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Trump Tweeted a Sensitive Photo. Internet Sleuths Decoded It

On Friday afternoon, President Trump tweeted an image of a charred launchpad on the Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran, which had just skilled its third launch failure of the year. Iran’s launch accident became public on Thursday after the satellite imaging organization Planet launched a photo that showed thick black smoke wafting throughout the launchpad.

Planet’s photo is a feature of most satellite tv for pc snapshots of Earth visible by way of the general public—slightly grainy with simply sufficient detail to make out what you are looking at. But the picture tweeted using Trump is a surprisingly special photograph from an intelligence briefing: you can without problems see the Persian lettering across the launchpad, the struts of the towers, the stairs on a staircase, and man or woman fence posts.

“When we noticed this photograph, we had been the type of blown away,” says David Schmerler, a researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the primary to percentage Planet’s image of the Iranian launch coincidence with NPR. “A president tweeting out countrywide intelligence belongings is a whole new level.”

 

For many doors professionals, the simplest thing extra intriguing than the president sharing touchy navy intelligence become the thriller of the technology that created the photo. The picture’s extremely high resolution advised it become taken through a drone or excessive-altitude aircraft, which might imply that Trump had tweeted proof that the United States became violating Iranian air area. Alternately, the picture might have been taken by using a US secret agent satellite tv for pc, wherein case Trump would have revealed the imaging potential of one in every of America’s most superior photoreconnaissance satellites.

Within hours of Trump’s tweet, a handful of novice satellite trackers had not handiest determined that the photo was taken through a secret agent satellite; they’d found out which satellite tv for pc had taken the image. The culprit was USA 224, a categorized National Reconnaissance Office satellite tv for pc launched in 2011.

USA 224 is believed to be a member of the “KH-11” family of electro-optical surveillance satellites, which started to update film-based total surveillance satellites in the Nineteen Seventies. Almost the entirety approximately the KH-eleven satellite tv for pc software is classed, but there are some clues approximately the layout of the satellites. For instance, in 2011, NRO donated to NASA space telescopes that had been initially supposed for reconnaissance and believed to be a part of the KH-eleven application. Each of the telescopes had a 2. Four-meter (7. Nine-foot) mirror, the same size used inside the Hubble space telescope. But not like Hubble, those telescopes have been meant to be pointed on the Earth, now not far away from it.

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