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The CLIO satellite was built Lockheed Martin for an unnamed U.S. government agency and its purpose are similarly unknown. The CLIO system was built using commercial technology and is based on Lockheed Martin’s A2100 satellite bus. The A2100 bus is a common framework including the satellite’s solar arrays, propulsion system and core electronics. There are currently more than 40 A2100-based satellites in orbit serving both government and commercial clients.
All of the A2100 satellites launch so far are in a geostationary orbit but the GPS Block IIIA satellites will be deployed to a Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). Satellites using the A2100 bus can range in mass from just under 4,409 lbs ( 2,000 kg) to 103,044 lbs (46,740 kg). The selection of the Atlas V 401 as the launch vehicle for CLIO indicates that the satellite is in the low end of this range.
The mystery surrounding CLIO is similar to another secretive satellite mission, the Sept. 8, 2009 launch of Palladium at Night (PAN). Like CLIO, PAN was built by Lockheed Martin for an unnamed government agency. It was also based on the A2100 satellite bus and launched atop an Atlas V 401. Shortly before the launch, the government acknowledged that PAN was a classified communications satellite.