A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launches a classified satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office in 2012. Credit: ULA/Pat Corkery

The classified payload of a June 20 Atlas 5 launch for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has been revealed to be a data-relay satellite, Spaceflight Now reports.

Skywatcher Greg Roberts of Cape Town, South Africa, made the first visual observation of the satellite July 16 as it hovered above the Atlantic Ocean.

The geosynchronous satellite will be used to retransmit information from the NRO’s imaging and surveillance spacecraft to operators. It is believed to be a replacement for an aging relay spacecraft launched in October 2001.


READ IT AT: [Spaceflight Now]