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National Reconnaissance Office

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is a department of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) which designs, builds and operates the reconnaissance satellites of the United States government. It also coordinates collection and analysis of information from airplane and satellite reconnaissance by the military services and the Central Intelligence Agency. It is funded through the National Reconnaissance Program, which is part of the National Foreign Intelligence Program.

The NRO works closely with its intelligence and space partners, which include the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Central MASINT Office, and the United States Space Command.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Organization
3 External Links


The NRO was established in 1960 to develop the nationís revolutionary satellite reconnaissance systems. It was endorced by Dwight D. Eisenhower in February 1958 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first orbital satellite. The need for the agency obtained greater urgency when Gary Powers was shot down in a U-2 on May 1, 1960.

The NRO's first photo reconnaissance satellite program was called "CORONA." The CORONA program, whose existence was declassified Feb. 24, 1995, existed from August 1960 to May 1972, although the first test flight occurred on Feb. 28, 1959. The Corona system used (sometimes multiple) film capsules dropped by satellites, which were recovered mid-air by military craft. The first successful recovery from space occurred on Aug. 12, 1960, and the first image from space taken six days later. The first imaging resolution was 8 meters, which was improved to 2 meters. Individual images covered, on average, an area of approximately 10 by 120 miles. The last CORONA mission (the 145th), was launched May 25, 1972, and this mission's last images were taken May 31, 1972.

From May 1962 to August 1964, the NRO conducted 12 mapping missions as part of the "Argon" system. Only 7 of these missions were successful.

In 1963, the NRO conducted a mapping mission using higher resolution imagery, as part of the "Lanyard" program. The Lanyard program flew one successful mission.

Missions of the NRO subsequent to 1972 are still classified.

The existence of the NRO was declassified by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, as recommended by the Director of Central Intelligence on September 18, 1992.


The Director of the NRO is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Congress as the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space.

The NRO is staffed by personnel from the CIA, the military services, and civilian personnel of the DoD.

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