A very unique satellite was launched on May 1 with the help of SpaceX.
This satellite was part of a classified mission that took a new type of payload into space, identified as USA 276 (known officially as NROL 76 and COSPAR No. 2017-022A).
This launch is part of an ever-growing number of spacecraft thought to be associated with the National Security Agency and National Reconnaissance Office.
The satellite was placed into an orbit that brings it as close to Earth as 395.3 kilometers (perigee) and 415.8 kilometers (apogee), with an inclination of 50 degrees.
Ground-based observers noted the small spacecraft was placed in an orbit very similar to that of the International Space Station, but why?
Space experts feel the satellite is new technology that could be used to observe — up close and personal — the activity of other nations’ satellites in the event of a military or political crisis.
After it was launched, some observers said an object appeared to following and orbiting the ISS before it was placed either above or below the space station.
At its closest, USA 276 was within 6.4 kilometers of the ISS on June 3, somewhere of the south Atlantic Ocean.
Another theory as to the recent close encounter is that they may be testing a spacecraft autopilot system known as RAVEN. This system will help to create smoother rendezvous and docking platforms for future missions to the ISS.
One final note: On the day of the launch, live coverage of the spacecraft was cut 2:48 after launch as the rocket headed to space.
It was just after the first stage separated from the rocket. Sounds like they were trying to preserve some of the trajectory secrets.
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