The National Reconnaissance Office launched a new satellite called NROL-39 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California late Thursday, but it’s their mission logo that’s getting much more interest.
The logo, featuring a massive octopus straddling the earth with its tentacles above the phrase “Nothing Is Beyond Our Reach” is probably not the best choice from a public-relations standpoint, in light of the many leaks about mass government surveillance from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
That seems to be the take from Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst for the ACLU, who tweeted to the Office of Director of National Intelligence, “You may want to downplay the massive dragnet spying thing right now. This logo isn’t helping.”
Founded in 1961 (but not actually acknowledged until 1992), the NRO designs, builds, launches, and maintains America’s spy satellites.
“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,” Karen Furgerson, an NRO spokesperson, told Forbes’ Kashmir Hill. “‘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 details of the launch and much of the NRO’s work is classified, although William Graham at NASA Spaceflight.com believes NROL-39 will be used for radar imaging:
… it can be inferred that NROL-39 is the third satellite in the NRO’s current-generation radar reconnaissance fleet. It follows the NROL-41 mission, or USA-215, launched in September 2010, and NROL-25 (USA-234) which was launched by a Delta IV in April 2012.
The radar imaging program is believed to be a remnant of the NRO’s Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) program, which was intended to produce new-generation optical and radar-imaging surveillance satellites, replacing the earlier KH-11 and Onyx radar imaging spacecraft.
Here’s the logo on the side of the rocket:
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