error to just let Iran have this advanced technology drone, to share with or sell to other potential enemies of the United States, would it have killed us, if we didn’t want to risk lives to recover the Sentinel, to at least launch an airstrike package to obliterate the wreckage?

Roundup At The Antimatter Corral

You know, I’m all for the advancement of physics research, but there’s a reason antimatter doesn’t exist in nature. It annihilates an equal amount of matter on contact and releases incredible amounts of energy.

Antimatter held for questioning

For physicists, a bit of antimatter is a precious gift indeed. By comparing matter to its counterpart, they can test fundamental symmetries that lie at the heart of the standard model of particle physics, and look for hints of new physics beyond. Yet few gifts are as tricky to wrap. Bring a particle of antimatter into contact with its matter counterpart and the two annihilate in a flash of energy.

Now a research collaboration at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, has managed, 38 times, to confine single antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap for more than 170 milliseconds. The group reported the result in Nature online on 17 November1. “We’re ecstatic. This is five years of hard work,” says Jeffrey Hangst, spokesman for the ALPHA collaboration at CERN.

An antihydrogen atom is made from a negatively charged antiproton and a positively charged positron, the antimatter counterpart of the electron. The objective — both for ALPHA and for a competing CERN experiment called ATRAP — is to compare the energy levels in antihydrogen with those of hydrogen, to confirm that antimatter particles experience the same electromagnetic forces as matter particles, a key premise of the standard model. “The goal is to study antihydrogen and you can’t do it without trapping it,” says Cliff Surko, an antimatter researcher at the University of California, San Diego. “This is really a big deal.”

See also:
Scientists briefly trap a form of antimatter
Upping the Anti: CERN Physicists Trap Antimatter Atoms for the First Time
Antihydrogen trapped at CERN
Snagging Antimatter Atoms
Antimatter created, captured for the first time
Gotcha!
Breakthrough! Scientists Create and Capture Antimatter
‘Antimatter’ captured by CERN scientists in dramatic physics breakthrough
Anti-matter is finally trapped for an instant
Antimatter Trapped For the First Time
Antimatter atom trapped for first time, say scientists
Antimatter atoms caught at last
Scientists Hold Antimatter Captive — For Milliseconds
ALPHA – Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus
ATRAP – Antihydrogen TRAP
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
CERN

So far, they’re only dealing with 38 atoms and let’s hope the scale of the research stays small. However, if they can trap and hold a tiny amount of antimatter, eventually the technology could be developed to trap and hold larger quantities and then we could be in trouble if the technology ever fell into the hands of bad actors.

The reaction of 1 kg of antimatter with 1 kg of matter would produce 1.8×1017 J (180 petajoules) of energy (by the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc²), or the rough equivalent of 43 megatons of TNT. For comparison, Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, reacted an estimated yield of 50 megatons, which required the use of hundreds of kilograms of fissile material (Uranium/Plutonium).

/of course, there’s probably nothing to worry about, but still, they’re not playing with Tinkertoys here