US hails “Antipodean Adventure” and silent Australia as second spy satellite ready for launch from New Zealand

US hails “Antipodean Adventure” and silent Australia as second spy satellite ready for launch from New Zealand

A second spy satellite built by Australia and the United States is scheduled to take off Tuesday from a launch site in New Zealand.

The first of the two satellites, which will be used to gather information for allied nations, was launched two weeks ago.

The Australian Department of Defense has not announced the successful launch of the first satellite or the launch date of the second.

The US intelligence agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, celebrated the “antipodian adventure”, which features a crocodile, a rocket and an eagle on its logo.

Some in the space industry are baffled by the lack of information and fanfare on the Australian side.

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Malcolm Davis, senior analyst and resident space expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said there is a “very different culture” in the US military, which actively promotes its work, and the Australian military, which is “closed.”

“It’s not just these particular satellites, it’s an attitude within the Defense that are very closed,” he said.

“The Americans are very far ahead. You just have to watch how they support movies like Top Gun: Maverick. It’s a very different culture, and it’s frustrating down here ”.

The first satellite, NROL-162, features a flounce-necked lizard patch. “The frill-necked lizard is a reptile located primarily in northern Australia and, just like the lizard, it represents the small and agile nature of the payload to be thrown,” the NRO said.

Its logo says sapiens here prospect: “Wise is he who looks ahead”.

The second, NROL-199, has a dingo: “Represents a small to medium sized dog built for speed, agility and endurance.” Its logo says ad astra for aspera: “Through difficulties to the stars.”

New Zealand’s Rocket Lab is supplying the rockets to bring the classified payloads into orbit from the launch site in the Māhia Peninsula.


The mission of the NRO is to “produce intelligence products” for policy makers and “war fighters” as well as for civilian use.

A defense spokesperson said the department has partnered with the NRO on “two space missions as part of a wide range of cooperative satellite activities.”

As Minister of Defense, Peter Dutton announced Australia’s intention to partner with the NRO to build “a more capable, integrated and resilient space architecture designed to provide global coverage in support of a wide range of intelligence mission requirements “.

Earlier this year, it announced a separate plan to develop a surveillance satellite with Queensland-based company Gilmour Space Technologies, scheduled to launch next year.

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NRO projects are ahead of Defense Project 799. The federal government has pledged $ 500 million to DEF-799, to “enhance Australia’s intelligence, surveillance and space reconnaissance capabilities to support Australian Defense Force operations. all over the world and at home “.

“The next goal is to build our satellites,” Davis said. “So these are important steps … they are like intermediate tests that we have developed together with the Americans.”

The defense spokesman said details on the satellite’s payloads and missions have been “protected”.

“The defense will continue to improve Australia’s ability to generate military effects using space dominance,” they said.

“This will be achieved through efforts that include building resilient capabilities in denied environments and ensuring access to space.”

The launch of NROL-199 was originally scheduled for July 22, but was delayed due to software issues.

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