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America’s outer-space spy program has a new mascot: a world-eating octopus

Trevor Paglen
By Christopher Mims
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The US National Reconnaissance Office, which is responsible for America’s prodigious fleet of spy satellites, launched a secret satellite into orbit on December 5, and this is its mission logo. The official twitter account of James Clapper, principle advisor to US president Barack Obama on intelligence and national security, dropped it in public view on Dec. 5.

Coincidentally, notes novelist Adam Baker, it bears a striking resemblance to the logo of a coalition of bad guys from the 1966 Batman movie.

Twentieth Century-Fox
Brought to you by the Joker, the Penguin, the Riddler, and Catwoman.

The NROL-39 and its payload are classified, but its launch trajectory puts its satellites into the same orbit as previous spy satellites used for radar imaging. If that’s the case, it would make the primary contents of NROL-39 the latest satellite in a series designed to salvage the radar component of an otherwise largely failed spy satellite program, called Future Imagery Architecture, which the New York Times called “perhaps the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects.”

Update: Journalist Andrea Pitzer points out that the National Reconnaissance office has a history of interesting mission patches.

“Better the devil we know”—NROL-49 mission.

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