US hails ‘Antipodean Adventure’ and Australia quietly as second spy satellite to be launched from New Zealand

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

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

The Australian Department of Defense did not announce the successful launch of the first satellite or the launch date of the second.

The US spy agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, has celebrated the “Antipodean Adventure”, which has a crocodile, a rocket and an eagle on its logo.

Some in the aerospace industry are baffled by the lack of information and fanfare on the Australian side.

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

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

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

The first satellite, NROL-162, has a frill neck lizard patch. “The frilled-neck lizard is a reptile primarily found in northern Australia and, much like the lizard, represents the small, agile nature of the payload to be launched,” the NRO said.

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

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

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


The NRO’s mission is to “produce intelligence products” for policy makers and “war-makers” as well as civilian use.

A defense spokesperson said the department was working with NRO on “two space missions as part of a wide range of collaborative satellite activities”.

As Defense Minister, Peter Dutton announced Australia’s intention to work with the NRO 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, to be launched next year.

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The NRO projects are ahead of Defense Project 799. The federal government has pledged $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 and at home”.

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

A defense spokesman said details of the satellites’ payloads and missions were “protected”.

“Defence will continue to enhance Australia’s ability to generate military effects by exploiting the space domain,” they said.

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

The launch of NROL-199 was originally scheduled for July 22, but was delayed due to software problems.

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