This image depicts an array of spacecraft in geostationary orbit at 34.5 degrees east, a position over central Kenya. In the lower right of the image is a cluster of four spacecraft. The second from the left is known as "PAN."
Launched on September 8, 2009 from Cape Canaveral, PAN is unique among classified American satellites because it is not publically claimed by any intelligence of military agency. Space analysts have speculated that PAN may be operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.
While some analysts believe the acronym PAN stands for "Pick a Name," the launch patch for PAN contains the phrase â€œPalladium at Night. A palladium is defined as â€œa sacred object that was believed to have the power to preserve a city or state possessing it. Of course, "Pan" also refers to the Greek god known for inspiring fear and confusion (and is the root of the word "panic" ).
Posters and stickers associated with the launch feature an illustration of a frog wearing a cowboy hat riding a rocket. The word for frog in Spanish is "sapo", which may be an acronym for Special Activities Programs Office, which is part of the CIA's Special Activities Division and is involved with clandestine paramilitary activities.
Some analysts have speculated that PAN may act as a communications relay for armed CIA Predator and Reaper drones operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.