NRO satellites - 2013 Aug 30

Leaked budget documents obtained by the Washington Post, and a longer
version published on, reveal the codenames of some NRO satellites.

  Low orbit imaging
    EECS Evolved Enhanced CRYSTAL System 
    EIS  Enhanced Imagery System (funding winding down?)
  Low orbit Radar
    TOPAZ 1 to 5; future TOPAZ Block 2
  High altitude (GEO and Molniya orbit) SIGINT satellites
    NEMESIS 2, ORION 7 and 8, RAVEN 5/6
  Low altitude SIGINT
    INTRUDER 5/6, 7/8, 11/12
  The SDS communications satellites:  QUASAR R/S 17 to 23

The revealed names don't really change our understanding of the NRO's
space program, but it's nice to be able to use the proper names. In
fact, the main take-away is the lack of surprises, which just reinforces
the reality that it's unrealistic to try hiding spacecraft that anyone
can see when looking up at the sky.

It appears that the existing Enhanced CRYSTAL satellites (KH-11
derivatives) currently flying are under the EIS label. Previous analysts
have linked this program to the so-called 8X improvements to the CRYSTAL

TOPAZ might be the new name for what was called LACROSSE and the 5 satellites
are 1988-106B, 1991-017A, 1997-064A, 2000-047A and 2005-016A (USA 34, 69, 133, 152 and 182).
USA 34/TOPAZ 1(?) is thought to have been deorbited in 1997.
We also thought that ONYX was a name for the low orbit radar satellites; but elsewhere in the
document it talks about 'deorbiting the baseline ONYX satellite', which is odd if elsewhere
the same satellite is called TOPAZ. So, as suggested by William Graham,
perhaps TOPAZ is the FIA Radar satellite, of which two have been launched,
215/NROL-41 and USA 234/NROL-25, and the earlier 5 satellites are called ONYX.
That would imply 3 more FIA Radar launches in the near future.

ORION has previously been rumoured as the new name for the RHYOLITE/MAGNUM
series of GEO SIGINT satellites. The numbering indicates that
the first four satellites from 1970-78 are not included, and the second
and third generations are ORION 1 to 8: 1985-10B, 1989-90B, 1995-22A,
1998-29A, 2003-41A, 2009-01A,2010-22A, 2012-34A (USA 8, 48, 110, 139,
171, 202, 223 and 237).

QUASAR was known as the name for the SDS communications relay satellites
(R/S presumably is short for Relay Satellite). My listings only have 18
satellites in the SDS series whereas the funding profiles suggest
that at least 19 have been launched. Perhaps the four SLDCOM satellites
launched in 1990-1996 were considered part of the QUASAR series, or 
one satellite has been misidentified. The 18 satellites believed to be
QUASAR are 1976-50A, 1976-80A, 1978-21A or 1978-75A, 1980-100A, 1983-78A or 1984-91A, 1985-14A,
1987-15A, 1989-61B, 1990-97B, 1992-86B, 1996-38A, 1998-05A, 2000-80A,
2001-46A, 2004-34A, 2007-60A, 2011-11A, 2012-33A.

The NEMESIS, RAVEN and INTRUDER names are new. NEMESIS 2
had half a billion in funding in FY11 but nothing in FY12. It may be the
second of the elliptical orbit SIGINT satellites which replaced TRUMPET:
2006-27A and 2008-10A, but that seems excessive funding for a satellite
3 years after launch. The rocket that launched a 2004 NRO QUASAR communications
satellite was nicknamed Nemesis, but I believe this to be a coincidence.

No funding is shown for RAVEN 5/6 in any of the years so it's a bit odd that
the line item is there at all. Perhaps they are old satellites
continuing to operate on minimal funding. One candidate for RAVEN is
what was previously thought to be codenamed TRUMPET, the elliptical
orbit SIGINT satellites 1994-26A, 1995-34A, 1997-68A, but then we are missing
3 in the series. Perhaps 2006-27A and 2008-10A are also RAVEN, still leaving
one missing and leaving the mystery of what NEMESIS might have been.
Even if NEMESIS 2 was an expensive development program that got cancelled,
it implies a completed NEMESIS 1.

INTRUDER must be the NOSS naval satellite system. INTRUDER 5/6 and 7/8
are apparently in orbit with funding for INTRUDER 11/12 zeroed out and
no mention of INTRUDER 9/10. There have been 19 launches in the NOSS
series since 1976, with block changes in 1990 and 2001. If we assume the
INTRUDER name applies to the 1990 launch onwards, INTRUDER 1 to 10 would
be 1990-50, 1991-76, 1993 failure, 1996-29, and 2001-40, 2003-54,
2005-04, 2007-27, 2011-14, and 2012-48.  (Note: INTRUDER was rumoured
previously to be a GEO SIGINT satellite).