Author Topic: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite  (Read 76300 times)

Offline Blackstar

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CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« on: 02/27/2012 02:45 pm »
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2031/1

Bit by precious BIT
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, February 27, 2012

In the early 1960s CIA officials suddenly had a scary thought: what if the Soviet Union could take command of American spy satellites? Could they hack the command system and tell a satellite to start its reentry sequence? Could they reprogram the camera to turn on a few minutes later and thereby miss its targets? Could they tell the satellite to switch itself off or spin out of control?

At the time, both the Air Force and the Navy had signals intelligence (SIGINT) satellites primarily intended to detect Soviet Union radars. The CIA, however, did not have its own satellite SIGINT program. So the CIA turned to Lockheed Missiles and Space Corporation in Palo Alto, California, and gave them a contract to develop a system for detecting Soviet efforts to take over control of American satellites. The system was named “BIT.”

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #1 on: 02/27/2012 06:34 pm »
This was previously discussed in the HEXAGON thread. I'm updating it here.

Here are the various CORONA camera systems:

C camera (or system)-first CORONA camera, later designated KH-1

C' ("C prime")-updated CORONA, later designated KH-2

C''' ("C triple prime")-this was the version that separated the heavy lens assembly from the oscillating swing arm that exposed the film, later designated KH-3

MURAL-two C''' cameras, also designated KH-4

KH-4A-MURAL with two satellite recovery vehicles

KH-4B-The entire lens assembly and swing arm rotated inside a drum for both cameras



Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #2 on: 02/27/2012 06:37 pm »
I have a document dated April 1960 that refers to a "1961 CORONA," nothing more exotic than that. The document is not an Itek proposal. It was a Fairchild Camera and Instrument Company proposal and was based upon the assumption of the KH-2/C' ("C-Prime") system as the current system in production.

Initially, Itek lacked the manufacturing capability, so they subcontracted to FCIC to build the cameras. FCIC decided to try and steal Itek's business away by proposing an upgraded system. In other words, they were proposing to CIA that they would build an improved version of Itek's design.

Here is the KH-2/C' version then in production.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #3 on: 02/27/2012 06:39 pm »
Fairchild pitched an idea for taking the basic CORONA camera (the KH-2/C' design) and replacing the lens assembly with a bigger lens assembly and incorporating a much wider film, going from 70mm to 5 inches. According to FCIC, the primary limitation of the CORONA at that time was insufficient film, so using wider film would allow them to cover more area and solve that problem.

Here is the upgraded camera and the larger film size.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #4 on: 02/27/2012 06:41 pm »
Fairchild also proposed an upgraded version that would increase the focal length from 24 inches to 36 inches as well as increasing the film size from 70mm to 5 inches. Here is the schematic. Note the different mold line (outer line of the vehicle) to accommodate the bigger camera.

This proposal was not adopted. After the KH-2, the next upgrade was to the KH-3. According to my notes, the KH-3 was entirely manufactured by Itek. It separated the heavy lens assembly from the swing arm in order to reduce vibration.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #5 on: 05/29/2012 06:12 pm »
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2088/1

The death of Frankensat
by Dwayne A. Day

In September 1965, Frankensat terrorized a pregnant woman and her two children, destroying their home. The woman and children survived, but Frankensat did not.

Throughout the history of the American military space program, the US Air Force has launched numerous unique spacecraft carrying experiments, usually to test new types of equipment or sensors or improved spacecraft components. Because it is difficult to include experiments on operational satellites with vital missions, the Air Force has often bundled them and launched them together, not always in the most elegant packaging. In 1995 the Central Intelligence Agency declassified the CORONA reconnaissance satellite program. Buried in the mountains of data the CIA released was a brief mention of a non-reconnaissance satellite that had been managed by the CORONA program office. That satellite was less of a mystery than CORONA, because over the years the Air Force had published various bits of information about it. In fact, the only real surprise was that this unclassified satellite had been included as part of the CORONA program at all and was counted by the Air Force as part of the total CORONA launches. But because it never reached orbit, it was quickly forgotten.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #6 on: 05/29/2012 06:36 pm »
Blackstar, Looks like to spent some serious time researching that one. Nice article.

Gonna have to link it when they start arguing range safety in the spaceX threads!

btw. Did you get a better (larger) copy of the MRPV image? That looks very interesting.
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #7 on: 05/29/2012 10:33 pm »
1-Blackstar, Looks like to spent some serious time researching that one. Nice article.

2-Gonna have to link it when they start arguing range safety in the spaceX threads!

3-btw. Did you get a better (larger) copy of the MRPV image? That looks very interesting.

1-Wayne Eleazer provided some great info. Jonathan McDowell gets credit for having a great reference library. He had some good material listing the experiments. The subsatellite is depicted in one of the reports, and it's just a little metal box. I think they listed the dimensions wrong, because they state that it was 14 feet on a side. Probably meant 14 inches.

2-An argument over SpaceX? Do those things happen?

3-I can send you the best quality image that I have, but it's no better than what you see on the site. The frustrating thing about this subject is that I have poor-quality versions of good photographs.

Offline Archibald

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #8 on: 10/25/2012 11:30 am »
Merton E. Davies http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merton_Davies

Looks like Merton E. Davies and Bruce Murray knew very well each other.
http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2002AGUFM.P22D..01M

Nothing surprising perhaps.

But that document from 1970, authored by Murray and Davies themselves, discusses possible use of Lunar Orbiter film-readout system (a NRO gift to NASA) for a Mars mission.

http://authors.library.caltech.edu/10783/

Page 10

Quote
Thus, even at a range of 1500 km, a Lunar Orbiter
system would appear to yield an order of magnitude
greater information per unit surface area than will the
kind of system to be flown around Mars by the U.S. in
1971.* Furthermore, the Lunar Orbiter type system
has a built-in image motion compensation system
(which also could be provided for a TV system) permitting
it to be operated much closer to the surface than
can the Mariner '71 system which is virtually smear
limited to 1500 km. Hence, it is clear that the basic
space-proven technology already exists which could
make possible a dramatic breakthrough in Mars surface
resolution in, say, 1973, assuming the weight, power,
and cost increments were deemed to be warranted.

Viking orbiter vidicon cameras, as flown, had a resolution of 45m at best; not enough to catch the Big Joe boulder that nearly wrecked a lander and was seen only after landing.

So I suppose the idea discussed in the paper was to do for Viking what Lunar Orbiter had done for Apollo: very high resolution pictures of the surface to point smooth landing spots.
But did Murray knew of film-readout technology only because of Lunar Orbiter legacy ?

Since Davies had worked for the NRO, did he heard of the Film Readout Gambit (FROG) started in 1966 and canned in 1971 at a cost of $2billion ?
(speculative of course, but the concept of a Mars / Lunar orbiter film-readout system sounds interesting).
« Last Edit: 10/25/2012 11:32 am by Archibald »
Han shot first and Gwynne Shotwell !

Offline Jim

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #9 on: 10/25/2012 12:21 pm »

Since Davies had worked for the NRO, did he heard of the Film Readout Gambit (FROG) started in 1966 and canned in 1971 at a cost of $2billion ?
(speculative of course, but the concept of a Mars / Lunar orbiter film-readout system sounds interesting).


What is your source stating that they spent that much on FROG?

Offline Prober

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #10 on: 10/25/2012 07:01 pm »
I have a document dated April 1960 that refers to a "1961 CORONA," nothing more exotic than that. The document is not an Itek proposal. It was a Fairchild Camera and Instrument Company proposal and was based upon the assumption of the KH-2/C' ("C-Prime") system as the current system in production.

Initially, Itek lacked the manufacturing capability, so they subcontracted to FCIC to build the cameras. FCIC decided to try and steal Itek's business away by proposing an upgraded system. In other words, they were proposing to CIA that they would build an improved version of Itek's design.

Here is the KH-2/C' version then in production.

hmmm I used to have a bunch of Itek optical papers.   Not sure if I assigned them to the shredder or not.
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Offline Archibald

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #11 on: 10/25/2012 08:20 pm »
Blackstar space review article. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1283/2
Quote
President Nixon’s intelligence advisors ultimately led to the cancellation of what had become a $2 billion program.

Han shot first and Gwynne Shotwell !

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #12 on: 10/26/2012 03:07 am »
Blackstar space review article. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1283/2
Quote
President Nixon’s intelligence advisors ultimately led to the cancellation of what had become a $2 billion program.



I wrote that awhile ago, and I'd have to go looking for my source. However, I think that I meant that the program would have cost $2 billion if they pursued it, not that they had already spent $2 billion.

Offline Jim

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #13 on: 10/26/2012 11:31 am »
Blackstar space review article. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1283/2
Quote
President Nixon’s intelligence advisors ultimately led to the cancellation of what had become a $2 billion program.

I wrote that awhile ago, and I'd have to go looking for my source. However, I think that I meant that the program would have cost $2 billion if they pursued it, not that they had already spent $2 billion.
 
That is what I thought.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #14 on: 10/26/2012 02:30 pm »
I wrote that awhile ago, and I'd have to go looking for my source. However, I think that I meant that the program would have cost $2 billion if they pursued it, not that they had already spent $2 billion.
 
That is what I thought.
[/quote]

It's hard to see how they could have spent that much money on FROG without building it.

I'll add that this is one of several aspects of GAMBIT where it would be nice to have much more detail. How would the camera system have worked? What would it have looked like inside? And what would the capabilities have been?

I'd also love to see more information on the effort to convert GAMBIT to lunar orbit use.

Offline Melt Run

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« Last Edit: 09/03/2013 06:32 pm by Melt Run »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #16 on: 09/03/2013 05:59 pm »
I think that things like this were discovered by NPIC back when CORONA was still classified--so back in the 1960s even. There were a couple of photos of archeological sites released with the initial CORONA declassification in 1995.

Offline Melt Run

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #17 on: 05/04/2014 12:48 pm »
Here is a great article by Frank Madden, the chief engineer of the Corona camera system. What I find interesting is his readiness to give credit to others. Enjoy,

 http://www.roberthilbert.com/Corona_files/The%20Corona%20Camera%20System%20by%20Frank%20Madden.pdf
NOTE  The PDF is made available on Robert Hilbert's site. Another great name in optics.
« Last Edit: 05/05/2014 09:51 pm by Jester »

Offline Star One

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #18 on: 05/04/2014 06:27 pm »

Here is a great article by Frank Madden, the chief engineer of the Corona camera system. What I find interesting is his readiness to give credit to others. Enjoy,

 http://www.roberthilbert.com/Corona_files/The%20Corona%20Camera%20System%20by%20Frank%20Madden.pdf
NOTE  The PDF is made available on Robert Hilbert's site. Another great name in optics.

Thanks for that link.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #19 on: 05/05/2014 08:39 pm »
I helped Frank with that, although I cannot remember how. Frank was one of the several Itek people that I interviewed.

 

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