Author Topic: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites  (Read 122884 times)

Offline GClark

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #40 on: 03/06/2010 08:18 am »
IIRC (I don't have it in front of me), Hallion asserts in Vol 1 of THE HYPERSONIC REVOLUTION (sp?) that the original purpose of PRIME was to test just such a potential RV.

Same source; ASSET was more of a general hypersonic materials test program than anything else.  McD had wide latitude on shape - the focus was on materials and structures. It was only loosely associated with X-20.

Offline tankmodeler

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #41 on: 03/06/2010 01:58 pm »
Y'know, Dwayne, I smell enough info here for another installment to your ongoing spysat article series on The Space Review...

This is great stuff, BTW. Very interesting. Som much of this work was occurring in parallel in the US at that time that I'm sure that there was a lot of unofficial cross pollination of concepts & ideas. Things may have occurred because another team had discovered something without there being a hard line of evidence to say that X was because of Y. It happens all the time in my work today. Get a great idea from another program or another company's program and use it, but it's never documented exactly what got you to think that way in the first place.

There was so much innovation occurring in the spacecraft field in those days with so many programs and so many objectives and such short timelines that it would be very odd if things did not percolate across boundaries as if by osmosis.

Paul
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MDA

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #42 on: 03/06/2010 03:24 pm »
Probably not TSR.  I have a big multi-part series that I need to submit to Spaceflight.  It will cover other systems in the 1960s:

Part 1: Samos E-6 and other recoverable satellite concepts, including SPARTAN
Part 2: KH-7
Part 3: KH-8

As for cross-pollination, I think the answer is yes and no.  It is possible--I'm just beginning to try and check this stuff out--that things like PRIME had some kind of connection to the reconsat program.  But one reason why that may not be true was classification.  The reconsat program was compartmentalized and kept separate from the rest of the USAF program.  Many USAF space officers were not aware that there even was a separate highly classified space program.  (You'd have to be pretty dense to not suspect something, but many people simply don't look around outside of their own narrow subject area.)

With the KH-7 this had an interesting development.  For instance, one problem that they encountered was that when they decided to switch to the CORONA satellite recovery vehicle (SRV), that presented a security risk.  You see, CORONA developed the SRV under the cover of the Discoverer program.  Discoverer officially had no connection to recon. 

So now in late 1962 they have to go to the contractors working on the KH-7 and they have to say "We are going to switch to a different SRV.  It works well, we have flown it a lot, and it has carried film before."  Well, they are essentially telling these other contractors (like Kodak) that CORONA exists.  The whole point of compartmentation is that it walls off highly secret projects from each other--you don't really want Kodak to know about the CORONA program, and you don't really want the CORONA program people to know about the KH-7.

So with the whole reconsat program separated and under high classification, it was not really possible to cross pollinate ideas with other parts of the Air Force space program.  It may have prevented technology transfer.  Certainly some tech transfer did occur, but much less than occurred within more open programs.

Offline sbt

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #43 on: 03/06/2010 06:43 pm »
Many USAF space officers were not aware that there even was a separate highly classified space program.  (You'd have to be pretty dense to not suspect something, but many people simply don't look around outside of their own narrow subject area.)

You develop the habit of 'not looking beyond your narrow subject area' if you work in various areas. Discussion is not encouraged. You even learn how to forget (or rather, put right at the back of your mind) things you shouldn't have learnt. You may be curious but you learn to reign that in.

Its not stupidity - it's a necessary way of working.  (Not that you said it was stupidity - I'm just trying to explain to those who don't understand)

Rick
I am not interested in your political point scoring, Ad Hominem attacks, personal obsessions and vendettas. - No matter how cute and clever you may think your comments are.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #44 on: 03/08/2010 03:44 pm »
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1326/1

I have information indicating that a real KH-7 camera and Agena were on this rocket which collapsed to the ground.  The KH-7 was not slated for the first launch, but it was destroyed.  The Agena (tail number unknown) was intended for the first launch.  It was damaged but repaired and flew on a later mission.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #45 on: 03/18/2010 04:50 pm »
I was searching for these documents and had a hard time finding them.  So I figured I'd scan them and drop them here.

The main thing in this stack is the July 1963 report of the Purcell Panel which conducted a senior overview of the satellite reconnaissance program.  The panel's main recommendation was that the CIA (and NRO) should focus most of its attention on getting consistent quality from the existing CORONA satellites rather than pursuing new capabilities.  The panel identified several factors that were leading to inconsistent quality on the CORONA missions and said that they could all be fixed/improved (the document refers to the CORONA-M system, even though that name is mistakenly deleted in this copy and shouldn't be).

What makes the document also interesting is that it identified several other potential technology improvements that undoubtedly ended up in the next big reconnaissance program, the KH-9 HEXAGON (also known as "the Big Bird").  These include things like beryllium mirrors with diameters up to 60 inches.

As Robert Perry wrote in a history of this period, the Purcell Panel was criticized by some because it was not considered bold enough.  However, Perry noted that this came at a time when the Samos E-1, E-2, E-5 and E-6 had all failed, and the KH-6 LANYARD was suffering problems.  The panel's reasoning was that "CORONA works _now_ so focus  on improving that before trying to do anything else."

Some of the documents I've included with the report indicate how it was received by others.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #46 on: 03/18/2010 05:06 pm »
Quote
beryllium mirrors

Talk about a toxic mirror... eeewww

Evening reading, thanks.
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #47 on: 03/18/2010 08:03 pm »
Quote
beryllium mirrors

Talk about a toxic mirror... eeewww

Actually, I talked to somebody about this and he said that although there is danger when the mirrors are being cut and ground (apparently due to dust), once they are manufactured there is nothing dangerous about them.  You can touch them, probably even lick them, and not worry about it.  Apparently they only have to be careful during manufacture.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #48 on: 03/19/2010 11:26 am »
You know what I find funny about this... When Astronomers first began making telescope mirrors the early telescopes used metal mirrors, then we learned how to make glass mirrors, and come the space age we are back to metal mirrors... Oh the irony.

I assume they wanted to use beryllium mirrors for thermal and weight reasons...

... What I found interesting was the intensifier discussion.

Of course the means  they used to to debrief Ken Collins after the A-12 test flight crash where surprising.
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #49 on: 03/19/2010 11:51 am »
I thought that the intensifier discussion was also a little surprising. 

For those who did not read it, the Purcell Panel (a group of top camera and telescope experts) wrote in 1963 that there was this new technology for image intensifying (essentially night vision) and it might have applications to reconnaissance satellites.  But anybody who has seen a night vision scope, or particularly television footage of early, Vietnam-era, night vision knows that the resolution was horrible.  So I doubt that this technology made its way into reconnaissance satellites.  CCDs yes, and they naturally have some sensitivity in the infrared.

As to the mirrors, I've been told that beryllium was used because of thermal and weight reasons.  I believe that the reflecting mirror used on the KH-6 LANYARD was beryllium (although I also think that the original reflecting mirror on the Samos E-5, which begat the KH-6, was heavier glass).  The KH-10 MOL mirror was glass.  We know this because those mirrors are currently on the ground in Arizona.

Offline ngc3314

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #50 on: 03/20/2010 02:54 pm »
The KH-10 MOL mirror was glass.  We know this because those mirrors are currently on the ground in Arizona.

Anybody know where those are now? They used to be in the MMT before it was upgraded to a single 6.5m mirror, after which they circulated a notice sort of like "Free to good home, prefer to keep family together".

Re beryllium mirrors - some ground-based applications use them for weight reasons, such as the secondary mirrors on ESO's VLT. I had a chance to see the JWST mirror segments in fabrication at Axsys (about 1.5 hours up the road from here). Because of dust from milling, each of their 6 or so multi-ton digital mills is inside a vacuum tank. Visitors had to wear the overshoes and follow a safety video on how to keep from inhaling dust (in normal opertaions, no issue). No pictures allowed, not only for industrial espionage reasons but because beryllium has neutron reflectivity properties which make it useful for, umm, other things. Each blank started as a ~1.5x0.1m hexagonal prism weighing in at 400 kg, and after being milled for a couple of months to remove everything that was not a 2mm curved face for polishing and 4m triangular network of stiffening ribs, came out a svelte 20 kg. Good thing all that dust can be melted down for reuse. Looking at pictures in the entry halls, they do lots of space optics for intercept tests.

A major test issue for the JWST segments is making sure that they have the right shape at cryogenic operating temperatures; there is a thermal vacuum chamber in Huntsville big enough to test three at a time on a partial duplicate of the JWST structure. That started life as the X-ray calibration facility, which the Chandra team wanted badly but had trouble getting funded. To hear the project scientist tell it, the week after the Hubble mirror fiasco became public, they got a phone call asking where they wanted their $140 million, 500-meter-long vacuum facility.

Offline zeke01

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #51 on: 03/20/2010 04:02 pm »
Quote
A major test issue for the JWST segments is making sure that they have the right shape at cryogenic operating temperatures; there is a thermal vacuum chamber in Huntsville big enough to test three at a time on a partial duplicate of the JWST structure. That started life as the X-ray calibration facility, which the Chandra team wanted badly but had trouble getting funded. To hear the project scientist tell it, the week after the Hubble mirror fiasco became public, they got a phone call asking where they wanted their $140 million, 500-meter-long vacuum facility.

Which was a APOD's topic just last week--the facility, that is...

http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap100312.html

z

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #52 on: 03/21/2010 03:09 pm »
The KH-10 MOL mirror was glass.  We know this because those mirrors are currently on the ground in Arizona.

Anybody know where those are now?

Yep, they're in storage at the visitor's center/operations building of the MMT in Arizona.  I was at the MMT last year and wanted to see them, but the person showing me around (actually the director) didn't have the key to the storage room.  I'm going to try and get a picture of them in storage for an article I'm working on concerning MOL.

There is a proposal to use them in a series of binocular telescopes for searching for near Earth objects.  The idea would be to mount two of them one above the other, at three different sites.  One site would be at the MMT location (there is an unused telescope pad there) but I forget where the other two sites would be.

There's also one other mirror on display at a U of A lab, I believe, but I have not seen any pictures of that.
« Last Edit: 03/21/2010 03:10 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #53 on: 03/22/2010 01:32 pm »
Attached is a collection of documents from 1965 describing future reconnaissance developments.  This was focused on the development of "quick reaction recon." 

In photo-reconnaissance, there were essentially two major pushes going on during the 1960s--the development of a new, large search system to replace CORONA, and the development of a near-real-time recon system.  (There were certainly other things going on, such as the quest for higher resolution with the KH-8, and the development of MOL.  But I think those were much more straightforward developments, not as convoluted as the other two.)

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #54 on: 03/22/2010 01:37 pm »
I thought that the intensifier discussion was also a little surprising. 

For those who did not read it, the Purcell Panel (a group of top camera and telescope experts) wrote in 1963 that there was this new technology for image intensifying (essentially night vision) and it might have applications to reconnaissance satellites.  But anybody who has seen a night vision scope, or particularly television footage of early, Vietnam-era, night vision knows that the resolution was horrible.  So I doubt that this technology made its way into reconnaissance satellites.  CCDs yes, and they naturally have some sensitivity in the infrared.

Intensifiers have other advantages besides amplifying low light levels. They can shutter very fast, notice they where talking about that and other image formats (square vs. slit) in the same section. Your impression of early night vision scopes relate to the coupling optics... I read that and was wondering if they where thinking about coupling them to film (to improve low light situations) in a manner similar how intensifiers CCD's are coupled to them (Tapered Fibers).

Very interesting indeed...
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #55 on: 03/22/2010 01:38 pm »
Now this is a really interesting chart.  Note that under the satellites category, there are four projects that are deleted.  They have operational dates (top to bottom) of 1966, 1968, 1967, and 1969.

So what are they?  Considering that "Titan III" is listed as operational around 1966, that must refer to the KH-8 GAMBIT (updated version of the KH-7, which is listed as "Atlas-Agena-OCV" on the chart).  I am guessing that the 1968 entry is for the KH-9 HEXAGON, and the 1969 entry is for the KH-10 DORIAN/MOL.

So what are the other two?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #56 on: 03/22/2010 01:40 pm »
And here's a teaser for the airplane folks...

This chart lists two turbojet and two ramjet projects--and they are not the U-2, the A-12 OXCART, nor the TAGBOARD D-21 drone.  So what are they?  I am making the assumption that they were flying when this chart was produced, which would be in the 1960s.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #57 on: 03/22/2010 03:00 pm »
Very interesting doc Blackstar, btw to show you how much the world has changed since:

"Russian Firm to Bid on Air Force Tanker Program"

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703580904575132081360882728.html?mod=WSJ_business_whatsNews

Maybe they where soviet built tankers ;)

btw. The headline has since been retracted. But I wonder how many monitors are covered in coffee this morning.
« Last Edit: 03/22/2010 03:01 pm by kevin-rf »
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Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #58 on: 03/22/2010 04:18 pm »
I apologize both for the size and the poor quality of this document.  I would have had to mess around with it a lot more to improve both (the size is due to all the dark splotches on the pages).

This document is an early 1963 report on land recovery of reconnaissance spacecraft.  Although I have not looked at it recently, a quick skim indicates that it is about all the support forces and equipment necessary for land recovery, but not about the actual technology for the recovery vehicles themselves.

I previously thought that this study was performed in support of the CORONA program.  However, I have recently learned that it was performed in support of the KH-7 GAMBIT high-resolution satellite program.  Until October 1962, GAMBIT was supposed to be land recovery.  They abandoned this in favor of using the CORONA recovery vehicle and sea recovery.  They decided that it would be more reliable and cheaper to stick with the existing approach.  Some of the reasons for that can be found in this document, especially when you realize that by this time all the sea recovery equipment and forces already existed, and a lot of the land recovery equivalent described in this document did not.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #59 on: 03/22/2010 04:19 pm »
And here is the second half of the document.

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