The US praises “Antipodean Adventure” and Australia is silent as the second spy satellite to be launched from New Zealand

The US praises “Antipodean Adventure” and Australia is silent as the second spy satellite to be launched from New Zealand

A second spy satellite built by Australia and the United States is scheduled to lift off from a launch site in New Zealand on Tuesday.

The first of the two satellites, to be used to gather intelligence for the allied nations, was launched two weeks ago.

The Australian Ministry of Defense did not announce the successful launch of the first satellite, nor the launch date of the second.

The US spy agency National Reconnaissance Office celebrates the “Antipodean Adventure”, whose logo contains a crocodile, a missile and an eagle.

Some in the space industry are puzzled by the lack of information and fanfare on the Australian side.

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Malcolm Davis, senior analyst and resident space expert at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said there is a “very different culture” in the US military, which actively promotes its work, and the Australian military, which is “closed”.

“It’s not just these particular satellites, it’s an attitude within the defense that they’re very closed off,” he said.

“The Americans are very forward. You just have to look at how they support movies like Top Gun: Maverick. It’s a very different culture and it’s frustrating down here.”

The first satellite, NROL-162, features a frill-necked lizard patch. “The frill-necked lizard is a reptile found primarily in northern Australia and, much like the lizard, it represents the small, agile nature of the payload being launched,” the NGO said.

Its logo says sapiens qui prospicit: “Wise is he who looks ahead”.

The second, NROL-199, has a dingo: “It represents a small to medium-sized dog built for speed, agility, and endurance.” Its logo says ad astra per aspera: “Through hardship to the stars.”

New Zealand’s Rocket Lab is providing the rockets to launch the classified payloads into orbit from the launch site on the Māhia Peninsula.


The NGO’s mission is to ‘produce’ ‘intelligence products’ for policy makers and ‘war fighters’, as well as for civilian use.

A defense spokesman said the department has partnered with the NGO for “two space missions as part of a broad range of cooperative satellite activities.”

As Defense Secretary, Peter Dutton announced Australia’s intention to work with the NGO to build a “more capable, integrated and resilient space architecture designed to provide global coverage in support of a wide range of intelligence mission requirements”.

Earlier this year he announced a separate plan to develop a surveillance satellite with Queensland company Gilmour Space Technologies, due to launch next year.

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The NGO projects are in advance of Defense Project 799. The federal government has committed $500 million to DEF-799 to “enhance Australia’s space-based intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to support Australian Defense Force operations around the world Hometown”.

“The next goal is to build our own satellites,” Davis said. “So these are important steps … these are like intermediate tests that we helped develop with the Americans.”

The defense spokesman said details about the satellite payloads and missions are “protected.”

“Defense will further enhance Australia’s ability to achieve military effects using space,” they said.

“This will be accomplished through efforts that include developing capabilities resilient in denied environments and ensuring access to space.”

NROL-199 was originally scheduled to launch on July 22, but was delayed due to software issues.

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