Secret Satellites
First Launch of the Delta IV Heavy
Launch of Delta IV NROL-49, Vandenberg AFB, California. January 20, 2011
A United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy launches with a National Reconnaissance Office payload at Space Launch Complex-6 at 1:10 p.m. PST. The Delta IV Heavy is the largest rocket ever launched from the west coast of the U.S. standing 235 feet tall and producing nearly two million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The Delta IV Heavy is America’s most powerful liquid-fueled rocket. This was the fifth launch of a Delta IV heavy in program history. (Photo by: Pat Corkery)
30th Space Wing, Date Taken:01.21.2011 Location: VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, CA, US

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Melior Diabolus Quem Scies


Translates into english from latin as - "Better the Devil you Know"

The patch for NRO Launch 49 depicts a phoenix rising from the flames. The patch also features fourteen stars, including one being carried in the bird’s beak. There also appears to be a fifteenth star obscured by the bird’s wing. There’s a long tradition in such patches for the stars to symbolize the number of payloads launched. Fourteen stars just happens to be the number of KH-11 type electro-optical satellites successfully launched by the United States over the years—including the one being carried into orbit by this bird. A fifteenth launch—the one obscured star—ended in failure.

The Latin words “melior diabolus quem scies” are inscribed on the patch. This roughly translates to mean “the devil you know,” as in the phrase “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”

All of these symbols hint that this is the fifteenth launch of a KH-11 type electro-optical reconnaissance satellite. 

SOURCE: Space Review

Photo Courtesy of

Vandenberg AFB, Calif., (Jan. 20, 2011) - With the Moon beaming above, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy sits poised on its launch pad with a National Reconnaissance Office payload at Space Launch Complex-6.... The Delta IV Heavy, standing 235 feet tall, will be the largest rocket to ever launch from the west coast of the U.S. With its nearly 2 millions pounds of thrust, the Delta IV Heavy is America's most powerful liquid fueled rocket. Photos by Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance.


As FIA was falling apart, according to news reports, the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds and operates America’s spy satellites, decided to assemble one last KH-11 from spare parts. Thus, this spacecraft is rising from the flames of FIA. And although the KH-11, or whatever it is called these days by The People Who Don’t Talk About Such Things, is an old devil, at least it’s a known devil.

SOURCE: Space Review

Photo Courtesy of
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