News | Aug. 31, 2023

SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 press conference

By Staff

SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 press conference

August 28, 2023

** Aug. 29 update: Following publication of this story, SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 was delayed out of an abundance of caution for personnel safety, our critical national security payload, and the approaching Tropical Storm Idalia. A new date will be determined once it is safe to launch.**

Click here for transcript 

With all eyes on the forecast and the impending arrival of Tropical Storm Idalia, NRO Director Dr. Chris Scolese joined SSC Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein and ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno for a press conference this morning moderated by the NRO Office of Public Affairs – just 24 hours prior to the launch of the SILENTBARKER/L-107 mission.

With 30 journalists from various national, local and trade outlets participating in person as well as remotely, the three senior leaders discussed the joint NRO/USSF mission and highlighted SILENTBARKER’s important role in space domain awareness.

“It’s really to be a watchdog in geosynchronous orbit,” said Dr. Scolese. “When you think about it, geosynchronous orbit is about 24,000 miles away from the Earth so it’s pretty hard to see from the ground. Having something that in that orbit provides us much better coverage and it will allow Space Force, NRO, and others to have a much better understanding of what’s going on.” Members of the media were interested in further details about the mission, including the origins of the mission, number of payloads and launches, timespan from development to launch, operational roles and responsibilities, and access to data. When asked about the decision to be more open about this mission, both NRO and USSF officials offered their perspectives on the importance of transparency.

“Clearly the space domain, as we o􀀅en say, is contested, congested, competitive — and it’s also becoming easier and easier to see what’s flying up there,” Dr. Scolese said. “We want to let people know to some extent what our capabilities are. And this is one capability, if you think about it, has great value beyond just national security. Oftentimes it’s forgotten that the NRO supports more than just the national security community, the Department of Defense, and the Intelligence Community. It also supports the civil community. A number of civil agencies rely on the data from NRO satellites to deal with natural disasters and humanitarian assistance. In this case, it’s a critical capability that I think people should be aware that we’re doing.”

“A huge part of the Space Force mission is not only to defend but to deter aggression. A huge element of deterrence is the ability for the adversary to know what we can and cannot see,” Lt. Gen. Guetlein said. “We actually want our competitors to know that we have eyes in GEO, that we can see what’s happening in GEO. And we’ll have the indications and warnings to know when something out of the norm is occurring, and that goes a long way towards deterrence.”

NRO hosted its first pre-launch press conference with NROL-111 and has held them for two subsequent missions (L-87, L-91) in addition to SILENTBARKER/NROL-107. The Office of Public Affairs considers a number of factors when deciding whether to host a pre-launch press conference, including whether the mission offers a unique messaging opportunity that is sufficiently robust to discuss in an unclassified setting, the availability of senior spokespeople, and logistics.

Biographies of the participants are below.

Dr. Chris Scolese was sworn-in as Director of the National Reconnaissance Office in 2019. He is the 19th Director, and the first to be Presidentially Appointed and Senate Confirmed. Dr. Scolese provides direction, guidance, and supervision on matters pertaining to the NRO, and executes other authorities specifically delegated by the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence. Before this time at the NRO, Dr. Scolese had a distinguished career with NASA.

Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein is Commander of the U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command where he is responsible for approximately 15,000 employees nationwide and an annual budget of $11 billion. He manages research, design, development, acquisition, launch and sustainment of satellites and their associated command and control systems across more than 20 geographically dispersed units. He has a distinguished military career of more than three decades, including serving as our deputy director at the NRO from 2019-2021.

Mr. Tory Bruno is the President and CEO of United Launch Alliance. Under his leadership, ULA has transformed into a competitive powerhouse that is shaping the future of space launch by making it more affordable, accessible and introducing revolutionary new capabilities to meet the challenges of the future. Over the past 35 years, Bruno has developed and fielded dozens of critical defense and space launch systems that form the backbone of America’s national security and the nation‘s efforts in space exploration.

You can see the entire SILENTBARKER/NROL-107 Press Conference on YouTube here.