Author Topic: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite  (Read 76305 times)

Offline Archibald

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #20 on: 04/30/2018 05:36 pm »
In the robert Perry history of the NRO it is mentionned NASA interet for Corona in the Earth resources survey mission. Of course ERTS-1 become Landsat-1 and flew in July 1972.

I wonder what kind of capability would Corona bring when compared to Landsat-1 ? 
I understand resolution would be far, far better, but remote sensing happens outside visible light - multispectral scans and the like.

Landsat used Vidicon electronic signal cameras when Corona used film buckets. Perhaps they would build a hybrid of Corona and Lunar Orbiter / SAMOS, with the old Bimat system ?
« Last Edit: 04/30/2018 05:55 pm by Archibald »
Han shot first and Gwynne Shotwell !

Online Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #21 on: 04/30/2018 06:03 pm »
The problem with using a film-readout system is that you run out of film. It limits the lifetime.

There's actually a decent amount of info on these proposals for turning over film systems to NASA. I don't know the specifics (I've forgotten), but I think that NASA lost interest. The film systems had a lot of capability by the late 1960s/early 1970s, but they were running into their limitations. Landsat and its technology approach had a lot more growth capability.

Offline hoku

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #22 on: 03/18/2019 10:39 pm »
Excerpts of 3 Photographic Interpretation Reports on KH-4A mission 1042-1 have been posted at https://www.nro.gov/Freedom-of-Information-Act-FOIA/Declassified-Records/Other-Public-Releases/From-the-NRO-Archives/.

The Middle East Edition covers the aftermath of the Six-day war. The summary table gives a good idea of the power of satellite reconnaissance (coverage of all major "Arab airfields" within 3 days). However, with the war starting on June 5, 1967, and the film probably not being available at NPIC for analysis before June 24 (mission 1042-1 ran from June 17 to 22), the growing demand in the late 1960s for the development of near-realtime imagery becomes quite understandable.


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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #23 on: 03/19/2019 01:59 am »
This 2019 release as part of "sunshine week" is quite pathetic. Compare the number of documents released in 2019 (10) to the numbers for 2018 (50!) and 2017. Then consider that of those 10 documents, the 5 of them dealing with CORONA had previously been released, probably more than 15 years ago as part of the CREST program at the National Archives. Even the one you cite is not new.

It's clear that they had to release something, but decided to release nothing of value. This is just a lazy effort. They're not even trying anymore.

And you know what makes this even more pathetic? This is the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Couldn't they have gone through their collections and gathered a bunch of documents about the NRO's contributions to the Apollo program? Off the top of my head:

-Samos technology for Lunar Orbiter
-Project UPWARD
-MOL and cooperation with NASA on Gemini
-NRO requirements on use of cameras in the Apollo program
-origins of the Apollo panoramic camera
-NRO assets used to monitor the Soviet space program, including the N-1

Such a rich history, but they're not even trying.

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #24 on: 03/19/2019 02:14 am »
And as a follow-up:

Of the 10 released documents, 5 of them are previously-released CORONA documents.

The two budget documents refer to the U-2 program in 1967, and we have so much info on the U-2 that I don't think there's anything of value here.

Then there's this:

Analysis Related to the Hughes Gyrostat System, 1 December 1967

This report was generated by Hughes, and it was never classified to begin with. So for the NRO to be releasing it as part of "sunshine week" is sort of like releasing a library book--it's not theirs in the first place, and it's not exactly notable. It refers to Hughes' then new spun/despun large geosynchronous satellite design, which was first employed with Tacsat. This enabled spinning satellites to be much larger than previous designs. But there's nothing unique about this technology or report, and it doesn't refer to an NRO satellite program. Now Tacsat led to Intelsat IV, and the first Satellite Data System was based upon that technology (if not directly derived from Intelsat IV). But that's not what this report is about.

You get the sense from looking at this document release that they were required by regulations to release something, so they picked up a few random things they found lying around and just released those, without any regard to their actual historical value. Then they could claim that they did their job.

Offline hoku

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #25 on: 03/20/2019 06:34 pm »
And as a follow-up:

Of the 10 released documents, 5 of them are previously-released CORONA documents.

The two budget documents refer to the U-2 program in 1967, and we have so much info on the U-2 that I don't think there's anything of value here.

Then there's this:

Analysis Related to the Hughes Gyrostat System, 1 December 1967

...

You get the sense from looking at this document release that they were required by regulations to release something, so they picked up a few random things they found lying around and just released those, without any regard to their actual historical value. Then they could claim that they did their job.

Thanks for providing the context! Indeed, I didn't check to what extent these might be re-releases.

To give them the benefit of the doubt, there was a government shutdown, and the FOIA dept. might not have been considered to be an "essential service"...

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #26 on: 03/20/2019 10:31 pm »

1-Thanks for providing the context! Indeed, I didn't check to what extent these might be re-releases.

2-To give them the benefit of the doubt, there was a government shutdown, and the FOIA dept. might not have been considered to be an "essential service"...

1-Pretty much anything on CORONA has been released by now. I'm sure that there are some surprises stuck in boxes in a classified warehouse next to the Ark of the Covenant, but the CIA led the way on CORONA declassification years ago and continued it with the CREST archive, and I noted a drop-off in CORONA document releases over a decade ago, indicating to me that there was not much left.

1.5-The NPIC documents are not even NRO documents, they're NPIC. I'm somewhat curious as to how they ended up in an NRO document release, but my guess is that they were already declassified and so NRO was just putting their stamp on them and releasing them, because it didn't involve any new work.

2-I'm all for giving people the benefit of the doubt, but NRO is a DoD agency and should not have been affected by the shutdown. Plus, you'd expect that they would be working on this collection starting after they released the 2018 collection, right? In other words, losing one month out of 12 should not have resulted in such a pathetic release.

The more worrisome possibility is that the powers that be no longer care about "sunshine week" and declassifying documents, and this could indicate that they're going to stop releasing documents.

Some of the previous releases as part of this effort have included some very interesting documents. I used one, about the visit by Vice President Hubert Humphrey to the National Photographic Interpretation Center, in this article:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3490/1

In that case, I actually had conducted an interview in the 1990s where somebody told me--quite accurately--about this 1967 visit. The NRO released a memo that confirmed that it had occurred and provided more details.

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #27 on: 03/22/2019 02:32 am »
While their "sunshine week" release was pathetic, this is a good document release:

https://www.nro.gov/Freedom-of-Information-Act-FOIA/Declassified-Records/Special-Collections/D-21/

It's not space-related, however. And we're still waiting for the third SIGINT material (the P-11 subsats).

Online Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #28 on: 05/06/2020 08:13 pm »
Something I wrote in 2012 about a proposed upgrade to CORONA by Fairchild Camera and Instrument Company.
« Last Edit: 05/06/2020 11:28 pm by Blackstar »

Offline leovinus

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #29 on: 01/04/2021 07:04 pm »
This archeological study with help of CORONA images deserves a mention. PDF of article attached.
"Global-Scale Archaeological Prospection using CORONA Satellite Imagery: Automated, Crowd-Sourced, and Expert-led Approaches"
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00934690.2020.1713285

Quote
ABSTRACT
Declassified CORONA satellite imagery, collected from 1960–1972 as part of the world’s first intelligence satellite program, provides nearly global, high-resolution, stereo imagery that predates many of the land-use changes seen in recent decades, and thus has proven to be an immensely valuable resource for archaeological research. While challenges involved in spatially correcting these unusual panoramic film images has long served as a stumbling block to researchers, an online tool called “Sunspot” now offers a straightforward process for efficient and accurate orthorectification of CORONA, helping to unlock the potential of this historical imagery for global-scale archaeological prospection. With these new opportunities come significant new challenges in how best to search through large imagery datasets like that offered by CORONA. In contrast to currently popular trends in archaeological remote sensing that seek to employ either automated, machine learning-based approaches, or alternatively, crowd-sourced approaches to assist in the identification of ancient sites and features, this paper argues for systematic, intensive, and expert-led “brute force” methods. Results from a project that has sought to map all sites and related features across a large study in the northern Fertile Crescent illustrate how an expert-led analysis may be the best means of generating nuanced, contextual understandings of complex archaeological landscapes.

Last year, within the same archeological context, we discussed the use of HEXAGON images with its much better resolution. Less easy to query though as most are in analog form at NARA.

Online gongora

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #30 on: 01/04/2021 07:40 pm »
https://twitter.com/NatReconOfc/status/1346184820968349698
Quote
The Discoverer/Corona reconnaissance satellite program was a revolutionary breakthrough in intelligence gathering that altered the course of the Cold War.

This joint CIA-U.S. Air Force satellite program involved taking overhead photographs on traditional film, then ejecting the film for return to Earth, where an elite team of U.S. Air Force personnel flying C-119 and C-130 aircraft recovered the film as it re-entered the atmosphere

This phenomenal achievement depended on the extraordinary skills of the 6593d Test Squadron (Special) Air Force crew - these “Star Catchers” became instrumental in helping the nation fight and win the Cold War.

Throughout January and February, we will highlight the stories of the Star Catchers on our Instagram (
@natreconofc) and Facebook (@NationalReconnaissanceOffice) accounts, follow along to learn more about this extraordinary mission. #starcatchers #corona #reconnaissance

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #31 on: 01/05/2021 07:21 pm »
Interesting feature on how new technology is being used to access CORONA imagery for current scientific research. For example, there is now software that will properly orient and identify imagery so that it can be compared to other imagery.

The imagery was declassified in the mid-1990s and some scientists used it then. But the problem was always that it was hard to access the imagery. Somebody had to go find it, scan it, and then use it. Now more of it has been put into databases where it can be accessed and manipulated.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/05/science/corona-satellites-environment.html

It Spied on Soviet Atomic Bombs. Now It’s Solving Ecological Mysteries.


Imagery from the Cold War’s Corona satellites is helping scientists fill in how we have changed our planet in the past half century.

By Marion Renault
Jan. 5, 2021, 3:01 a.m. ET

Not being able to see the forest for the trees isn’t just a colloquialism for Mihai Nita — it’s a professional disadvantage.
“When I go into the forest, I can only see 100 meters around me,” said Dr. Nita, a forest engineer at Transylvania University of Brasov, in Romania.
Dr. Nita’s research interest — the history of Eastern Europe’s forests — depends on a vaster, and more removed, vantage than eyes can provide.
“You have to see what happened in the ’50s, or even a century ago,” Dr. Nita said. “We needed an eye in the sky.”

To map a landscape’s history, foresters like Dr. Nita long depended on maps and traditional tree inventories that could be riddled with inaccuracies. But now they have a bird’s-eye view that is the product of a 20th century American spy program: the Corona project, which launched classified satellites in the 1960s and ’70s to peer down at the secrets of the Soviet military. In the process, these orbiting observers gathered approximately 850,000 images that were kept classified until the mid-1990s.

Modern ecologists chronicling precious or lost habitats have given second life to the Corona images. Paired with modern computing, the space-based snapshots have helped archaeologists identify ancient sites, demonstrated how craters left by American bombs during the Vietnam War became fish ponds and recounted World War II’s reshaping of Eastern Europe’s tree cover.

Even though they’re static, the panoramic photos contain discernible imprints — penguin colonies in Antarctica, termite mounds in Africa and cattle grazing trails in Central Asia — that reveal the dynamic lives of earthly inhabitants below. “It’s Google Earth in black and white,” said Catalina Munteanu, a biogeographer at Humboldt University of Berlin who has used Corona images to show that marmots returned to the same burrows throughout decades of destructive agricultural practices in Kazakhstan.

Online Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #32 on: 01/06/2021 01:13 pm »

Throughout January and February, we will highlight the stories of the Star Catchers on our Instagram (
@natreconofc) and Facebook (@NationalReconnaissanceOffice) accounts, follow along to learn more about this extraordinary mission. #starcatchers #corona #reconnaissance

Just a note that there is at least one other thread dealing with satellite vehicle recoveries:

https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=41243.40

So anybody interested in the subject should check out that one as well.
« Last Edit: 01/06/2021 01:13 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Targeteer

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #33 on: 01/13/2021 11:55 pm »
https://www.facebook.com/NationalReconnaissanceOffice/photos/a.1544403572457698/2908117309419644/

National Reconnaissance Office
January 11 at 11:24 AM  ·
The 6593d Test Squadron (Special) conducted one of the most important U.S. Air Force missions of the Cold War by conducting aerial recoveries of Corona space capsules. The 6593d was one of the first Air Force organizations to combine air and space as integral parts of its mission. The recovery aircrews included officers who piloted or navigated the aerial recovery flights, and enlisted loadmasters who operated the aircraft recovery equipment to snag the parachutes and space capsules. They flew modified C-119J and JC-130 cargo aircraft out of Hawaii, logging many hours to practice their retrievals as simulated film recovery vehicles were dropped at higher and higher altitudes for the recovery crews to capture in midair. Some of these men had previous experience with aerial recovery from the Genetrix project (code name: Drag Net), which deployed reconnaissance balloons over the Soviet Union in the mid-1950s. Capt. Harold E. Mitchell, the first pilot assigned to the 6593d, flew Genetrix recovery patrols in Alaska from 1954-1956, and he relied on those with aerial recovery experience when helping to set up the 6593d. All nine initial pilots of the Discoverer/Corona program had flown with the Genetrix program.

Capt. Mitchell on assembling the 6593d:
“I identified the nine of us from the Genetrix balloon recovery project as the Discoverer pilots...We were the first nine, and all captains, so all of the aircraft commanders came from Pope AFB...Next I went to the Ninth Air Force Headquarters at Shaw AFB, South Carolina...We sat down and discussed obtaining the different people. They spread them out through [Tactical Air Command], Sewart, Tennessee, Ardmore, Oklahoma, and other bases...Most of the copilots came from Sewart where they were C-123 pilots. Our navigators were from Military Airlift Command because they wanted navigators with a lot of over-water navigation experience...We were fortunate to have some of the original Drag Net recovery enlisted personnel, the backend crews there, because they could train the new people...Getting our personnel lined up was the biggest problem. It was not an easy task, but one that was accomplished; we did it in thirty days.”
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Targeteer

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #34 on: 01/13/2021 11:56 pm »
https://www.facebook.com/NationalReconnaissanceOffice/photos/a.1544403572457698/2909638965934145

Main Photo: The arrival of Discoverer 14 (within the metal container) at Hickam AFB on August 19, 1960. Left to right: TSgt Louis Bannick, A2C Lester Beale, A1C George Donahou, SSgt Arthur Hurst, A2C Daniel Hill, SSgt Algaene Harmon, and SSgt Wendell King. Photo credit: USAF

Inset Photo: A2C Daniel R. Hill in 1959. Photo provided by Daniel Hill.
« Last Edit: 01/13/2021 11:57 pm by Targeteer »
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Targeteer

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #35 on: 01/26/2021 02:00 am »
National Reconnaissance Office 9h  ·


“We went down in recovery assignment priority to Pelican 9 with long faces. We were down there patrolling south of Hawaii, tail-end Charlie, the Pelican 9 recovery position, milling around feeling like we didn’t really do our job on Discoverer 13. Now it felt like we were being punished and low and behold Discoverer 14 came down pretty much right to us.”  - First Lieutenant Robert D. Counts
Last week, we told the story of navigator First Lieutenant (1st Lt) Robert D. Counts and the crew’s disappointment at not recovering Discoverer 13, which landed in the ocean. Today, we tell the story of how Counts and crew got an unlikely second chance at making history.
The ephemeris of the Discoverer/Corona satellite, its north/south track along the earth, was very precisely known. Recovery missions consisted of a long line of nine airplanes directly along the ephemeris. The primary recovery area was at the top of the line, where the Discoverer capsule was most likely to come in. The aircraft were tightly spaced in the primary area, approximately 30 miles apart, so that no matter where the capsule came in, at least two airplanes could get to it. Farther down the line in the secondary recovery area, the airplanes were approximately 90 miles apart, so that if the capsule reentered between airplanes, only one airplane would likely have a chance at recovery. The recovery area assignments were on a rotational basis—if an airplane was in the primary recovery area for one mission, then it would be in the secondary recovery area for the next mission. The airplanes’ call signs were Pelican 1 through 9, with 1 being the first position and 9 being the last. Aircraft Commander Capt. Harold Mitchell and navigator 1st Lt Robert Counts were Pelican 1 for Discoverer 13, the prime recovery location assignment, but failed to catch Discoverer 13. Approximately a week later for Discoverer 14, Mitchell, Counts, and crew were assigned to Pelican 9—the least likely place that the space capsule would reenter. As luck would have it, Pelican 9 recovered the Discoverer 14 capsule on August 19, 1960, the first aerial recovery of a space capsule in history.
📸 Photos:
1) The Discoverer 13 parachute floating in the ocean. Loadmasters from the Pelican 1 aircraft dropped smoke markers near the floating space capsule to aid recovery. Photo credit: USAF 
2) The parachute passes beneath the recovery loops during the second attempt to recover Discoverer 14. Photo credit: USAF
3) Gen O’Donnell awarding Capt. Mitchell the Distinguished Flying Cross. Photographed members of the Pelican 9 crew, left to right: Capt Mitchell (aircraft commander), Capt Richmond Apaka (copilot), 1st Lt Robert Counts (navigator), SSgt Arthur Hurst (flight engineer), TSgt Louis Bannick (winch operator), and SSgt Algaene Harmon (loadmaster). Photo credit: USAF
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Targeteer

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Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Online Blackstar

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #37 on: 01/27/2021 12:02 pm »
That link seems to be dead. I've attached the document below. (I think it's a good rule of thumb to attach documents and also link to them, because links disappear.)

Online AnalogMan

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Offline Citabria

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Re: CORONA Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #39 on: 01/27/2021 08:39 pm »
« Last Edit: 01/27/2021 08:42 pm by Citabria »

 

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