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Rocket Lifts Classified Cargo to Orbit

May 16, 1987|Associated Press

Vandenberg Air Force Base — An Atlas rocket thundered into orbit Friday morning carrying a classified cargo which space policy specialists say probably is a cluster of Navy ocean surveillance satellites

The Air Force confirmed the launch at 8:45 a.m. from Space Launch Complex 3 of the Western Space and Missile Center here but declined to identify the cargo

"There's probably a 95% chance that it's a White Cloud Navy electronic Intelligence satellite (cluster)", said John Pike, space policy specialist for the private Federation of American Scientists in Washington

Pike said White Cloud basically is "a big radio receiver, and it enables the Navy to keep track of the Soviet fleet by locating the radar and radio transmissions of their (surface) ships."

Although the launch was classified, the Soviets undoubtedly tracked it and would know at once that it was a White Cloud satellite cluster if the payload split into several smaller satellites, according to military reconnaissance specialist Jeffrey Richelson, assistant professor of government and public administration at American University in Washington.

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