Author Topic: Agena upper stage  (Read 20269 times)

Online Blackstar

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Agena upper stage
« on: 03/09/2009 07:43 PM »
We were having a discussion on another thread (threads?) about the Agena.  I mentioned that I had a copy of an early 1970s era congressional hearing devoted to several variants of Space Tug, including Agena options.

Attached is the second half of that hearing doc.  Sorry about the poor quality of the scan; I had to photocopy the original doc and the scan of the photocopy loses detail.  Scanning the original would be rather laborious.

I'll post part 1 here in a few days.  Requires a lot of standing over a copier machine.

I've also located my other Space Tug and Agena upgrades documents and can scan those as well.

Offline Analyst

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #1 on: 03/10/2009 07:29 AM »
A study about using a modified Agena as upper stage for STS.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #2 on: 03/10/2009 04:15 PM »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #3 on: 03/10/2009 04:15 PM »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #4 on: 03/10/2009 04:15 PM »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #5 on: 03/10/2009 04:16 PM »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #6 on: 03/10/2009 04:17 PM »

Online Blackstar

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #7 on: 03/10/2009 04:20 PM »
Not everybody wants to read stuff.  Here are some line drawings excerpted from the Agena B study that show several payloads scheduled to fly, including:

Samos 1/2
Midas
Samos E-5
Samos E-6
SNAPSHOT
Advent (comsat, never built)

Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #8 on: 03/10/2009 05:00 PM »
Many thanks, Dwayne. Out of the dark into the light........appreciate
the time and effort.
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Offline gwiz

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #9 on: 03/10/2009 07:09 PM »
Interesting to note from the Agena B Standardization Study that the Program 102 vehicles (Samos-F2 ferrets) didn't have solar power.

Online Blackstar

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #10 on: 03/10/2009 08:20 PM »
Many thanks, Dwayne. Out of the dark into the light........appreciate
the time and effort.

Glad there's something you find interesting.  I think I owe you one, or two, or three, for your past help.
« Last Edit: 03/10/2009 10:54 PM by Blackstar »

Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #11 on: 03/10/2009 08:28 PM »
Many thanks, Dwayne. Out of the dark into the light........appreciate
the time and effort.

Glad there's something you find interesting.  I think I owe you one, or two, or three, for you past help.

I downloaded 7 pdf so I now "owe" you.....this is a great site to share
and exchange.
1958 launch vehicle highlights: Vanguard TV-4 and Atlas 12B

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #12 on: 03/11/2009 08:27 AM »
What satellite do we see on page 155 (pdf page 11) of the first document "SpaceTugPart2.pdf"?

Is this just a generic satellite sketch or could it be a SDS-1 satellite? It looks like an Intelsat 4 based bus and shows an Ascent Agena on Titan 3B. I remember some articles (Spaceflight magazine) by Blackstar, but I am pretty sure they did not include pictures of SDS-1 (but some of SDS-2 based on the Intelsat 6 bus).

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Offline gwiz

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #13 on: 03/11/2009 01:47 PM »
What satellite do we see on page 155 (pdf page 11) of the first document "SpaceTugPart2.pdf"?

Is this just a generic satellite sketch or could it be a SDS-1 satellite? It looks like an Intelsat 4 based bus and shows an Ascent Agena on Titan 3B. I remember some articles (Spaceflight magazine) by Blackstar, but I am pretty sure they did not include pictures of SDS-1 (but some of SDS-2 based on the Intelsat 6 bus).

Analyst
I've seen an almost identical drawing, but with a different payload, a satellite with an array of small dish antennae vaguely like the Eutelsat I series.  Perhaps Lockheed produced these drawings when bidding for launch contracts and the one in the Space Tug presentation actually is an Intelsat IV.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #14 on: 03/11/2009 02:23 PM »
Interesting to note from the Agena B Standardization Study that the Program 102 vehicles (Samos-F2 ferrets) didn't have solar power.

Probably the satellites did separate from the Agena and it was only used as an upper stage.

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Offline gwiz

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #15 on: 03/11/2009 04:20 PM »
Probably the satellites did separate from the Agena and it was only used as an upper stage.

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It appears not, as the quoted mission lifetime is several days, compared with the under-an-hour lives of the NASA upper-stage misions.

Offline jcm

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #16 on: 03/11/2009 04:59 PM »
Probably the satellites did separate from the Agena and it was only used as an upper stage.

Analyst
It appears not, as the quoted mission lifetime is several days, compared with the under-an-hour lives of the NASA upper-stage misions.

I can confirm that the satellites remained attached to Agena
-----------------------------

Jonathan McDowell
http://planet4589.org

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #17 on: 03/11/2009 05:21 PM »
Two documents on a proposed upper stage in 1963.  The upper stage, named HYLAS, was not built.  One contains references to a secondary propulsion system for Agena.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2009 05:40 PM by Blackstar »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #18 on: 03/11/2009 05:22 PM »
The first page of an article on the Space Tug for the shuttle.  Also a two page memorandum from 1973 regarding NASA's views on responsibility for building the Space Tug.  It says that they wanted USAF to build it.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2009 05:41 PM by Blackstar »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #19 on: 03/11/2009 05:25 PM »
Two collections of documents on the Agena.  These are part of the Agena history collection mentioned elsehwere on this site.  These are not the complete collection of Agena documents from that source.  I cherry-picked the best ones.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2009 05:42 PM by Blackstar »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #20 on: 03/11/2009 05:30 PM »
A short article on the Centaur and a USAF history on upper stages.
« Last Edit: 03/11/2009 05:42 PM by Blackstar »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #21 on: 03/11/2009 05:35 PM »
An agreement on management of the Gemini Agena Target Vehicle.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #22 on: 03/11/2009 06:36 PM »
First part of a 1981 report prepared for Congress on upper stage options for shuttle.  This is long after the Space Tug project fell apart.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #23 on: 03/11/2009 06:38 PM »
Here is part 2.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #24 on: 03/16/2009 10:22 PM »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #25 on: 05/04/2010 04:13 AM »
Some images of Agena components, ca 1966.

I don't know how well the horizon sensor compares to the one developed for the Agena in the later 1960s.  This proved to be a very important component--the engineers who worked on this demonstrated that it could successfully point the spacecraft well enough to support a reconnaissance camera.

Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #26 on: 05/04/2010 04:58 AM »
Here is an element of Agena history: the stillborn Convair Model 57 Vega or The Stage That Never Was. Hard mockup only images.
« Last Edit: 05/04/2010 05:02 AM by Art LeBrun »
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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #27 on: 10/19/2010 08:42 PM »
Here is an element of Agena history: the stillborn Convair Model 57 Vega or The Stage That Never Was. Hard mockup only images.

Dunno how I missed that post when you made it.  Interesting stuff.  For those that don't know, NASA was sponsoring the Vega when they became aware that the Agena B was going to have most of the same capabilities.  The B was an upgraded A, with the major difference being a restart capability.  That restart capability gave the Agena the ability to do other things, including boosting out of LEO.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #28 on: 10/19/2010 08:45 PM »
Here's something I just got.  It is a 1987 paper on possible upgrades to the Agena rocket engine.

By this time the Agena was out of service.  I don't have good information on the Agena after the early 1970s, and it kept flying into the mid-1980s.  It is possible that there were a number of upgrades to it in that time, although it never changed designations.

It's possible that some of this is covered in the Journal of Missiles and Rockets or other aerospace engineering journals.  But I am not currently aware of anything about the Agena in its later days.

Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #29 on: 10/19/2010 09:10 PM »
Never ending thanks for your Agena contributions, Dwayne......

I wonder by 1960 if Centaur would have killed Vega?
« Last Edit: 10/19/2010 09:12 PM by Art LeBrun »
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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #30 on: 10/19/2010 09:44 PM »
I wonder by 1960 if Centaur would have killed Vega?

I have not thought about this stuff in a long while.  Did Joel Powell write a relatively recent article on the Vega?

I'm guessing that something would have killed Vega.  My vague memory on this is that Vega just didn't have the performance, whereas Centaur was coming along with performance to spare.

Offline simonbp

Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #31 on: 10/19/2010 11:48 PM »
Two documents on a proposed upper stage in 1963.  The upper stage, named HYLAS, was not built.  One contains references to a secondary propulsion system for Agena.

Haha! I've been curious about that stage for a while, as it's quoted as the basis for the GE Apollo's Propulsion Module. Here's what the specs were back in 1961 (from Volume III of the GE Apollo Databook, on NTRS).
« Last Edit: 10/19/2010 11:49 PM by simonbp »

Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #32 on: 10/19/2010 11:55 PM »
I tend to think a 10 foot diameter upper stage with a 33,000 lb thrust lox/kerosene engine would have lots of LEO performance. One drawing I saw indicated the use of a solid upper stage. Question: could the engine have been modified for restart?
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Offline Jim

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #33 on: 10/20/2010 12:45 AM »
Here is an element of Agena history: the stillborn Convair Model 57 Vega or The Stage That Never Was. Hard mockup only images.

That would have been a Falcon 3. 

Two stages with the same diameter, same propellants and "3" engines on the first stage

Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #34 on: 10/28/2010 03:38 AM »
Atlas-Vega: what might have been while Centaur went through it's development. Could both have shared LC-36A or would LC-36B have been accelerated? Assuming cost was not an issue? Would have saved the Ranger program with redundancy? Allowed a larger Mariner-Venus 1962?
« Last Edit: 10/28/2010 03:48 AM by Art LeBrun »
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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #35 on: 07/18/2011 07:05 PM »
Here is the Agena Description Manual from 1967.

Wow, seeing the stage at this level of detail is an excellent educational opportunity!  For example the sections describing propellant flow issues during the start / restart transients are real eye openers.  (There weren't ullage motors, apparently.  Is that a newer concept?  Would using ullage motors have simplified the Agena propellent design?)
-- sdsds --

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #36 on: 07/18/2011 10:52 PM »
They had ullage motors, at least for the A and B models.

Offline hoku

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #37 on: 07/18/2011 11:09 PM »
... There weren't ullage motors, apparently.  Is that a newer concept?  Would using ullage motors have simplified the Agena propellent design?)
The attached table (png) gives an overview of the Agena configuration changes. "Ullage control by propellant ..." was introduced for Agena D, model SS-01B.

This is Table 1 in R.C. Hall's "Disapproved for public release" history paper on "The Agena Satellite" : http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/WS117L_Records/115.PDF
The disapproved history starts on page 17 of the PDF, table 1 is on the next-to-last page of the PDF.

The history also mentions some trouble with ullage pyrotechnics during checkout of "Discoverer 0" in 1959.
« Last Edit: 07/19/2011 05:19 PM by hoku »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #38 on: 07/18/2011 11:11 PM »
They had something on the A model. That's what fired during the Discoverer Zero failure in early 1959.

By the way, I've got a couple of Agena videos. Unfortunately, they are way too big to post here. Dunno if Chris has a way of allowing for big posts. (One is 20+ megs and the other is around 50.)

Offline Jason1701

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #39 on: 07/18/2011 11:48 PM »
By the way, I've got a couple of Agena videos. Unfortunately, they are way too big to post here. Dunno if Chris has a way of allowing for big posts. (One is 20+ megs and the other is around 50.)

Upload to YouTube and post links? :)

Offline Chris Bergin

Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #40 on: 07/19/2011 02:02 AM »
They had something on the A model. That's what fired during the Discoverer Zero failure in early 1959.

By the way, I've got a couple of Agena videos. Unfortunately, they are way too big to post here. Dunno if Chris has a way of allowing for big posts. (One is 20+ megs and the other is around 50.)

I think 20mb is as much as anyone's managed to "attach". And the uploader for big videos only creates a link which L2 members can play. I'd allow it if I could but that's the way Mark set it up and I'm useless at programming :(

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #41 on: 07/19/2011 02:42 PM »
I don't know how to post stuff to YouTube (yeah, yeah, I know, still living in 2005). But I'll figure it out and try to do that.

The videos are pixelated, but lengthy (20+ minutes) and produced by Lockheed for two Agena anniversaries. There are some interesting aspects to them, including color footage, believe it or not, of the Discoverer Zero failure, complete with smoke emerging from the interstage and pad rats running away very very fast.

Offline hoku

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #42 on: 07/19/2011 04:31 PM »
By the way, I've got a couple of Agena videos. Unfortunately, they are way too big to post here. Dunno if Chris has a way of allowing for big posts. (One is 20+ megs and the other is around 50.)

Upload to YouTube and post links? :)

Another possibility to share larger video files would be dropbox: https://www.dropbox.com/ - up to 2GB of storage space are free. Then someone else on the forum could upload the video to youtube...

Offline Jim Davis

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #43 on: 07/19/2011 05:32 PM »
...R.C. Hall's "Disapproved for public release" history paper on "The Agena Satellite" : http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/WS117L_Records/115.PDF

The above has a footnote:

"A Lockheed proposal to develop an Agena "C" made in early
1961, which involved major changes in propellants, tank design, and a
modified Bell rocket engne, was turned down by the Air Force. See
Lockheed Secret Report 134SC4/48266, Proposal: Design and Development of Agena C, 21 June 1961."

Has this report been declassified? Is it available as a pdf?

Does anyone have further information on this Agena C?

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #44 on: 07/19/2011 06:09 PM »
I have not seen an Agena C report. There is some evidence that by the mid-1960s (after the report you reference) the USAF got annoyed with Lockheed over proposing numerous Agena upgrades. This may have coincided with a string of dumb failures--it's not a good idea to propose changes when your existing product is starting to fail due to quality control problems. It looks like you're not minding the store.

I think it's possible to cover Agena development and the moderate evolution it experienced in great detail up until 1972 or so. After that we have virtually no records. There was also apparently an Agena E proposal around 1966-1967 or so, probably abandoned because of the SCS developed for the HEXAGON spysat. And if you look earlier in the thread you should be able to find some stuff I scanned on the Agena tug variants that were proposed for the shuttle in the early 1970s.

Offline hoku

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #45 on: 08/09/2011 06:26 PM »
They had something on the A model. That's what fired during the Discoverer Zero failure in early 1959.
...

"Reflections of Minoru Sam Araki" (attached PDF, starting on page 55) has a few nice insights into the early days of the Agena project from an engineer's perspective. On Discoverer Zero he comments:

Our first launch was the infamous Discoverer’s Zero, which aborted on the pad. It’s burning in my memory; I’ll never lose that event as long as I live.
When we ran out of contacts on the D-timer to create a sequence of events for the ascent trajectory, we doubled up. We used the backside of the contact of the micro-switches, and we set up 32 contacts. Doubling up events was a big mistake. When we were ground testing we wanted to run a hydraulic test on the Agena engine, and we forgot that the ullage rocket was on the same contact switch. Ullage rockets were used to make sure propellant settled at the bottom before ignition.
We were just getting through fueling for the first launch, and we tested the hydraulics—turned the hydraulics on, and we fired the ullage rocket on the stand. When the ullage rocket fired, it burned the wire that triggered the timer start. The timer started, fired the pin-pullers for the separation rocket, and the ullage rocket kept on burning. Everyone just ran for cover. It was terrible. Fortunately, the ullage rocket burned another wire to shut down the timer, which is how we survived the whole thing. That was our first launch attempt.


This is somewhat reminiscent of the (NASA's) "WIRE mishap" (a design flaw which unfortunately no one caught during ground-testing of that particular satellite)
« Last Edit: 08/09/2011 06:33 PM by hoku »

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #46 on: 08/10/2011 05:08 PM »
Frank Buzard described this event as a "sneak circuit" as opposed to a short circuit. The difference, he explained, was that while the system went wrong, that specific circuit was not a failure, it did what it was supposed to do, but it was not supposed to do it at that specific time.

The lesson of that was that you need to go through all of the circuitry for all of the systems end-to-end to figure out what will happen in each case. It's a form of systems engineering.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #47 on: 11/28/2011 04:20 PM »
This is pretty obscure.

I just scanned this small collection of some documents on probably the most unusual launch during the CORONA program. This was CORONA 99 (mission number 99) which was not a reconnaissance mission and not even a classified mission. It was a collection of various scientific instruments for the Air Force. Apparently because they needed a Thor Agena going to polar orbit, they simply had the CORONA program office handle this one for them. It never made it to orbit. This would have been a footnote in military space history if it had flown, but it never even made it that far.

One of the documents features an image of the final spacecraft and you can see that they jammed all kinds of stuff on the front end of the Agena. It was a real Frankensat. Not pretty.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #48 on: 11/28/2011 05:29 PM »
This is pretty obscure.

I just scanned this small collection of some documents on probably the most unusual launch during the CORONA program. This was CORONA 99 (mission number 99) which was not a reconnaissance mission and not even a classified mission. It was a collection of various scientific instruments for the Air Force. Apparently because they needed a Thor Agena going to polar orbit, they simply had the CORONA program office handle this one for them. It never made it to orbit. This would have been a footnote in military space history if it had flown, but it never even made it that far.

One of the documents features an image of the final spacecraft and you can see that they jammed all kinds of stuff on the front end of the Agena. It was a real Frankensat. Not pretty.

Is this the Corona you had hinted about in past threads?
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Offline Art LeBrun

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #49 on: 11/28/2011 06:08 PM »
Wayne Eleazer included Corona 99 in his Space Review article 1-31-2011 about the "Oops" factor in missile failures.
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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #50 on: 11/28/2011 06:20 PM »
Is this the Corona you had hinted about in past threads?

I cannot remember. Possibly.

It was a weird vehicle, both in terms of construction and from a bureaucratic perspective.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #51 on: 11/28/2011 06:20 PM »
Wayne Eleazer included Corona 99 in his Space Review article 1-31-2011 about the "Oops" factor in missile failures.


Eleazer's stuff is always worth reading.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #52 on: 11/29/2011 09:35 AM »
This is pretty obscure.
I don't suppose you've found any similar detail on CORONA 54, which was a similar scientific payload?

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #53 on: 11/29/2011 02:54 PM »
I don't suppose you've found any similar detail on CORONA 54, which was a similar scientific payload?

Remind me what that one was again? I have forgotten (and no, I don't have any info about it).

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #54 on: 11/29/2011 04:49 PM »
I don't suppose you've found any similar detail on CORONA 54, which was a similar scientific payload?

Remind me what that one was again? I have forgotten (and no, I don't have any info about it).
It was instrumented to measure the artificial radiation belt produced by the Starfish high-altitude nuclear test.  Must have had a smaller payload than C-99 as it was intended for a higher orbit.  All I've seen is a photo of the Agena aft rack with an array of instruments.

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Re: Agena upper stage
« Reply #55 on: 11/29/2011 05:51 PM »
I don't suppose you've found any similar detail on CORONA 54, which was a similar scientific payload?

Remind me what that one was again? I have forgotten (and no, I don't have any info about it).
It was instrumented to measure the artificial radiation belt produced by the Starfish high-altitude nuclear test.  Must have had a smaller payload than C-99 as it was intended for a higher orbit.  All I've seen is a photo of the Agena aft rack with an array of instruments.

JCM reminded me that it was a Starad mission. My gut instinct is that it was simpler than CORONA 99 because just about anything would be simpler than CORONA 99. They stuck 21 different experiments on that vehicle. But whatever was on the earlier mission must have included something at the front of the Agena too, not just on the aft rack.

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