Author Topic: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5  (Read 27757 times)

Offline Jester

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« Last Edit: 09/19/2011 02:02 pm by Jester »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #1 on: 01/28/2010 11:58 am »
They are the official histories of the KH-7 and KH-9, respectively.  But redactions make them practically useless.

The only real meat that I found (new to me anyway) was a discussion of how the contract for the KH-7 had to be changed.  It turned out that the contractor (GE) had incentives for rushing the vehicle to launch and coming under budget, but not for performance.  This might have been okay for a development program, but when the KH-7 went operational, it meant that the contractor cut corners on testing and quality assurance.  The result was that a number of vehicles reached orbit and failed. 

So NRO redrew the contract. They figured that once the program matured, costs would be well known and so no incentive for coming under cost was really necessary.  They changed the incentives to emphasize on orbit performance.

The KH-9 history only concerns development, and it is really hard to figure out because it discusses at least two competing systems, but the reader often cannot figure out which one is being discussed.  It is also short on technical details.

Offline Jim

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #2 on: 01/28/2010 02:10 pm »
They are the official histories of the KH-7 and KH-9, respectively.  But redactions make them practically useless.


Once those systems are declassified, will these documents be re-released.?

Edit to add question mark
« Last Edit: 01/28/2010 03:42 pm by Jim »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #3 on: 01/28/2010 03:41 pm »
I should add a warning: don't try to print out the entire thing.  You will burn up all your toner because of all the black pages.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #4 on: 01/28/2010 03:49 pm »
Once those systems are declassified, will these documents be re-released.

Certainly.  Eventually.

However, there have been a number of official histories of reconnaissance programs over the years, and these are the least interesting and most poorly written ones.  There is a better history of the KH-7 and of the KH-9, and it would be best if those were officially declassified first.

Here is a brief overview of the official histories that I know about, going from memory.  I have a bunch of these, but I'm not basing my list on actually digging them out of my files.

Corona
-the Studies in Intelligence short history released during the 1995 declassification  (This is not a very good history, and contains some mistakes.  CIA released it because they had control of the document.)
-an official CIA multi-volume history of Corona, with volumes on organization, technology, recovery, etc.  (This is pretty good, and contains a lot of information not in other sources.  But it is rather sprawling.)
-a volume on Corona by Robert Perry (This is not very good.  Perry did not have access to CIA sources.  Most of the history is about bureaucratic issues, not technology, and there are some maddening holes in the narrative.)
-a monograph (~100 pages) history of Corona by Oder and Worthman  (This is the best single source on Corona.  It's well-written and objective.  Oder and Worthman produced it in the 1980s, along with volumes on Gambit and Hexagon.)

Gambit
-a volume by Robert Perry (provided above)
-a monograph (probably the same approximate length as the Corona history) by Oder and Worthman.  This is still classified, but it is probably excellent like their Corona history

Hexagon
-a volume by Robert Perry (provided above)
-a monograph by Oder and Worthman, see above

Samos
-a volume by Robert Perry (declassified)

Real-time reconnaissance
-a volume by Robert Perry (declassified)

More on Perry in another post.
« Last Edit: 01/28/2010 03:50 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #5 on: 01/28/2010 03:56 pm »
Working from memory, I believe that the Studies in Intelligence history of Corona was declassified in 1995.  It was not until 1997 or so that the Perry history of Corona was declassified, along with the CIA multi-volume history of Corona was declassified.  I don't believe that the excellent Oder-Worthman history of Corona was declassified until 1998 or later.  I believe that a significant number of Corona documents were declassified in 1998 and even in 2000, and more have been declassified since then.

What this demonstrates is that even though the program was declassified in 1995, it took several years before even some important basic documents (like the official histories) were declassified.  When I worked on our book on Corona, we had the Studies in Intelligence history, and some documents (and I did a bunch of interviews), but we did not have these later histories.  I think that led to one mistake in the book where we said that the NRO bureaucratic battles did not affect day-to-day Corona operations, only some management issues.  It turns out that they did, but I did not learn that until years later when some documents were released.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #6 on: 01/28/2010 04:12 pm »
Robert Perry wrote a multi-volume history of satellite reconnaissance starting in the 1960s and finishing it around 1972 or so.  Off the top of my head, here is what the volumes cover:

Volume 1-Corona
Volume 2-Samos
Volume 2A-the weather satellite program
Volume 3A-Gambit (KH-7 and 8)
Volume 3B-Hexagon development (KH-9)
Volume 4-The quest for real-time reconnaissance systems (like the KH-11) during the 1960s
Volume 5-The NRO organization and bureaucracy

All of these have been released (I got volumes 2, 2A and 4 declassified under FOIA myself).  Some have a lot more deletions than others.

My personal opinion is that the overall quality is low.  Perry often mentioned things in passing that he never followed-up on.  And he wrote in a way that makes it hard to determine if he was reporting on something, or providing a personal opinion.  Still, for many of these subjects it is better to have something than nothing.
« Last Edit: 01/28/2010 04:12 pm by Blackstar »

Offline gwiz

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #7 on: 01/28/2010 04:13 pm »
Samos
-a volume by Robert Perry (declassified)

Real-time reconnaissance
-a volume by Robert Perry (declassified)
Are these available on-line anywhere?

Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #8 on: 01/28/2010 06:34 pm »
Are these available on-line anywhere?

Yeah, probably.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol IIIA/B
« Reply #9 on: 01/28/2010 07:06 pm »
And the un-blacked out versions ;)
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Offline Jester

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 4
« Reply #10 on: 01/28/2010 07:17 pm »
first post updated with more volumes, happy black bar dancing ;)

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 4
« Reply #11 on: 01/28/2010 07:36 pm »
first post updated with more volumes, happy black bar dancing ;)

Uuummm, I no longer see the links...
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Offline Jester

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 4
« Reply #12 on: 01/28/2010 07:39 pm »
first post updated with more volumes, happy black bar dancing ;)

Uuummm, I no longer see the links...

Sorry found better copies, updated first post, now vol 1 through 5

Offline gwiz

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 4
« Reply #13 on: 01/31/2010 02:25 pm »
Looking through the histories, I see mention of an appendix volume with all the illustrations.  Has this been declassified?  If so, is it available online?


Offline Blackstar

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5
« Reply #14 on: 01/31/2010 03:06 pm »
Where does it mention the appendix volume?

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5
« Reply #15 on: 02/01/2010 01:33 am »
Where does it mention the appendix volume?

I think it was in the forward. I noticed that also, and quickly scrolled to the end of the document with high hopes only to be blacked out ;)
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Offline Jester

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5
« Reply #16 on: 03/14/2010 04:24 pm »
Vol III A and B have been updated with a 2010 FOIA release, less redaction this time, but still not all.....

I've posted them on the first post.
« Last Edit: 03/14/2010 04:25 pm by Jester »

Offline Jester

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5
« Reply #17 on: 12/23/2010 10:14 pm »
CIA version of Vol1 added to the first post

Offline Jester

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5
« Reply #18 on: 09/19/2011 02:13 pm »
Vol III A and B have been updated with the NRO Sep. 2011 release of Gambit and Hexagon details.

I've added them to the firs post.
« Last Edit: 09/19/2011 02:15 pm by Jester »

Offline hoku

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Re: NRO: A History of Satellite Reconnaissance, Vol 1 through 5
« Reply #19 on: 01/29/2012 10:55 pm »
FWIW, NRO has now released an edited version of Vol. 3A and 3B. Redactions have been removed "to smooth the flow of the language" - this includes entire sentences in some cases:
http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/GAMHEX/Perry_Gambit_Hexagon_History_single_pages.pdf

And no, the name of the name of the chief editor is not Winston Smith..  ;)

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