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General Discussion => Historical Spaceflight => Topic started by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:23 pm

Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:23 pm
Here are some pictures.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:23 pm
Here is the mapping camera.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:23 pm
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:23 pm
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:25 pm
Some more.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 07:45 pm
Fact sheet.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: JosephB on 09/17/2011 09:44 pm
Thanks for posting those Blackstar. Looking forward to future articles.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/17/2011 09:49 pm
I heard a lot of really interesting stuff.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 09/17/2011 10:58 pm
I heard a lot of really interesting stuff.

I'll bet!  Probably never imagined you be able to see these beauties. Great way to tie up loose ends after all that hard work of research.

Have a great time tonight!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Art LeBrun on 09/17/2011 11:07 pm
Holy cow! In the "flesh and blood" after ALL these years. Thank you!

Gotta create some new folders.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/17/2011 11:37 pm
LOTS of videos and documents now posted at the NRO web-site!!!

http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 09/17/2011 11:40 pm
LOTS of videos and documents now posted at the NRO web-site!!!

http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html



WOW!!

Thanks for pointing that out!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/18/2011 12:08 am
LOTS of videos and documents now posted at the NRO web-site!!!

http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html

Sixty miles of film in each Hexagon satellite. 

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 12:18 am
So far the history documents I've read have the ground resolutions of the Gambit as it was developed all redacted...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 12:25 am
Hexagon was actually cancelled at one point before it ever flew but was re-instated.  The blanks for the primary mirrors were produced in West Germany.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: truth is life on 09/18/2011 12:54 am
That fact sheet looks so very '70s--it's like they wrote it up when the thing was developed and just classified it until now.

And I'm sure you're having fun, Blackstar! The one person we all knew would find some way to be there ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 12:59 am


The corrogated metal skin is really surprising.  Could it fly in space that way or is it just a temporary covering of the engineering model?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 09/18/2011 01:08 am


The corrogated metal skin is really surprising.  Could it fly in space that way or is it just a temporary covering of the engineering model?

It looks more like a version of stringer/skin construction to me than corrugation but yeah, sure it could. It was probably covered in thermal insulation (MLI of some kind) and possibly an optical coating to reduce visibility - though the PV arrays would have been pretty reflective so maybe not.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 09/18/2011 01:22 am


The corrogated metal skin is really surprising.  Could it fly in space that way or is it just a temporary covering of the engineering model?

It looks more like a version of stringer/skin construction to me than corrugation but yeah, sure it could. It was probably covered in thermal insulation (MLI of some kind) and possibly an optical coating to reduce visibility - though the PV arrays would have been pretty reflective so maybe not.

You can actually see a part of that (MLI over the stringers) in IMG_0205
here:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26760.msg808375#msg808375

(some thread merging will be required at some point in the future)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/18/2011 02:19 am


1.  The corrogated metal skin is really surprising. 

2.Could it fly in space that way or is it just a temporary covering of the engineering model?

1.  Not really, that's how standard aerospace structures look like

2.  there would be MLI on it.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/18/2011 02:19 am
I was right, the fairing was installed at the factory
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 03:15 am


1.  The corrogated metal skin is really surprising. 

2.Could it fly in space that way or is it just a temporary covering of the engineering model?

1.  Not really, that's how standard aerospace structures look like

2.  there would be MLI on it.


Thanks to Jim and others for the replies.  Pictures I've seen of more current satellites don't appear as "rudimentary" although they usually have MLI or thermal foil of some type installed.

Another question, would the structure be painted in space?  I would think that would be a debris source but maybe the model has it for long term storage on the ground.

Applause to Blackstar as well
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/18/2011 03:36 am
Back from the party. Very tired.

A few things:

-the film in the HEXAGON moved at 17 feet PER SECOND.

-the entire film path for the HEXAGON was pressurized.

-there are a couple more KH-7s still sitting in storage.

-best resolution on the KH-8 was 2.3 inches.

That's it. I'm tired.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Art LeBrun on 09/18/2011 03:39 am
NSF forum: Applause please for Blackstar...................
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 03:47 am
Back from the party. Very tired.

A few things:

-the film in the HEXAGON moved at 17 feet PER SECOND.

-the entire film path for the HEXAGON was pressurized.

-there are a couple more KH-7s still sitting in storage.

-best resolution on the KH-8 was 2.3 inches.

That's it. I'm tired.

Interesting they revealed the 2.3 inch best resolution verbally because it's redacted from all of the documents I've plowed through so far...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Downix on 09/18/2011 03:47 am
**applause**
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: simpl simon on 09/18/2011 04:22 am
Back from the party. Very tired.

A few things:

-the film in the HEXAGON moved at 17 feet PER SECOND.

-the entire film path for the HEXAGON was pressurized.

-there are a couple more KH-7s still sitting in storage.

-best resolution on the KH-8 was 2.3 inches.

That's it. I'm tired.

Interesting they revealed the 2.3 inch best resolution verbally because it's redacted from all of the documents I've plowed through so far...
The story I got was that between the main film storage spool (which could contain 60 miles of film) and the camera image plate there was a temporary "buffer" where film could be held in readiness for a high-speed imaging run. The main spool could not deliver film at this speed. The film transport system was certainly a major engineering achievement.
I managed to cadge a press kit, which contained a bit more than the fact sheets, but the NRO web site now has a lot more information.
Pity the light level in the tent was too poor for my photo camera with no flash.
Ed.: I meant my cell phone camera.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/18/2011 04:48 am
Interesting they revealed the 2.3 inch best resolution verbally because it's redacted from all of the documents I've plowed through so far...

They did not. Somebody did. To me.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 04:48 am
Time for math in public--always scary. ;D

60 miles of film X 5280 feet = 316,800 feet

316,800 feet / 17 feet per second = 18,635 seconds (of imaging)

18,635 seconds / 60 seconds per minutes = 310 minutes (of imaging)

310 minutes / 60 minutes per hour = 5.2 hours total hours of imaging spread over a 2-9 month mission.  Timing and usage of the available film was obviously of paramount importance.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 04:49 am
Interesting they revealed the 2.3 inch best resolution verbally because it's redacted from all of the documents I've plowed through so far...

They did not. Somebody did. To me.

Now it makes sense :D
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/18/2011 04:52 am
Was there any discussion of imagery release? 

Since the full capability of the Gambit resolution was not revealed it would be safe to assume that at least some of that imagery will not be declassified anytime soon...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Art LeBrun on 09/18/2011 04:52 am
17 feet per second. Was there a frame count per second?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/18/2011 04:53 am
1-The story I got was that between the main film storage spool (which could contain 60 miles of film) and the camera image plate there was a temporary "buffer" where film could be held in readiness for a high-speed imaging run. The main spool could not deliver film at this speed. The film transport system was certainly a major engineering achievement.
I managed to cadge a press kit, which contained a bit more than the fact sheets, but the NRO web site now has a lot more information.
2-Pity the light level in the tent was too poor for my photo camera with no flash.
Ed.: I meant my cell phone camera.

1-That was called "the twister" and is considered by everybody on the 9 to be a genius bit of engineering. If you download the video, they briefly show it. I was told by someone that it would take forever to explain it. It's very complicated.

2-Go buy a decent camera. I don't have a cell phone camera and I see people taking pictures with their iPhones and I am briefly jealous that they have something so small and lightweight and handy--then they email me those pictures and they all universally look like bleeachh!!! It's crazy that technology puts so much power in peoples' hands and yet deliberately decreases the quality (lousy sounding MP3s, grainy pictures, etc.).

3-There is no three.

4-Why the heck haven't I gone to bed?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/18/2011 04:54 am
Time for math in public--always scary. ;D

60 miles of film X 5280 feet = 316,800 feet

316,800 feet / 17 feet per second = 18,635 seconds (of imaging)

18,635 seconds / 60 seconds per minutes = 310 minutes (of imaging)

310 minutes / 60 minutes per hour = 5.2 hours total hours of imaging spread over a 2-9 month mission.  Timing and usage of the available film was obviously of paramount importance.

The film speed was not always that fast. It varied.

Simple math probably doesn't apply here.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/18/2011 04:56 am
Was there any discussion of imagery release? 

No. I talked to somebody who was not involved but had apparently asked the people who were involved and based on his response I got the sense that it was a touchy subject--NRO wanted it to happen, but NGA is not exactly enthusiastic.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 09/18/2011 06:09 am
What a huge beast - I really understand the fascination going with those birds. Yes, they were fantastic machines !
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/18/2011 12:13 pm

1.  Thanks to Jim and others for the replies.  Pictures I've seen of more current satellites don't appear as "rudimentary" although they usually have MLI or thermal foil of some type installed.

2.  Another question, would the structure be painted in space?  I would think that would be a debris source but maybe the model has it for long term storage on the ground.

1.  The KH-9 was designed in the 60's before composites were widely used. 

2.  Aerospace aluminum is always painted to prevent corrosion.  That paint does not flake off.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/18/2011 01:54 pm
Was there any discussion of imagery release? 

No. I talked to somebody who was not involved but had apparently asked the people who were involved and based on his response I got the sense that it was a touchy subject--NRO wanted it to happen, but NGA is not exactly enthusiastic.

Let's hope they release the KH-9 imagery. The resolution matches that of  commercial satellites reasonably well and would extend the reach of historical studies back a couple of decades.

Maybe it will even show up on Google Earth.  ;)

Edit for new content:

SpaceRef has an article on the Roze Glacier between the two islands of Novaya Zemlya (http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=38437).

That area was the location of a major Soviet nuclear test site and would certainly have been covered by the KH-9 fairly frequently, clouds and lighting permitting.  Folks interested in arctic warming and ice loss will doubtlessly want to see those pictures.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 09/18/2011 03:02 pm
NSF forum: Applause please for Blackstar...................

here here!!

Thanks for the additional notes Sir! Especially the resolution, which was redacted from the movies I watched last night, and the few documents I reviewed.

The film speed noted was CRAZY!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/18/2011 03:16 pm
Somebody told me a few months ago that the film speed was absurd, but couldn't tell me how fast.

As for the KH-8 top resolution, I had previously heard 2.5 inches, but that person said 2.3 last night. I need to follow up, but it was somebody who was involved in testing the actual resolution for operational spacecraft, so he should know.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go print out a few thousand pages...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jcm on 09/19/2011 06:06 pm
I posted some pictures at
http://planet4589.org/jcm/pics/11/gambit/index.html

- mostly not as good as Blackstar's but some of them show different details.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Art LeBrun on 09/19/2011 08:07 pm
Many thanks, jcm. Utterly fascinating.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: JosephB on 09/19/2011 08:16 pm
"The Hexagon Story" is fascinating reading but I have to say those redactions are a tease. The video "Hexagon - Sentinel of Liberty" especially so.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/19/2011 08:34 pm
I wonder if the full video showing the Titan failure during the last Hexagon launch will now be available or could be requested (FOIA?).  There were rumors several of the frames showed the payload outside of the shroud falling back to the launchpad...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Art LeBrun on 09/19/2011 08:50 pm
Probably shows the first and second stage engines also...........
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 09/19/2011 09:22 pm
So was the HEXAGON the first use of an solid state image sensor technology in reconnaissance sats?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/19/2011 09:58 pm
I wonder if the full video showing the Titan failure during the last Hexagon launch will now be available or could be requested (FOIA?).  There were rumors several of the frames showed the payload outside of the shroud falling back to the launchpad...

I was the one who heard the story about the shroud getting blown off from somebody who worked at VAFB as an integration person (i.e. they put the payload on top of the thing that blew up). They said that there was a single frame that revealed something, probably the SRVs underneath. The person never told me what the payload was, but we already knew what was atop the rocket.

I will say that it is pretty great what they have already released. I figure that over the next few years they'll be declassifying a lot of program records. I'm too entrenched in what they released to figure out what I'd like to see next, although two things come to mind: higher-res (better color) pictures than the ones in the histories and on their websites. Most of what they released was scanned off of a paper copy, not an actual photo. And, some reports on each of the new blocks of vehicle explaining what the major modifications were.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/19/2011 10:01 pm
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1931/1

Big Black throws a party

by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, September 19, 2011

On Saturday night the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a major bash at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. The spooks definitely know how to throw a party.

The event was remarkable in some ways because for the first 31 years of its life the NRO was a secret organization and the government did not even admit that it existed—blacker than black. But in the past 20 years the office, by fits and starts, revealed more of what it does. Today although most of its current operations remain classified, the NRO acknowledges the broad outlines of its activities, taking images and intercepting signals using sophisticated and expensive satellites. The NRO has had its share of scandals in the past couple of decades, some of which became public, but lately it seems to be on a roll with a number of programmatic successes, and so they held a party, and have something to celebrate.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/19/2011 10:18 pm
So was the HEXAGON the first use of an solid state image sensor technology in reconnaissance sats?

Good question - previously we had speculated that HEXAGON might have served as a testbed for some KH-11 sensor technologies.
The HEXAGON Story (page 111) states that Perkin Elmer's solid-state stellar camera (S3) first flew on mission 1217, i.e. May 1982. By that time four KH-11 Block 1 satellites had already been launched, and CCDs had been around for +6 years (first "big" international conference on CCDs was held in 1976). Thus HEXAGON might in this case have inherited some KH-11 technology.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/19/2011 10:55 pm
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1931/1

Big Black throws a party

by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, September 19, 2011

On Saturday night the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) celebrated its fiftieth anniversary with a major bash at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport. The spooks definitely know how to throw a party.
...
Thanks for the nice and upbeat summary of Saturday's events! I for one thing am curious about the features still hidden. I haven't found anything, yet, on the subsatellites (FERRETs and scientific) - possibly apart from the "black boxes" depicted below.

On the other side, there are lots of gems, like, e.g., the amazing film path starting at the supply spool, making its way through the camera, and initialy all four of the recovery vehicles...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/20/2011 12:04 am
1-I for one thing am curious about the features still hidden. I haven't found anything, yet, on the subsatellites (FERRETs and scientific) - possibly apart from the "black boxes" depicted below.

2-On the other side, there are lots of gems, like, e.g., the amazing film path starting at the supply spool, making its way through the camera, and initialy all four of the recovery vehicles...

1-I did not expect them to release anything on the sigint ferrets. We do have information on the S3 scientific subsatellites. I have heard that a declassification effort concerning the sigint ferrets is underway, but the confidence level on that is low. Frankly, the sigint guys haven't been able to take public credit for what they did, and maybe they never will (except for the POPPY and GRAB guys).

2-Yeah, that was a surprise. A year or so ago I was talking to somebody about how that film path might have worked. We speculated that it might have been like CORONA, threaded through each recovery bucket. But we didn't like that idea, because it seemed pretty gutsy to run it through four buckets, especially since the film must have moved pretty fast. What happens if you get a jam? You could lose a lot. So we speculated that they might have had some system that threaded each bucket individually after one was dumped. More complex, of course. But the diagram shows that they did it like CORONA.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/20/2011 02:36 pm
So was the HEXAGON the first use of an solid state image sensor technology in reconnaissance sats?

Good question - previously we had speculated that HEXAGON might have served as a testbed for some KH-11 sensor technologies.
The HEXAGON Story (page 111) states that Perkin Elmer's solid-state stellar camera (S3) first flew on mission 1217, i.e. May 1982. By that time four KH-11 Block 1 satellites had already been launched, and CCDs had been around for +6 years (first "big" international conference on CCDs was held in 1976). Thus HEXAGON might in this case have inherited some KH-11 technology.

This is just an "I heard that...", so take it with due caution and FWIW. However, I heard that the initial KH-11s used a different sensor technology than CCDs, which seems kind of consistent with the development timelines of both the satellite and CCDs. 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 09/20/2011 02:44 pm
This is just an "I heard that...", so take it with due caution and FWIW. However, I heard that the initial KH-11s used a different sensor technology than CCDs, which seems kind of consistent with the development timelines of both the satellite and CCDs. 
The way I heard that rumour, the first KH-11 used a video system and the CCD sensors came in on the second KH-11.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/20/2011 02:45 pm
Quote
This is just an "I heard that...", so take it with due caution and FWIW. However, I heard that the initial KH-11s used a different sensor technology than CCDs, which seems kind of consistent with the development timelines of both the satellite and CCDs.

Linear diode arrays? Though they have low Qe, the technology was mature in the early 70's.

Maybe coupled with first or second gen image intensifier tubes?

The mid 80's leaked soviet aircraft carrier image in aviation weekly always reminded me of what one would expect with different element gains in a 1d linear array scan. But everything I just typed is just a guess.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Downix on 09/20/2011 02:55 pm
1-I for one thing am curious about the features still hidden. I haven't found anything, yet, on the subsatellites (FERRETs and scientific) - possibly apart from the "black boxes" depicted below.

2-On the other side, there are lots of gems, like, e.g., the amazing film path starting at the supply spool, making its way through the camera, and initialy all four of the recovery vehicles...

1-I did not expect them to release anything on the sigint ferrets. We do have information on the S3 scientific subsatellites. I have heard that a declassification effort concerning the sigint ferrets is underway, but the confidence level on that is low. Frankly, the sigint guys haven't been able to take public credit for what they did, and maybe they never will (except for the POPPY and GRAB guys).

2-Yeah, that was a surprise. A year or so ago I was talking to somebody about how that film path might have worked. We speculated that it might have been like CORONA, threaded through each recovery bucket. But we didn't like that idea, because it seemed pretty gutsy to run it through four buckets, especially since the film must have moved pretty fast. What happens if you get a jam? You could lose a lot. So we speculated that they might have had some system that threaded each bucket individually after one was dumped. More complex, of course. But the diagram shows that they did it like CORONA.
You've never worked in the motion picture industry then I take it.  This film path is downright simple compared to some I've had to work with.  Even the multiple recovery buckets is right off of several specialty cameras I've worked on, which had multiple pick-up spools.  I'm attaching the picture of a PSK-30 for example of one such design, it's design allowing for travelling masks to allow dynamic matting, for FX work, much more complex than the film path above.

This path here is nothing unusual, nor complex.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/20/2011 03:51 pm

Linear diode arrays? Though they have low Qe, the technology was mature in the early 70's.

Maybe so. My memory is trying to tell me that the term "PIN diode" was used in the conversation mentioned above, but I don't trust my memory after all these years.

Quote
Maybe coupled with first or second gen image intensifier tubes?

I have no idea. Perhaps if you went back and looked at the available sensor technology in the early 1970s you could get an idea whether intensifier tubes would be needed or not.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: simonbp on 09/20/2011 04:00 pm
My money would be on rad-hard vidicons, as used on Voyager. It's simple and they knew it would work. Plus, I doubt Qe was the driving force, but rather resolution...

http://pds-rings.seti.org/voyager/iss/inst_cat_na1.html#inst_det
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/20/2011 04:04 pm
My money would be on rad-hard vidicons, as used on Voyager. It's simple and they knew it would work. Plus, I doubt Qe was the driving force, but rather resolution...

http://pds-rings.seti.org/voyager/iss/inst_cat_na1.html#inst_det

Linear. It's in The Wizards of Langley.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/21/2011 07:14 pm
...
You've never worked in the motion picture industry then I take it.  This film path is downright simple compared to some I've had to work with.  Even the multiple recovery buckets is right off of several specialty cameras I've worked on, which had multiple pick-up spools.  I'm attaching the picture of a PSK-30 for example of one such design, it's design allowing for travelling masks to allow dynamic matting, for FX work, much more complex than the film path above.

This path here is nothing unusual, nor complex.
Neat, but did it also include a Nitrogen tank for the airbars?  ;)

I should have mentioned that the Hexaon film path depicted above is a gross oversimplicifation. To quote from The Hexagon Story:
"The distance the film traveled (...) was 140 feet ... over 124 rollers in camera A, 131 rollers in camera B, and six airbars in each camera.
(...)
In the fine film-transport system, the film was accelerated to 200 inches per second, decelerated, and recycled, while platen cycled through the photo-recyle phase."

Having never worked in the motion picture industry, I'm still quite impressed by the Hexagon film path!   :)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Downix on 09/21/2011 07:57 pm
...
You've never worked in the motion picture industry then I take it.  This film path is downright simple compared to some I've had to work with.  Even the multiple recovery buckets is right off of several specialty cameras I've worked on, which had multiple pick-up spools.  I'm attaching the picture of a PSK-30 for example of one such design, it's design allowing for travelling masks to allow dynamic matting, for FX work, much more complex than the film path above.

This path here is nothing unusual, nor complex.
Neat, but did it also include a Nitrogen tank for the airbars?  ;)

I should have mentioned that the Hexaon film path depicted above is a gross oversimplicifation. To quote from The Hexagon Story:
"The distance the film traveled (...) was 140 feet ... over 124 rollers in camera A, 131 rollers in camera B, and six airbars in each camera.
(...)
In the fine film-transport system, the film was accelerated to 200 inches per second, decelerated, and recycled, while platen cycled through the photo-recyle phase."

Having never worked in the motion picture industry, I'm still quite impressed by the Hexagon film path!   :)
It's impressive indeed.  I'm just pointing out that such complex paths are not unheard of in other fields.  200 inches per second is the same speed that an IMAX camera runs at for normal operation.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/21/2011 10:22 pm
I think we should also commend Giuseppe on the accuracy of his KH-9 visualisations, which he published several months before the actual declassification! Great job! Well done! This made the actual hardware display last Saturday a little bit less of a surprise.

For comparison, pls find attached the HEXAGON System Concept, and Giuseppe's illustration accompanying part 2 of Dwayne's The flight of the Big Bird article in "The Space Review" (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1774/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1774/1)). Note that the OAS/RCS and SCS sections of the actual hardware are more reminiscent of Giuseppe's illustration than of the System Concept!

Btw., any guess on why the "front view" of the "2 PAN CAMERAS" scanning geometry (which depicts the minimum height of 82 nm, and the viewing angle/swath of 120 degree) is redacted in The HEXAGON Story, while it is revealed on the HEXAGON fact sheet (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26760.msg808385#msg808385 (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26760.msg808385#msg808385))?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/22/2011 01:18 am
Giuseppe did a great job, did anyone predict the orientation of the mapping camera recovery vehicle before the release? It took me by surprise.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/22/2011 02:01 am
LOTS of videos and documents now posted at the NRO web-site!!!

http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html

Displaying "Internal Server Error" tonight.  Hmmmmm.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/22/2011 03:17 am
Giuseppe did a great job, did anyone predict the orientation of the mapping camera recovery vehicle before the release? It took me by surprise.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1785/1

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: pargoo on 09/22/2011 06:30 am
     I've tried that NRO link for days without getting through :/
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: archipeppe68 on 09/22/2011 07:36 am
I wanna thanks all the folks for the kind comments.

It is a real pleasure to collaborate with Dwayne and much of the accurancy, in detailing the KH-9, it is more due to him rather than me (at the end I'm only a drawer other than a space fan....).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/22/2011 01:40 pm
Personally I am suspecting they took the whole thing off line for some reason. Just glad I managed to read the Perry history's while they where up.

btw. There is a thread with just the Perry histories in it, but none of the other stuff they had up. http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=20232.0
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/22/2011 02:04 pm
I suspect that one of two things happened--either they got slashdotted, meaning that they got hit with a wave of downloads that overwhelmed their server and so they pulled the stuff, or somebody noticed something in the documents that should not have been declassified, and they pulled it all to check. Considering that lots of people downloaded it already, that's like closing the barn door after the horses ran away. But the government has done that before.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/22/2011 02:15 pm
did anyone predict the orientation of the mapping camera recovery vehicle before the release? It took me by surprise.

We figured it had to be at the front and looking down. The only question was where the fifth reentry vehicle was located. We speculated that it might be forward of the mapping camera, pointing down like the others (we knew that it was smaller), but the size issue was problematic. I have to look through the declassified materials, but don't know if we have all the dimensions. I kept hearing 60 feet for the length of the KH-9, but don't know if that included the mapping camera at the front and how long that is (it's probably about 6-8 feet).

We did speculate that the mapping reentry vehicle was pointed forward, which we called "Rudolph's nose," but I didn't like that orientation. It seemed wrong. In retrospect, I realize that was kind of dumb of me--after all, that's exactly the way the RVs were mounted on the other vehicles, right?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jcm on 09/22/2011 02:20 pm
Personally I am suspecting they took the whole thing off line for some reason. Just glad I managed to read the Perry history's while they where up.

btw. There is a thread with just the Perry histories in it, but none of the other stuff they had up. http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=20232.0

I have all the docs at http://planet4589.org/space/docs/nro
Unfortunately I didn't download the index html pages that tell you which PDF is what,  it's just  1.PDF, 2.PDF etc...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/22/2011 02:42 pm
Thanks!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite - Internal Server error
Post by: Vauh on 09/22/2011 04:44 pm
I've got a reply yesterday from NRO:

We are experiencing technical difficulties.  Apologize for the inconvenience.  The issues should be resolved shortly.

 


Volker
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/22/2011 06:27 pm
I was slightly surprised that they released the sum of the FY66 to FY86 budgets for HEXAGON ($3,262,000,000, Section 12 of The HEXAGON Story). Even w/o knowing the funding profile, this allows us to bracket the program costs.

In case all the money would have been spent in FY86, it would amount to inflation adjusted US$ 6.5 billion in 2011. In case all the money would have been spent in FY66, it would amount to inflation adjusted US$ 22.1 billion in 2011. Thus the HEXAGON program cost is somewhere in the range US$ 6.5 to 22.1 billion.

A big program like Hexagon might start with a steeply rising funding profile for the initial R&D, and the procurement of the first hardware items. Later on this should settle to a constant (or slightly falling) cost per unit (see, e.g., the Agena history). In case half of the budget would have been spent in FY66, and half of the budget in FY86, the sum would amount to an inflation adjusted (2011) US$ 14.3 billion, or an average US$ 715 million per satellite vehicle. For comparison, the KH-11s with their considerably longer operational lifetime have estimated unit costs (w/o R&D?) of US$ 2.1 to 2.9 billion.

Do these numbers seem reasonable?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/22/2011 07:03 pm
The ranges for the overall cost are a good boundary--at least an indication of the scale of the program that we're talking about here.

I'm not sure you can glean any kind of useful information out of old budget figures. We are lousy at predicting what stuff will cost next year, so I don't know what we can determine by looking at older stuff. But I too was surprised that the figures were in there.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: simonbp on 09/22/2011 07:09 pm
WRT to being Slashdotted, apparently, they didn't think declassified top secret documents about some of the most important vehicles of the Cold War would be interest to the general public... ::) ::) ::)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/22/2011 07:49 pm
WRT to being Slashdotted, apparently, they didn't think declassified top secret documents about some of the most important vehicles of the Cold War would be interest to the general public... ::) ::) ::)

A US government agency vital to the security of the nation with an annual budget of $15 billion, and which cannot keep a web server running, while several hundred folks (at most) try to download some PDF documents? If this is the case, then I'm really afraid...  ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/22/2011 07:55 pm
WRT to being Slashdotted, apparently, they didn't think declassified top secret documents about some of the most important vehicles of the Cold War would be interest to the general public... ::) ::) ::)

A US government agency vital to the security of the nation with an annual budget of $15 billion, and which cannot keep a web server running, while several hundred folks (at most) try to download some PDF documents? If this is the case, then I'm really afraid...  ;)

http://xkcd.com/932/
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/22/2011 10:16 pm
Here is the vehicle being pulled into the vertical.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/22/2011 10:18 pm
One interesting aspect of this declassification is that not only are we seeing the vehicles, but we are also seeing Lockheed's test facilities.

Here's a question: because KH-11 and KH-9 (and KH-8) operations were all underway more or less simultaneously from mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, presumably they had separate facilities for each.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/22/2011 10:32 pm
One interesting aspect of this declassification is that not only are we seeing the vehicles, but we are also seeing Lockheed's test facilities.

Here's a question: because KH-11 and KH-9 (and KH-8) operations were all underway more or less simultaneously from mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, presumably they had separate facilities for each.

Hmm.  I never thought of that before.  I'm reasonably sure all three were built in LMSC's Sunnyvale facility on Mathilda Avenue, just in separate bays.  But where they were tested is an interesting question.  Where was Hubble, also built there,  shaken out?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: simonbp on 09/23/2011 03:50 pm
IIRC, Hubble was built at Marshall and tested there and at Goddard.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/23/2011 05:03 pm
One interesting aspect of this declassification is that not only are we seeing the vehicles, but we are also seeing Lockheed's test facilities.

Here's a question: because KH-11 and KH-9 (and KH-8) operations were all underway more or less simultaneously from mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, presumably they had separate facilities for each.

Hmm.  I never thought of that before.  I'm reasonably sure all three were built in LMSC's Sunnyvale facility on Mathilda Avenue, just in separate bays.  But where they were tested is an interesting question.  Where was Hubble, also built there,  shaken out?

Hubble final integration also happened at LMSC - starting in Nov 1984, completed Feb 15, 1985. The speedy integration suggests that LMSC folks had quite some experience in assempling "this kind" of hardware. Admittedly, NASA also paid extra (overtime/night time shifts) in order to meet a 1986 launch window (pre-STS-51-L planning). The image might show one of vertical integration stands used for KH-11 as well. Apparently, LMSC was also quite anxious to get Hubble "out of the door" again. Marshall/Goddard did a lot of testing and debugging of HST flight hard- and software afterwards.

Here is a link to David Leckrone's presentation of HST "inception to launch" history (with some more pictures of Perkin-Elmer and LMSC facilities): http://www.stecf.org/conferences/HST3/presentations/mon_s_1/hst3_leckrone.pdf (http://www.stecf.org/conferences/HST3/presentations/mon_s_1/hst3_leckrone.pdf)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/23/2011 09:49 pm
I've been mulling over the Hexagon revelations.  What a fantastically complex machine!  Yet, I have to wonder, what advantages did Hex really have over the Soviet Zenit?  Fewer launches, sure, but at the cost of creating a massively complex and costly satellite, coupled with a big, expensive launch vehicle.  With so much at stake on each mission, reliability was absolutely essential.  If Zenit had a problem, the Soviets could just roll out another R-7.  The individual launches probably provided more mass to play with too. 

Of course the U.S. never quite had an R-7 equivalent to play with. 

Can't help but wonder what is going on today, and why the Pentagon chose to drop Lockheed for awhile, at great cost, etc.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: JosephB on 09/24/2011 01:49 am


Can't help but wonder what is going on today

 - Ed Kyle

Isn't that the truth. One would think near real time radar would be high priority.

EDIT: If Hexagon is "old hat" you have to wonder if there is an all in one multi-spectral everything super sat.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/24/2011 03:45 pm


Can't help but wonder what is going on today

 - Ed Kyle

Isn't that the truth. One would think near real time radar would be high priority.

EDIT: If Hexagon is "old hat" you have to wonder if there is an all in one multi-spectral everything super sat.

Consider that the GeoEye satellites probably do/will do much of what Hexagon did, but they stay up for years and the program doesn't cost tens of billions of dollars.  GeoEye 1 was light enough to be launched by a Delta II.  GeoEye 2 will fly on a basic Atlas V. 

Heck, GeoEye 1 is in part Google's "spy satellite".

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/24/2011 04:34 pm

Isn't that the truth. One would think near real time radar would be high priority.


Like this?
https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Lacrosse_%28satellite%29

Quote
EDIT: If Hexagon is "old hat" you have to wonder if there is an all in one multi-spectral everything super sat.

At least in classical Cold War times, high-resolution black and white seemed to be preferred over color, though a few experiments were run with CORONA using lengths of color film. (I have the reference somewhere here, for loose values of "somewhere.")  Later versions of KH-11 are reported to include an infrared imaging capability, though it's not clear whether that means 3-5 micron or 8-12. I'd guess 3-5, as that would preserve fairly decent resolution using the same optics as the CCD EO sensor.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/24/2011 06:33 pm
Looks like KH-9's main cameras achieved a ground resolution of 50cm to 60cm (2ft) starting with mission 1215, i.e., indeed quite comparable to today's commercial imagery. Note that the figure presented in A History of the HEXAGON program only covers missions 1201 through 1218 (dashed lines added by me to extrapolate the redacted portion of the figure).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/24/2011 10:30 pm
I've been mulling over the Hexagon revelations.  What a fantastically complex machine!  Yet, I have to wonder, what advantages did Hex really have over the Soviet Zenit? 

Compare swath width and resolution. What were the comparable figures for Zenit?

The one thing that people consistently say about the 9 was that its biggest asset was its massive coverage. Nothing else came close. I have not looked at the declassified materials much, but I suspect that every mission came close to covering nearly the entire Soviet landmass (of course, a lot depended upon cloud cover).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/24/2011 10:34 pm
Isn't that the truth. One would think near real time radar would be high priority.

EDIT: If Hexagon is "old hat" you have to wonder if there is an all in one multi-spectral everything super sat.

Near-real-time radar has been around since the 1980s. The problem is coverage. There are only a few of them up there and they're used for areas that are cloud-covered.

As for "multi-spectral everything super sat" there have been arguments in recent years that the stuff the NRO is seeking to build is too big and capable and expensive. The military jargon word is "exquisite option,"* whereas critics argue that what is required is something less capable but more affordable.









*(Hey, look! It's a footnote!) One thing that I'm always falling behind on is the jargon. The military is always inventing new jargon and then it filters over to NASA a short time later. When the Augustine committee referred to the "program of record" they did not make up that term themselves, it was already in use by the military for awhile. It apparently replaced the term "legacy" or "heritage" system. Similarly, the "exquisite option" is a relatively recent bit of jargon apparently used as criticism of expensive systems.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/24/2011 10:37 pm
Consider that the GeoEye satellites probably do/will do much of what Hexagon did, but they stay up for years and the program doesn't cost tens of billions of dollars.  GeoEye 1 was light enough to be launched by a Delta II.  GeoEye 2 will fly on a basic Atlas V. 

Compare swath width and area covered.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/24/2011 10:39 pm
Looks like KH-9's main cameras achieved a ground resolution of 50cm to 60cm (2ft) starting with mission 1215, i.e., indeed quite comparable to today's commercial imagery. Note that the figure presented in A History of the HEXAGON program only covers missions 1201 through 1218 (dashed lines added by me to extrapolate the redacted portion of the figure).

Yeah, that's probably about right. I talked to one guy at the 9 who said that they ultimately got to 1.5 feet resolution. I talked to another guy who didn't tell me the resolution but said that it was "a lot" better than what they started at.

I should add that I think there were a lot of different operating modes and tradeoffs with this. For example, they might have been okay with 2-foot resolution for most of their targets, but switched to a different mode that gave them something better with less area coverage. They also carried different kinds of film, including color, and it's possible that they might have loaded up most of a mission with lower-res film and then finished with some higher-res film.

So I would bet that the answer to the question about resolution was "it depends."
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: JosephB on 09/25/2011 01:00 am
Interesting commentary. Another thing I’ve wondered in regards to recent capabilities is the likelihood (through some sort of technical wizardry) of imaging several separate targets at once with the same sat.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2011 01:27 am
There is something in the 9 history about how the KH-11 replaced its area capabilities, apparently in the 1980s. I suspect that was with the "Improved Crystal Metric System" that was added in the 80s. However, ICMS was reportedly only a mapping system, and I doubt that it provided the broad-area coverage of the 9 at the same resolution. In fact, there were complaints during the 1991 Gulf War that they lacked broad area coverage and really missed an unnamed system that had been retired.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 09/25/2011 01:33 am
I am new to this forum and I would like to ask blackstar if you could send me copies of your Hexagon photos?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2011 01:47 am
I am new to this forum and I would like to ask blackstar if you could send me copies of your Hexagon photos?

You mean the ones that I took last week at the museum? I could post some of them here. There are some links earlier in the thread to other ones that have been posted. Mine don't look much different than anybody else's photos.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 09/25/2011 02:05 am
To Blackstar,

I am very interested in detailed photos of the film pods used in KH-9 as I am trying to locate the location of various parts that I have from the returned film pods.  So far I have located one of the nylon straps that connected the film pod to the parachute risers.  I have not been able to locate the other parts that I have.

I am also wondering if anyone took photos of the empty film pod location in the forward bay to see how the film pods were connected and ejected from the bus.

Thank you for your reply.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 09/25/2011 09:15 am
I've been mulling over the Hexagon revelations.  What a fantastically complex machine!  Yet, I have to wonder, what advantages did Hex really have over the Soviet Zenit? 

Compare swath width and resolution. What were the comparable figures for Zenit?

The one thing that people consistently say about the 9 was that its biggest asset was its massive coverage. Nothing else came close. I have not looked at the declassified materials much, but I suspect that every mission came close to covering nearly the entire Soviet landmass (of course, a lot depended upon cloud cover).
Some numbers: at an altitude of 90nm, a 120 degree swath width covers 180 miles (or 290 km) on the ground. Observing this at a resolution of 2 ft (0.6m), and assuming two image points per resolved ground feature, yields 290 000 / 0.6 / 2 = 1 million image points (equivalent to 1 million pixel) for the swath width.

Critical to US security quotes that the Soviet Union covered almost 7 million square miles, and that a "mature" HEXAGON system could image about 80% of the area, i.e. about 5.5 million square miles. Divide this by 180 miles, and multiply by 1 Megapixel, and you end up with 30 Gigapixel per camera (60 Gigapixel taking the stereo imaging into account) .

Even with today's modern computers, this is a huge amount of image data to process and analyse. HEXAGON provided this coverage 19 times between 1971 and 1984 (though admittedly initially at somewhat worse resolution and less area coverage).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2011 01:59 pm
I am very interested in detailed photos of the film pods used in KH-9 as I am trying to locate the location of various parts that I have from the returned film pods.  So far I have located one of the nylon straps that connected the film pod to the parachute risers.  I have not been able to locate the other parts that I have.

I am also wondering if anyone took photos of the empty film pod location in the forward bay to see how the film pods were connected and ejected from the bus.

I do have photos of the satellite recovery vehicle, including the parachute attachment, that I can post here.

I also have photos of the empty SRV location that I can post. My photos of that are not as good as some others that I've seen, however. I took photos when they opened in the morning. Then, after seeing other photos on the net in the afternoon, when I went back in the evening for the party I tried to photograph things that others had gotten good shots of. Unfortunately, by the evening they had put a rope around the vehicle that prevented me from getting in as close as I could in the morning.

One caution about that location, however: don't assume that the one on display exactly matched the flight vehicles for that area. This was an engineering mockup and I don't think they needed to replicate things like the ejection mechanisms for the SRVs for this vehicle.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2011 02:03 pm
Critical to US security quotes that the Soviet Union covered almost 7 million square miles, and that a "mature" HEXAGON system could image about 80% of the area, i.e. about 5.5 million square miles. Divide this by 180 miles, and multiply by 1 Megapixel, and you end up with 30 Gigapixel per camera (60 Gigapixel taking the stereo imaging into account) .

More to the point, the systems operate differently. I am pretty sure that GeoEye and other commercial systems essentially stare straight down, imaging a small strip below them that is only a few miles wide. The KH-9 in contrast swept broad areas east-west as the vehicle came down from the north. The amount of territory covered by a single KH-9 mission was undoubtedly vast compared to the coverage you can get off of a commercial satellite, even one that is operating for many years.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2011 03:26 pm
Here are two pictures--not mine--that I grabbed from another site. I hope they show what you're looking for. I can access my photos of this stuff tomorrow.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/25/2011 05:37 pm

Critical to US security quotes that the Soviet Union covered almost 7 million square miles, and that a "mature" HEXAGON system could image about 80% of the area, i.e. about 5.5 million square miles. Divide this by 180 miles, and multiply by 1 Megapixel, and you end up with 30 Gigapixel per camera (60 Gigapixel taking the stereo imaging into account) .

Anybody know what the bit count per pixel for such film was?  For modern CCD systems, 11 bits seems to be somewhat standard, but I have no notion how that compares to film.

But if we pretend that 11 bits/pixel is the right number for the sake of discussion, the 60 gigapixels turns into 82.5 gigabytes and 19 times that is 1.57 terabytes. That was a lot for the times, not so much for the past decade.

Quote
Even with today's modern computers, this is a huge amount of image data to process and analyse...

Computers? What are these "computers" of which you speak?  Those were the days when real men (and a few women) in Building 213 spent their days at light tables. I suspect that they had fairly definite rules about what areas were worth spending time to examine.  (Uncued area search has been something of a bugbear in the imagery world since forever.  Even cued area search isn't lightly undertaken.)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: alexw on 09/25/2011 08:25 pm
This does raise an interesting question about computers: at what point did NRO or the client agencies start experimenting with digital imaging techniques? Presumably before KH-11. For example, drum-scan a small segment of some interesting target and try noise-reduction techniques. By 1970, hundreds of MB of hard disk storage would have been practical, even if the processing was slow.
   -Alex
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2011 09:08 pm
Computers? What are these "computers" of which you speak?  Those were the days when real men (and a few women) in Building 213 spent their days at light tables. I suspect that they had fairly definite rules about what areas were worth spending time to examine.  (Uncued area search has been something of a bugbear in the imagery world since forever.  Even cued area search isn't lightly undertaken.)

Too busy now to actually (horrors!) dig up real information, but a couple of things from memory:

-the previous Corona releases include information on the requirements for negating areas. I'm sure I have the documents (filed under "rutabegas") that indicate that they had to search X number of square miles every Y number of months to spot any new construction. This started out with the U-2s following the railway lines.

-now that the 9 material is being released it is worth revisiting the whole mystery radar issue and how it went unnoticed for so long. See also the appendix of "The Gambit Story" for a discussion of the search for the SA-5 radar site. It mentions that the location they were looking in has clouds something like 360 days out of the year.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/25/2011 09:16 pm
Well for what it is worth, one of the standard pics all digital imaging processing text books use is from a 1972 issue of playboy... ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenna )

Quote
Anybody know what the bit count per pixel for such film was?  For modern CCD systems, 11 bits seems to be somewhat standard, but I have no notion how that compares to film.

Depends on what you are doing, High sensitivity large pixel (24um) slow readout scientific camera's are often 16 bit. You often see 10 and 12 bit AtoD's married to smaller (6.45 um or less) pixel scientific camera's because of the limited well depth (usually 80,000 electrons or less) and high high speed readout requiements. Like fluorescent microscopy type applications due to the need for higher speed AtoD's and as well as having less than 65K electrons. It is a trade-off. Many low light security cameras are often 8 bit, but I digress.

On film, it depends on the emulsion, how grainy it is, and the lighting conditions. Remember the KH-9 and KH-8 heavily drove Kodak's emulsion technology. How many bits do you need? Honestly some of the released Corona images don't even need eight bits.

Also, remember the first KH-11's are believed to have used pre-CCD technology and where likely 8 bits at best. You can do a fair amount with 8 bits.

Let me relate a walking up hill both way story I once heard from an old timer in the CCD field (he was at Andor at the time). This was back in the 70's (maybe 80's, tails like this grow with time), they actually did digital (1 bit) imaging with DRAM chips. They cut the tops off the chip package, put a window in place, mapped out the memory cell locations on the chip, read out the memory of the chip, did a transform against the memory cell location map and had an imaging device they used for something or other. My point is there is more than one way to skin the digital imaging cat.

It all depends on what you want to do, some years ago I was actually involved with developing an 18 bit single point detector for high sensitivity spectroscopy  measurements. Even today, I still consider 16bits to limiting in those sort of apps. (Btw. That company still makes and sells the 18 bit product, some 14 years later).   
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/25/2011 10:28 pm

-now that the 9 material is being released it is worth revisiting the whole mystery radar issue and how it went unnoticed for so long.

Not that we're likely to find out anytime soon, but it would be interesting to trace the imagery history of the Al Kibar reactor in Syria.  I suspect that it wasn't imaged until several years after hints started coming in that something was going on in the area and a cued search was tasked. Of course, at that time and in that part of the world, the satellites had plenty of other work, but that's part of the point.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/26/2011 12:40 am

-now that the 9 material is being released it is worth revisiting the whole mystery radar issue and how it went unnoticed for so long.

Not that we're likely to find out anytime soon, but it would be interesting to trace the imagery history of the Al Kibar reactor in Syria.  I suspect that it wasn't imaged until several years after hints started coming in that something was going on in the area and a cued search was tasked. Of course, at that time and in that part of the world, the satellites had plenty of other work, but that's part of the point.

Would there be a complete (but low res.) history in the Landsat data set? I am really wondering, with the KH-9 being a search system. Did they learn enough with it to decide that lower res. systems like landsat could be used to find new construction and the KH-11 be assigned a closer look to decide if further monitoring was warranted.

I just have a hard time believing the KH-11 can do the KH-9's search function and the KH-8 closer look. The bandwidth, even with SDS is staggering.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/26/2011 12:56 am
Not that we're likely to find out anytime soon, but it would be interesting to trace the imagery history of the Al Kibar reactor in Syria.  I suspect that it wasn't imaged until several years after hints started coming in that something was going on in the area and a cued search was tasked. Of course, at that time and in that part of the world, the satellites had plenty of other work, but that's part of the point.

A nit: it might have been imaged, but that doesn't mean that anybody paid any attention to it. I vaguely remember reading that after they got tipped off they went back to their archives for older images of the site.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/26/2011 12:50 pm
Not that we're likely to find out anytime soon, but it would be interesting to trace the imagery history of the Al Kibar reactor in Syria.  I suspect that it wasn't imaged until several years after hints started coming in that something was going on in the area and a cued search was tasked. Of course, at that time and in that part of the world, the satellites had plenty of other work, but that's part of the point.

A nit: it might have been imaged, but that doesn't mean that anybody paid any attention to it. I vaguely remember reading that after they got tipped off they went back to their archives for older images of the site.

True. I remember that, toward the end of the FIA fiasco, someone made the remark that questions of exploitation hadn't been adequately addressed and even then, "most of what we take ends up on the cutting room floor."  Or whatever the digital equivalent of the cutting room floor is.

After the Al Kibar story broke, GeoEye went back and found Ikonos imagery from 2003 that had gone unremarked for almost four years. 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/26/2011 12:52 pm
After the Al Kibar story broke, GeoEye went back and found Ikonos imagery from 2003 that had gone unremarked for almost four years. 

Well, there you go. Obviously it had been seen in overhead. It should not matter if it was seen in the hi-res stuff or the commercial stuff if the issue is primarily change detection.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/26/2011 01:34 pm
Hind sight is always been 20/20. I like the fire hose comparisons for the KH-9. Human eyes are needed to review data, it is a staffing issue.

The problem with all this is if the adversary is actively trying to hide the activities.

India woke everyone by successfully hiding its nuclear tests activity back in the 90's. Russia made the rounds a while back selling inflatable decoys that are hard to tell apart from the real thing. I remember one of the articles mentioning they even had placed heat sources inside to fool IR sensors, and embedded metal shavings into the fabric to fool radar systems. Some nice pics: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/7563546/Russias-inflatable-decoy-weapons-and-military-hardware-in-pictures.html


 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/26/2011 01:46 pm
The problem with all this is if the adversary is actively trying to hide the activities.

I imagine that a good discussion on denial and deception techniques and their effectiveness would be fascinating. It would also be very very secret.

My own suspicion is that although D&D is possible in some cases, it is limited, and you never know how effective you are being. For instance, it is impossible to hide an army, so if you're about to invade, even if you go through extraordinary measures to conceal you may not be able to accomplish much of anything at all. Similarly, it is really hard to hide large facilities. The best you can probably hope to do is conceal what is going on inside of them, but you cannot hide the overall footprint itself.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 09/26/2011 01:50 pm
After the Al Kibar story broke, GeoEye went back and found Ikonos imagery from 2003 that had gone unremarked for almost four years. 

Well, there you go. Obviously it had been seen in overhead. It should not matter if it was seen in the hi-res stuff or the commercial stuff if the issue is primarily change detection.

I should have mentioned, just for completeness, that after the bombing someone went back and found hand-held ISS imagery from 2002 that shows the building. The resolution is poor, not better than 10-15 meters, but you can see a big square object casting a shadow is present in the wadi.  Again and unsurprisingly, nobody seems to have noticed.

http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/scripts/sseop/photo.pl?mission=ISS005&roll=E&frame=12691

Edit: spelling
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Lsquirrel on 09/28/2011 09:04 am
I have all the docs at http://planet4589.org/space/docs/nro
Unfortunately I didn't download the index html pages that tell you which PDF is what,  it's just  1.PDF, 2.PDF etc...

I have download all index html pages,this is hexagon:
Index, Declassified HEXAGON
ID    Description    PDF
1    Adequacy of the CORONA-HEXAGON Overlap
2    CIA Comments Concerning Alternative Management Arrangements for Satellite Search and Surveillance System
3    Comments on Alternate Management Arrangements for the New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System
4    Conduct of the FULCRUM Program
5    Deputy Director Science and Technology, CIA - Satellite Photography Working Group
6    Design Definition HEXAGON Sensor Subsystem
7    DNRO Action Memo No. 1 Task Group for the New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System
8    DNRO Action Memo No. 2 Task Group for the New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System
9    DNRO Report on NRO, Dec 1972
10    DNRO, 1965, CORONA, New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System
11    Ground Rules for New Search System Competition
12    HEXAGON 1st Flight Orbit Adjust Module-Reaction Control Module
13    HEXAGON 1st Flight Vehicle, with Recovery Vehicle
14    HEXAGON - Memo, DNRO
15    HEXAGON - DCI Richard Helms - GAMBIT-3
16    HEXAGON Factory to Launch Sequence
17    HEXAGON Film Being De-Spooled, 1970
18    HEXAGON Re-entery Chute
19    HEXAGON Review Committee - 1969 - Dr. Robert Naka
20    HEXAGON Satellite Vehicle Transporter
21    HEXAGON Satellite Vehicle Transporter (2)
22    HEXAGON Shroud and Test Base in Acoustic Chamber
23    HEXAGON SV-5 Forward Section with Mapping Camera Module
24    HEXAGON SV-5 Forward Section with Mapping Camera Module (2)
25    HEXAGON SV-5 Satellite Control Section, 4-18-72
26    HEXAGON System Quality Vehicle in VIS 1 and 2 with Platforms Raised
27    HEXAGON System Quality Vehicle Lowered into A Frame
28    HEXAGON System Quality Vehicle Lowered into A Frame (2)
29    HEXAGON Transition Plan
30    HEXAGON Vertical Integration Stands (VIS) 1 and 2
31    HEXAGON Vertical Integration Stands (VIS) 1 and 2 (2)
32    HEXAGON View of Recovery Vehicle Unit Take-Up Reels, 1970
33    Implementation of HEXAGON Development Program
34    ITEK Corporation - Mr. Levison & Mr. Wolf FULCRUM meeting - Feb. 25, 1965
35    ITEK Discussions - FULCRUM - Dr. McMillan and Dr. Land
36    KH-9 Search and Mapping, Charting, & Geodesy Performance Study, Volume II
37    KH-9 Search and Mapping, Charting, & Geodesy Performance Study, Volume II
38    Letter for Director, Bureau of Budget - HEXAGON Excom Committee
39    Letter from DCI to DNRO - Jan. 1983 - HEXAGON success
40    Management Plan and Organizantional Responsibilities
41    Memo - Chairman, EXSUBCOM - Western Geographic Division - IEG, NPIC
42    Memo - Mr. McCone's Concerns Regarding NRO, 1963
43    Memo for DCI - Project FULCRUM
44    Memo for USIB - Long Range Requirements for Satellite Photographic Collection
45    New General Search and Surveillance Satellite System
46    New Satellite Search Surveillance System
47    NRP Executive Committee Minutes, 26 April 1966
48    Panel for Future Satellite Reconnaissance Operations
49    Panel for Future Satellite Reconnaissance Operations
50    Photographic Requirements of New System
51    Preliminary Project FULCRUM Phase I Tasking - 1964
52    Project HEXAGON Overview
53    Reactions to Proposal on New General Search System
54    Second Report of HEXAGON Review Committee
55    Second Report of HEXAGON Review Committee (2)
56    System Performance Evaluation Team, Mission 1201
57    Task Group Report (Alternative Management Arrangements for the New Photographic Search and Surveillance System)57
58    Task Group Report, New Photographic Search and Surveillance System, 1965
59    Third Report of the HEXAGON Review Committee
60    Third Report of the HEXAGON Review Committee (2)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/28/2011 01:18 pm
Found an error.  21 is not a transporter photo.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: dbaker on 09/28/2011 01:31 pm
Israel has a VERY big history on this and hid some clandestine activities under camau-nets specifically designed to infer completely legitimate activity with optical/IR/radar veiling within the wrap material. In fact they had a selectable range of emissivity products for such purposes but mostly aimed at SR-71 (aero) overflights (which were always a worry for them).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Dasun on 09/28/2011 02:18 pm
dbaker,

Are you the David Baker that authored "History of US manned spaceflight" or some title like that in the early 80's?  If so I want to thank you for an excellent, rather large tome that enthralled me for many hours.  Are you going to write a similar volume about shuttle?  I think you may have mentioned that in "History of US manned spaceflight".

Sorry for being OT and if I have got the wrong person accept my apologies.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: dbaker on 09/28/2011 02:24 pm
Guilty as charged sir! Really glad it kept your attention for a while. The original idea back then (30 years ago) to do a major history of Shuttle DDT&E (as we used to call it) was buried in a flurry of real work back on the real program when I was wrapped up with NASA-HQ tasks. After putting out the 'Haynes Shuttle Manual' in April this year I am now heads-down writing a similar book on the ISS and next year will have a big book out on Shuttle from an industrial/program/political/development angle. Oh, and I just accepted editorship of Spaceflight, the magazine of the British Interplanetary Society. Like most folks in this business, no peace this side of the grave...(but would we have it any other way?)!!!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jcm on 10/03/2011 02:02 am
I have all the docs at http://planet4589.org/space/docs/nro
Unfortunately I didn't download the index html pages that tell you which PDF is what,  it's just  1.PDF, 2.PDF etc...

I have download all index html pages,this is hexagon:
Index, Declassified HEXAGON
 

Could you do me a  favor and email me those index.html pages? [email protected]
 - thanks
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/03/2011 04:49 pm
I was going to ask if you could post the GAMBIT list, but decided to do it myself:

1 Analysis of GAMBIT (110) Project
2 Analysis of Program 206 (GAMBIT), Summary
3 Compliments Letter on KH-8
4 Eastman Kodak Blanket Proposal
5 GAMBIT Control-Payload Adapter Section
6 GAMBIT on Launch Pad Picture
7 GAMBIT Operational Modes
8 GAMBIT Payload Adapter Section
9 GAMBIT Photographic Payload Section Diagram and Description
10 GAMBIT Photographic Payload Section photo
11 GAMBIT RV Picture
12 GAMBIT Satellite Control Section
13 GAMBIT Vehicle Buildup
14 GAMBIT, HEXAGON Study, Capsules Launched-Recovered
15 KH-7 Camera System, Part 1
16 KH-8B Camera System
17 Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. - Factors Contributing to Program Success
18 Long Range Requirements for Satellites
19 Notes from Meeting to Re-Orient Program 206
20 Outline Development Plan- Project CUE BALL
21 Preliminary Schedules- BLANKET and SUNSET STRIP
22 Project Management Plan, Project GAMBIT-3
23 Report of a Special Panel on Satellite Reconnaissance
24 Report to President-Elect of Ad Hoc Committee on Space
25 Space Recovery Responsibility - Memo for Vice Chief of Staff, USAF
26 System Performance- Launch Vehicle
27 UPWARD Redirection of the MSS Development
28 USAF Program Authorization (CUE BALL)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/03/2011 07:23 pm
And since this is the HEXAGON thread, here is also the updated document list in NRO's FOIA folder (down to 57 from 60 documents initially as some double entries seem to have been removed):

1    Adequacy of the CORONA-HEXAGON Overlap   
2    CIA Comments Concerning Alternative Management Arrangements for Satellite Search and Surveillance System   
3    Comments on Alternate Management Arrangements for the New Photographic Satelite Search and Surveillance System   
4    Conduct of the FULCRUM Program   
5    Deputy Director of Science and Technology, CIA - Satellite Photography Working Group   
6    Design Definition HEXAGON Sensor Subsystem   
7    DNRO Action Memo No. 1 Task Group for the New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System   
8    DNRO Action Memo No. 2 Task Group for the New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System   
9    DNRO Report on NRO, Dec 1972   
10    DNRO, 1965, CORONA, New Photographic Satellite Search and Surveillance System   
11    Ground Rules for New Search System Competition   
12    HEXAGON 1st Flight Adjust Module Reaction Control Module With Skirt   
13    HEXAGON 1st Flight Orbit Adjust Module-Reaction Control Module   
14    HEXAGON 1st Flight Vehicle, with Recovery Vehicle   
15    HEXAGON - DCI Richard Helms - GAMBIT-3   
16    HEXAGON Factory to Launch Sequence   
17    HEXAGON Film Being De-spooled, 1970   
18    HEXAGON Re-entry Chute   View
19    HEXAGON Review Committee - 1969 - Dr. Robert Naka   
20    HEXAGON Satellite Vehicle on Titan IIID Booster, 1971   
21    HEXAGON Satellite Vehicle Transporter   
22    HEXAGON Sequence of Events Diagram   
23    HEXAGON Shroud and Test Base in Acoustic Chamber   
24    HEXAGON SV-5 Forward Section with Mapping Camera Module   
25    HEXAGON SV-5 Satellite Control Section, 4-18-72   
26    HEXAGON System Qualification Vehicle in Vertical Integration Stands (VIS) 1 and 2 with Platforms Raised   
27    HEXAGON System Qualification Vehicle Lowered into A Frame   
28    HEXAGON Transition Plan   
29    HEXAGON Two Camera Assembly as Seen Through the View Port, 1970   
30    HEXAGON Vertical Integration Stands (VIS) 1 and 2   
31    HEXAGON View of Recovery Vehicle Unit Take-Up Reels, 1970   
32    Implementation of HEXAGON Development Program   
33    ITEK Corporation - Mr. Levinson & Mr. Wolf FULCRUM Meeting - Feb. 25, 1965   
34    ITEK Discussions - FULCRUM - Dr. McMillan and Dr. Land   View
35    KH-9 Search Documents, Part 3   
36    Letter for Director, Bureau of the Budget - HEXAGON, Excom Committee   
37    Letter from DCI to DNRO - Jan. 1983 - HEXAGON Success   
38    Management Plan and Organizational Responsibilities   
39    Memo - Chairman, EXSUBCOM - Western Geographic Division - IEG, NPIC   
40    Memo - Mr. McCone's Concerns Regarding NRO, 1963   
41    Memo for DCI - Project FULCRUM   
42    Memo for USIB - Long Range Requirements for Satellite Photographic Collection   
43    New General Search and Surveillance Satellite System   
44    New Satellite Search and Surveillance System   
45    NRP Executive Committee Minutes, 26 April 1966   
46    Panel for Future Satellite Reconnaissance Operations, 3 July 1963   
47    Photographic Requirements of New System   
48    Preliminary Project FULCRUM Phase I Tasking - 1964   
49    Project HEXAGON Overview   
50    Reactions to Proposal on New General Search System   
51    Report of the HEXAGON Review Committee, June 20, 1969   
52    Second Report of HEXAGON Review Committee   
53    System Operational Requirements- New Search and Survellance System   
54    System Performance Evaluation Team Mission 1201   
55    Task Group Report (Alternative Management Arrangements for the New Photographic Search and Surveillance System)   
56    The KH-9 Search and MC&G Performance Study Volume II, Historical Performance Summary   
57    Third Report of the HEXAGON Review Committee
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 10/04/2011 01:11 pm
So what's still secret about Hexagon?  Obviously any mention of resolution better than two feet, or anything detailed about costs.  The payload diagrams have a few bits near the front end blocked out, so what could be operated in low orbit? Sigint? Store-dump communications?  Also, major redaction of the histories at the time of the first mission, which looks like they don't want to mention the recovery of a capsule from the ocean floor by Trieste II.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/04/2011 05:41 pm
So what's still secret about Hexagon? ...  The payload diagrams have a few bits near the front end blocked out, so what could be operated in low orbit? Sigint? Store-dump communications? ...
Now, this is an interesting question! :) My "educated"(?) guess on the redacted areas in the payload section diagrams is that they are related to the subsatellites:

i)  Document Project HEXAGON Overview (#49) has a page on Shroud Configuration, which mentions access doors for sub-satellite trickle charge and arming.
 
ii) According to NASA's NSSDC Master Catalog, HEXAGON missions launched ELINT and scientific subsatellites.

iii) Mr. Vick's drawings on globalsecurity.org, which turned out to be quite accurate, locate subsatellites on the upper part of the recovery vehicle section of HEXAGON. Note that some of the drawing also include a fixed ELINT package attached forward of RV-4.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/04/2011 05:50 pm
Note that some of the drawing also include a fixed ELINT package attached forward of RV-4.

That was mistaken for the Doppler antenna for the MCS.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/04/2011 06:19 pm
Project HEXAGON Overview also mentions that in addition to the MCS, something else (redacted) could be attached to the external surfaces of the forward section.

The slide on "Thermal Control" actually shows some flat structures attached to the outside of the forward section.


edited to add a drawing from one of Dwayne's articles on the FERRETs: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1360/2 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1360/2) ("Robotic ravens")
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/04/2011 07:54 pm
Note that some of the drawing also include a fixed ELINT package attached forward of RV-4.

That was mistaken for the Doppler antenna for the MCS.
Thanks for reminding me!

Btw., the document quotes a shroud length of 52'1". Thus the "total length" of 60ft for HEXAGON as quoted in the pre-annoucement of the NASM event must have been calculated by adding - and rounding up - the length of booster adapter+SCS (6'6") and the length of the shroud.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2011 08:19 pm
I've used better photos (actual photos) of the ferrets elsewhere. Somebody also reminded me that some experiment packages were apparently carried on some KH-9 missions. These were apparently (I have to check) not jettisonable packages. So that may be the stuff on the right side of the vehicle just behind the mapping camera system. The ferrets, and the Boeing S3 scientific satellites*, would have been mounted farther back on the fore structure, just forward of the camera section.



*There were three Boeing-built Small Scientific Satellites, often simply called S3, launched off of KH-9 missions. Somebody has a list somewhere, I'm sure.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/05/2011 06:30 am
A question coming out of nowhere... did the Air Force ever planned some KH-9 or KH-11 servicing missions, Hubble style ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 10/05/2011 09:42 am
There were three Boeing-built Small Scientific Satellites, often simply called S3, launched off of KH-9 missions. Somebody has a list somewhere, I'm sure.
The S3s, another subsat called S73-7 and a few attached payloads are included here:
http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sat/stp.htm
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 10/05/2011 09:51 am
Note that some of the drawing also include a fixed ELINT package attached forward of RV-4.
Perhaps the Poppy programme was continued as an attached payload on Hexagon.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/05/2011 11:25 am
A question coming out of nowhere... did the Air Force ever planned some KH-9 or KH-11 servicing missions, Hubble style ?

The last few pages of the document "the Hexagon Story" describes some studies on shuttle compatibility and it was found to be cheaper to return the whole spacecraft to earth for refurbishment vs modifying the design for EVA servicing.  Threading the film would be a nightmare.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/05/2011 02:51 pm
A question coming out of nowhere... did the Air Force ever planned some KH-9 or KH-11 servicing missions, Hubble style ?

The last few pages of the document "the Hexagon Story" describes some studies on shuttle compatibility and it was found to be cheaper to return the whole spacecraft to earth for refurbishment vs modifying the design for EVA servicing.  Threading the film would be a nightmare.

Ah, thank you. Very interesting.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/05/2011 03:30 pm
The S3s, another subsat called S73-7 and a few attached payloads are included here:
http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sat/stp.htm
Thanks!

This indicates that HEXAGON offered a certain flexibility in configuration for secondary missions:
i) SCS with a 12 bay equipment section, two of which were available for "growth items"
ii) four (?) pallets on the outside of the RV section (for payloads like NAVPAC, or sub-satellite launchers?)
iii) Auxilary Payload Structure Assembly (APSA) in front of the RV section (flown on mission 1205 to 1216 with the MCS)

More questions: Were the rumored technology tests (ahead of CCD implementation in KH-11) KH-9 pallet payloads? Is there any indication that APSA might also have flown on one of the non-MCS missions?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 10/05/2011 09:01 pm

ii) According to NASA's NSSDC Master Catalog, HEXAGON missions launched ELINT and scientific subsatellites.


Some of which are still, after three decades, still in orbit. I'd guess they had a bit of propulsive capability of their own to get to higher altitudes.

One seems to be getting close to reentry:

KH 9-17 Elint
1 13172U 82041C   11236.95329824 0.00000500  00000-0  61713-4 0    04
2 13172  95.9890 145.5324 0003999 150.6745 209.3253 14.82942530    00
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/06/2011 01:58 am
Here is the alternative design of the HEXAGON by Perkin-Elmer that was ultimately rejected. There are two major differences.

The first is that they proposed two large satellite recovery vehicles (SRVs) instead of the four smaller ones that they ended up with. If you assume a ten-foot diameter vehicle, then the SRVs had diameters of nearly 8 feet. That's bigger than Mercury.

The second is that the film supply reels, on the right, rotated along the roll axis of the vehicle. They were later changed to rotate along the pitch axis instead, which made the vehicle longer.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/06/2011 08:58 pm
Here is the alternative design of the HEXAGON by Perkin-Elmer that was ultimately rejected. There are two major differences.

The first is that they proposed two large satellite recovery vehicles (SRVs) instead of the four smaller ones that they ended up with. If you assume a ten-foot diameter vehicle, then the SRVs had diameters of nearly 8 feet. That's bigger than Mercury.

The second is that the film supply reels, on the right, rotated along the roll axis of the vehicle. They were later changed to rotate along the pitch axis instead, which made the vehicle longer.
Just for clarity - is this the optical camera layout based on Itek's FULCRUM design, which was transferred to Perkin-Elmer after Itek's dropped out due to CIA's "interference" with their work in early 1965?

The HEXAGON Story states that both Perkin-Elmer and Itek submitted proposals for the sensor subsystem in July '66. Makes one wonder if there was more behind the 1965 break-up (AF/DNRO trying to set-up CIA's FULCRUM management, in order to gain full control over HEXAGON?). The memos on this topic are surprisingly outspoken, i.e. tensions (and stakes) must have been quite high.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/06/2011 09:49 pm
Just for clarity - is this the optical camera layout based on Itek's FULCRUM design, which was transferred to Perkin-Elmer after Itek's dropped out due to CIA's "interference" with their work in early 1965?

No. This is Perkin-Elmer's design, not Itek's. The initial HEXAGON design was for two SRVs, using P-E's optical bar cameras. So think of this as the HEXAGON camera system, but with different fore and aft bodies.

Those SRVs would have been monsters, however.

The HEXAGON Story states that both Perkin-Elmer and Itek submitted proposals for the sensor subsystem in July '66. Makes one wonder if there was more behind the 1965 break-up (AF/DNRO trying to set-up CIA's FULCRUM management, in order to gain full control over HEXAGON?). The memos on this topic are surprisingly outspoken, i.e. tensions (and stakes) must have been quite high.

I know a P-E guy who says that they considered that Itek's FULCRUM camera design was unworkable.

I don't think that AF/DNRO was trying to set up CIA. CIA was off like a charging horse, doing what they considered most important. They viewed NRO more as a coordinating agency rather than something that would be in charge of reconnaissance. I think it is fair to say that CIA was arrogant--but with perfectly good reason: they built the U-2, the OXCART, and the CORONA, and they thought they were reconnaissance gods.

So CIA started work on a new search system and the Director of NRO didn't like that. He thought that CIA was off developing technology without first clearly defining the requirements (and he might have been right, or he may have had a different definition of what "requirements" meant).

What then happened was that CIA and Itek got increasingly antagonistic over FULCRUM and eventually Itek pulled out, saying that they did not want to work for CIA anymore. Probably a really stupid move, because it cost them a major contract. CIA swooped in and took all their blueprints and then handed all that over to Perkin-Elmer. P-E guys did not think that FULCRUM would work, and they instead developed their own design. That is what got built.

Now there was a competing Kodak system called S-2, but we don't have any illustrations of that.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/06/2011 09:52 pm
Here are illustrations of the Itek FULCRUM configuration and Perkin-Elmer's initial configurations of the FULCRUM and "M" camera systems.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2011 10:51 pm
Going through the H documents. I've grabbed some of the illustrations from doc 52 and cropped them a bit. Here is one showing the kind of area coverage that they could get in a typical pass, and another one showing the size of the recovery area off Hawaii. For the latter, I don't understand the dimensions on the left (note that the Hawaiian island chain is not accurate).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2011 10:54 pm
Here is the operations sequence for the spacecraft.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: JosephB on 10/09/2011 12:24 am
Layman question:
I'm kind of doubting this but thought I'd stick my neck out there anyway.
Is it possible that film is still outperforming electronic imaging for large area scanning coverage? Hex covered such large areas at high resolution, maybe the X-37B is helping in this role?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/09/2011 12:27 am
X-37 is in the wrong orbit and it can't carry a large payload
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/10/2011 01:01 am
KH-9 subsystems.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/10/2011 01:10 am
One more subsystem image.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/10/2011 02:51 am
Layman question:
I'm kind of doubting this but thought I'd stick my neck out there anyway.
Is it possible that film is still outperforming electronic imaging for large area scanning coverage? Hex covered such large areas at high resolution, maybe the X-37B is helping in this role?

Quote from: Jim
X-37 is in the wrong orbit and it can't carry a large payload

We've had this argument in previous KH-9 and X-37 threads. The group consensus is no it is not a film payload.

Points in favor of film:
1. The KH-9 mapping camera when flown (under a different name) on the shuttle in the 80's weighed less than the X-37's 500 lb payload.
2. Some of U-2 legacy film camera's are still being used on operational missions in Afghanistan.
3. Mapping data requires a large amount of bandwidth and film provides an excellent way to store the data.
4. The mapping mission never was able to justify it's own spacecraft, notice it was really a secondary KH-9 payload.
5. This data does not need to be obtained continuously, but periodically.
6. Most of the area's of current US interest really are covered by the X-37's orbit.
7. With the retirement of the KH-9/KH-8/Shuttle we no longer have a  way to get film back from orbit.

Things that do not point to this being the X-37 mission:
1. When flown on the shuttle the whole mission was flown in the period of a single shuttle flight, much shorter than the flight time of both X-37 missions to date.
2. There have been articles talking about them extending the current X-37 mission because of the data it is returning. With film you do not get "data" back until after it lands.
3. The first mission did several orbital adjustments that had it flying at different altitudes through out the mission. That makes no sense for a mapping mission where you want all your film take from the same altitude.

Despite their being some good reasons to think it may be a film type mission, it is most likely not one. Any discussion probably belongs in the X-37 thread.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/10/2011 02:52 am
Oh, and Blackstar, thanks for posting those images, which document did they come from?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/10/2011 03:13 am
X-37 is not in a sun synchronous orbit
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jcm on 10/10/2011 03:21 am
Oh, and Blackstar, thanks for posting those images, which document did they come from?

These are from Project HEXAGON Overview,  a must-read document
which was originally 52.PDF at the NRO site but is now 49.PDF
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/10/2011 07:10 pm
KH-9 subsystems.
Thanks - one item we were wrong about was the attitude control. KH-9 relied on (cold gas?) thrusters, and did not use any control moment gyroscopes (CMG) in the SCS as I had suggested (based on a remark in NRO's RRG that "some" mission used CMGs). I guess having the whole optical path pressurized meant that contamination of the film or any of the optical surfaces was less of an issue.

I noticed that most (all)? of Perkin-Elmer's subcontractors were still redacted in one of the documents. Any guess on why this might be the case? More foreign companies involved? Which (West German) company might have provided the primary mirrors for the main camera? Zeiss or Schott?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/10/2011 07:20 pm
...
We've had this argument in previous KH-9 and X-37 threads. The group consensus is no it is not a film payload.

Points in favor of film:
...
2. Some of U-2 legacy film camera's are still being used on operational missions in Afghanistan.
...
Tiny bit off-topic, but here is a chance to purchase an original Perkin-Elmer U2(?) camera (front optics):
http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rare-Perkin-Elmer-36-f-4-0-Aerial-Lens-Largest-Ever-Manufactured-Quantity-/380374781084?pt=US_Telescopes&hash=item58901a8c9c (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Rare-Perkin-Elmer-36-f-4-0-Aerial-Lens-Largest-Ever-Manufactured-Quantity-/380374781084?pt=US_Telescopes&hash=item58901a8c9c)

edt: also for sale by the same shop is a Zeiss-Stereoscope - nice tool to study stereoscopic images such a those photographed by a reconnaissance airplane or satellite: http://www.ebay.com/itm/ZEISS-Mirror-Stereoscope-Tracing-Stereometer-/380372698355?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item588ffac4f3 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/ZEISS-Mirror-Stereoscope-Tracing-Stereometer-/380372698355?pt=Art_Photo_Images&hash=item588ffac4f3)

Did NRO or NGA recently have a yard sale?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/10/2011 07:28 pm

Thanks - one item we were wrong about was the attitude control. KH-9 relied on (cold gas?) thrusters, and did not use any control moment gyroscopes (CMG) in the SCS as I had suggested (based on a remark in NRO's RRG that "some" mission used CMGs). I guess having the whole optical path pressurized meant that contamination of the film or any of the optical surfaces was less of an issue.


Thrusters were always given, especially during reboost.  The thrusters are mounted as far aft as possible and are hydrazine.  They have their own tanks and also can use the OAS tank.   Freon was used in the Lifeboat system
CMGs were for later vehicles and not Hexagon, which was designed in the 60's

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Nittany Lion on 10/10/2011 07:37 pm
For the latter, I don't understand the dimensions on the left (note that the Hawaiian island chain is not accurate).

The “dimensions on the left” are distances between arrowheads:

137 + 163 = 300

71 + 79 = 150

The 300 and the 150 are the length of the outer and inner recovery areas along the ground track.

The inner recovery area was offset (down the ground track) from the center of the outer recovery area.



Correction: UP the ground track. Recovery was on a descending node.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: as58 on 10/10/2011 08:59 pm
I noticed that most (all)? of Perkin-Elmer's subcontractors were still redacted in one of the documents. Any guess on why this might be the case? More foreign companies involved? Which (West German) company might have provided the primary mirrors for the main camera? Zeiss or Schott?

Aren't Zeiss and Schott pretty much the same thing in the end (both owned by the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung)? Anyway, I think Schott would have been the one to provide the mirror blanks, I'm not sure if Zeiss does (or did) manufacture such things.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/11/2011 12:24 am
I'm going through the Perry history (Perry drives me nuts--it's all passive voice). He has an interesting discussion of SPARTAN. SPARTAN was the effort to take the Samos E-6 camera system and marry it to a CORONA type recovery vehicle (although at one point I think he says an enlarged version). According to Perry, CIA complained about SPARTAN, saying that it was an effort to undermine the CORONA program, which it arguably was. So NRO officially canceled SPARTAN but then continued it under cover of a technology development program. Perry says that this action may have been what prompted Wheelon and CIA to conceal their work on the FULCRUM project from the NRO. Anyway, it was clear that conditions were deteriorating between the parties.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 10/11/2011 06:48 pm
I noticed that most (all)? of Perkin-Elmer's subcontractors were still redacted in one of the documents. Any guess on why this might be the case? More foreign companies involved? Which (West German) company might have provided the primary mirrors for the main camera? Zeiss or Schott?

Aren't Zeiss and Schott pretty much the same thing in the end (both owned by the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung)? Anyway, I think Schott would have been the one to provide the mirror blanks, I'm not sure if Zeiss does (or did) manufacture such things.
Interesting - hadn't been aware that both companies are still interlinked!

Anyway, Schott states on their web site that they got started with low thermal expansion coefficient glass for big (up to 100") mirrors in the early 1960s: http://www.schott.com/advanced_optics/english/projects/exploring_space.html (http://www.schott.com/advanced_optics/english/projects/exploring_space.html)

Thus you are probably right about Schott providing the mirror blanks as a subcontractor of Perkin-Elmer.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/11/2011 07:38 pm
Schott provided the glass for CORONA. This was a sensitive issue because of concern that the Russians could shut them down. It led to development of an alternate source. I don't know any other details.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/14/2011 10:33 pm
A very good article about the KH-9:

http://www.space.com/13287-secret-spy-satellite-designer-reveals-lifes-work.html

Secret No More: Spy Satellite Designer Reveals Life's Work
Roger Guillemette, SPACE.com Contributor

CHANTILLY, Va. —  Phil Pressel had kept a secret for 46 years. A secret that he shared with no one, not even his wife, since he first went to work for the Perkin-Elmer optics company in 1965.

On Sept. 17, the 74-year old Holocaust survivor and kidney transplant recipient patiently waited in line with his wife as the doors opened to a large tent structure here at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center.

His lifelong secret, one of the United States' most closely guarded assets, a behemoth larger than a school bus, was now on display for the whole world to see: the just-declassified KH-9 HEXAGON spy satellite.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/16/2011 05:24 pm
Question:
Going through the KH-9 history, it mentions that the launch failure that doomed SV-20 was caused by
Quote
a failure in the plumbing near a high pressure pump in the "boattail" part of the booster caused the explosion
(document 7, page 116)

I had always thought it was an SRM case failure.

Which is correct?
Since the core was air started does that mean the tvc in the SRM failed?
Or did the authors mix up Titan failures?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/16/2011 05:25 pm
Mixed up
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/16/2011 06:38 pm
SRM case failure:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1268/1

I have a copy of the failure report, with most of the details deleted. But most of the details have appeared in AIAA reports and elsewhere.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/16/2011 06:43 pm
Here is a poor-quality reproduction of artwork depicting a KH-9 launch. I hope that NRO eventually releases high-quality scans of their photos and artwork on this. It's a neat image showing the shroud cutaway revealing the satellite underneath.

I have heard that someone may have high-quality scans of all the Titan Hexagon launch vehicles. At the moment, we only have about 4-5 images of these vehicles.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: pargoo on 10/31/2011 05:23 am
     Looking forwards very much to hi-res shots of launch vehicles either on pad or during launch :)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/31/2011 11:37 am
+1
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2011 05:22 pm
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1960/1

The HEXAGON and the Space Shuttle
by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, October 31, 2011


Imagine a space shuttle in orbit, its payload bay doors opened wide. Sticking up from that payload bay is a monstrous spy satellite, almost fifty percent longer than the Hubble, with astronauts clustered around it, replacing components and refueling it for further use. That was the vision that a group of contractors and government personnel considered in the 1970s as they contemplated combining the shuttle’s expected capabilities with their latest piece of top secret hardware, the KH-9 HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: bobthemonkey on 10/31/2011 06:23 pm
In terms of length being an issue, would the Stabilized Payload Deployment System (SPDS) have alleviated this issue and possibly allowed KH-9 to fly on shuttle with a mapping camera? Or am I getting ahead of the timeline, with SPDS being something more closely to successor programmes?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2011 06:59 pm
In terms of length being an issue, would the Stabilized Payload Deployment System (SPDS) have alleviated this issue and possibly allowed KH-9 to fly on shuttle with a mapping camera? Or am I getting ahead of the timeline, with SPDS being something more closely to successor programmes?

The problem is that the payload bay is 60 feet, and the most accurate estimate we have for the HEXAGON with mapping camera is 60 feet. They might have had to apply some grease to the edges of the spacecraft to squeeze it in.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 10/31/2011 11:03 pm
In terms of length being an issue, would the Stabilized Payload Deployment System (SPDS) have alleviated this issue and possibly allowed KH-9 to fly on shuttle with a mapping camera? Or am I getting ahead of the timeline, with SPDS being something more closely to successor programmes?

The problem is that the payload bay is 60 feet, and the most accurate estimate we have for the HEXAGON with mapping camera is 60 feet. They might have had to apply some grease to the edges of the spacecraft to squeeze it in.

Haha...well Braycote has a good pedigree!  :)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 11/01/2011 11:04 am
The problem is that the payload bay is 60 feet, and the most accurate estimate we have for the HEXAGON with mapping camera is 60 feet.
The last few Hexagons didn't have the mapping camera, instead adding star trackers to the main cameras to make them capable of giving mapping accuracy.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/01/2011 12:45 pm
The problem is that the payload bay is 60 feet, and the most accurate estimate we have for the HEXAGON with mapping camera is 60 feet.
The last few Hexagons didn't have the mapping camera, instead adding star trackers to the main cameras to make them capable of giving mapping accuracy.

Right, but the question is: did the 60 foot length of the HEXAGON form the basis for the 60-foot length of the shuttle bay?

It might have, although only in the sense of somebody asking "what's the longest payload you've got?" rather than someone asking "how big does the payload bay have to be in order to fit the longest payload you've got?"

To fit a HEXAGON with its mapping camera into the payload bay would have required a little extra wiggle room to account for the payload shaking around a bit during launch. Of course, by removing the mapping camera, they would have had that extra room.

The existing declassified documents do not answer this, but there might be an answer in future declassified documents.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/01/2011 02:56 pm
Well, the LFC, NASA's version of the KH-9 mapping camera did fly on a single shuttle mission in 1984. Maybe that was the plan. The mapping camera was a hitchhiker after all...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/01/2011 03:01 pm
Does the 1990 GAO report on the disposition of the LFC provide any help? http://www.legistorm.com/showFile/L2xzX3Njb3JlL2dhby9wZGYvMTk5MC82/ful19262.pdf
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/01/2011 05:50 pm
Does the 1990 GAO report on the disposition of the LFC provide any help? http://www.legistorm.com/showFile/L2xzX3Njb3JlL2dhby9wZGYvMTk5MC82/ful19262.pdf


I had not seen that before. Thanks for that!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/01/2011 05:55 pm
Well, the LFC, NASA's version of the KH-9 mapping camera did fly on a single shuttle mission in 1984. Maybe that was the plan. The mapping camera was a hitchhiker after all...

Now you're confusing the issue. Keep in mind the time period we are talking about--late 1960s, when the shuttle payload bay maximum length is first being discussed. That is far earlier than the NASA Large Format Camera, which was approved in the late 1970s. So the LFC is not relevant to this discussion.

But here's the thing--the mapping camera was not originally approved for the HEXAGON. If you go through the histories (and I'm too lazy at the moment to find the relevant text) you'll see that the CIA pushed the HEXAGON ca 1966 and then over the next several years the design was formalized. However, the CIA did not want a mapping camera and thought that it was unnecessary. It was added later (I think it was approved around 1969). It did not fly until mission #5.

So it is possible that the 60-foot payload bay requirement was established to carry a HEXAGON without the mapping camera. I don't know the length of the HEXAGON without the mapping camera (we don't have precise dimensions for the spacecraft), but my guess is that it is about 52-54 feet long (assuming that the total length with the mapping camera is 60 feet and that the mapping camera added 6-8 feet to that).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/01/2011 07:52 pm
The GAO document on the Large Format Camera has something useful at the back, a timeline for the program. It gives the following dates:

1965
NASA Working Group recommended the development of a Large Format Camera.

November 1976
Johnson Space Center proposed the development of the Orbiter Camera including an LFC and an Attitude Reference System.

November 1977
A contract for an LFC feasibility study was awarded to Itek Optical Systems.

July 1978
A contract to develop LFC hardware was awarded to Itek Optical Systems.

July 1984
Plans to fly the LFC on shuttle mission 41-D were canceled because the mission was aborted.

October 1984
The LFC was successfully flown on shuttle mission 41-G.

(later stuff as well--it's all about further flights that did not happen)

Now that timeline is of course leaving out a lot of stuff. For example, what happened in between the 1965 recommendation to develop such a camera and November 1976? I suspect--because this kind of thing happened from time to time--that the NASA group that proposed the camera in 1965 then got shut down because somebody did not want NASA developing what was essentially reconnaissance equipment. And it's possible that the "requirement" was satisfied by giving some civilians (from USGS and maybe NASA) access to the mapping camera data already being returned by CORONA.

The more interesting question is why did the requirement re-emerge in the mid-1970s? I have not read the document to see if it explains what happened there. But people should also note that this 1990 GAO report referred to some efforts to commercialize the program and sell the data commercially. Such proposals for various types of space data, as well as space services, have been around since the early 1980s at least.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: robertross on 11/01/2011 09:59 pm

The more interesting question is why did the requirement re-emerge in the mid-1970s? I have not read the document to see if it explains what happened there. But people should also note that this 1990 GAO report referred to some efforts to commercialize the program and sell the data commercially. Such proposals for various types of space data, as well as space services, have been around since the early 1980s at least.

I glanced over most of the pages and didn't see anything pop out as being related to what happened in that time period - it was just proposed by JSC as per the timeline you note.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/01/2011 11:38 pm
I glanced over most of the pages and didn't see anything pop out as being related to what happened in that time period - it was just proposed by JSC as per the timeline you note.

There's a story--I'm not going to claim that it is a particularly interesting story--about the origins of civilian imagery. People in NASA kept arguing that imagery of the earth could have numerous civilian uses and the intelligence community mostly wanted them to just go away. So there was a dance that went on starting in the mid-1950s where they tried to determine what would be allowed in the civil world. That's how they ended up with Landsat.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 11/02/2011 04:04 am
To Blackstar.

Thank you for the close up photo of the empty film pod cavity as it clearly shows the film port and the 4 support/spring ejection attachment points for the film pod.  Once the firecrackers fired the explosive bolts, the springs would then eject the film pod from the SV.

My father was part of the McDonnell Douglas team working on the film return pod.  He and the other team members from MacDac were extremely proud of the fact that McDonnell Douglas’s involvement in the Hexagon program was never leaked to the general public until the program was declassified.

Considering the high level of security that was omnipresent on this program, I found it rather amazing that one day when I went to the lobby of building 156 to pick up my father’s paycheck I saw a photo plaque for the “KH-9 Employee of the Month”.  It was open for all to see in the lobby and it showed the picture and name of the employee of the month.  For some reason it was OK to show that the KH-9 vehicle was manufactured at that building.  My father was on a business trip to VAFB at the time.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 11/02/2011 11:46 pm
...
So it is possible that the 60-foot payload bay requirement was established to carry a HEXAGON without the mapping camera. I don't know the length of the HEXAGON without the mapping camera (we don't have precise dimensions for the spacecraft), but my guess is that it is about 52-54 feet long (assuming that the total length with the mapping camera is 60 feet and that the mapping camera added 6-8 feet to that).

The HEXAGON Story gives kind of "precise dimensions":
Forward section: 27' 9.3" (including APSA/mapping camera)
Midsection: 19' 6"
Aft section: 5' (including booster adapter section)
Total length: 52'

At launch, and including the payload fairing, which covered forward and midsection, the overall length was more likely around 56':
50' (?) payload fairing (with some room between the tip of the APSA and the tip of the fairing)
+ 5' for the aft section
+ 1'(?) for the orbit adjust engine nozzle's extension beyond the booster adapter (see lower figure on page 84 of the Story - not sure, though, how the receiving end of the Titan could accomodate this. Jim might know.)

Once the solar panels were extended, the aft length of HEXAGON increased somewhat (by 2'?), but this of course would have happened after the release from a shuttle bay.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 11/02/2011 11:58 pm
Critical to US security gives some matching numbers:

i) Length of satellite vehicle w/o mapping camera: "nearly 47 feet"
Hence the mapping camera adapter's length must have been a little bit over 5'

ii) Length of satellite at launch: 55' - this would be the length including payload fairing


Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 11/03/2011 12:15 am
The attached diagram (also from The HEXAGON Story) kind of agrees with the dimensions quoted above, though quotes the length of the aft section as 7' 9" (>3' for the booster adapter?), and hence arrives at an overall length of 59' 11" (including "shroud").

Shuttle launch of a HEXAGON could have done w/o booster adapter and w/o shroud, thus increasing the "wiggle room" by 5' (?), leaving possibly enough space for an astronaut to enter the payload bay through an airlock in order to aid with the deployment.



Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/03/2011 01:51 am
The fact sheets they released gave the length as 60 feet.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 12/26/2011 12:15 pm
I was interviewed for this article. It is pretty good:

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/decades-later-a-cold-1273839.html

Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed


Published - Dec 26 2011 12:01AM EST

HELEN O'NEILL, AP Special Correspondent
ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, DEC. 26, 2011 AND THEREAFTER

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets.

They wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized "cleanroom" where the equipment was stored.

They spoke in code.

Few knew the true identity of "the customer" they met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false names.

At one point in the 1970s there were more than 1,000 people in the Danbury area working on The Secret. And though they worked long hours under intense deadlines, sometimes missing family holidays and anniversaries, they could tell no one — not even their wives and children — what they did.

They were engineers, scientists, draftsmen and inventors — "real cloak-and-dagger guys," says Fred Marra, 78, with a hearty laugh.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 12/27/2011 04:05 pm
I was interviewed for this article. It is pretty good:

http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/decades-later-a-cold-1273839.html

Decades later, a Cold War secret is revealed


Published - Dec 26 2011 12:01AM EST

HELEN O'NEILL, AP Special Correspondent
ADVANCE FOR USE MONDAY, DEC. 26, 2011 AND THEREAFTER

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — For more than a decade they toiled in the strange, boxy-looking building on the hill above the municipal airport, the building with no windows (except in the cafeteria), the building filled with secrets.

They wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized "cleanroom" where the equipment was stored.

They spoke in code.

Few knew the true identity of "the customer" they met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false names.

At one point in the 1970s there were more than 1,000 people in the Danbury area working on The Secret. And though they worked long hours under intense deadlines, sometimes missing family holidays and anniversaries, they could tell no one — not even their wives and children — what they did.

They were engineers, scientists, draftsmen and inventors — "real cloak-and-dagger guys," says Fred Marra, 78, with a hearty laugh.

That was a good article.  I lived in Danbury as a kid from around 1973 through 1978.  I remember having classmates whose dads worked at P-E and them never being sure what they did for a living beyond the generic "engineer", "draftsman," "designer," etc.  My step-dad worked at a smaller Danbury-area industrial company doing detailed design work, and I think they had ancillary connections to what was going on at P-E.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 12/27/2011 07:00 pm
That was a good article.  I lived in Danbury as a kid from around 1973 through 1978.  I remember having classmates whose dads worked at P-E and them never being sure what they did for a living beyond the generic "engineer", "draftsman," "designer," etc.  My step-dad worked at a smaller Danbury-area industrial company doing detailed design work, and I think they had ancillary connections to what was going on at P-E.

Jonathan Lewis has a good book about Itek, which built the CORONA. It's called Spy Capitalism:

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol47no1/article08.html

Itek pretty much emerged out of nothing to become a very important supplier of spy satellite cameras during the 1960s. The Perkin-Elmer story is one that I still have not wrapped my head around, but it's a bit different. P-E was more of an established company than Itek was. But the KH-9 contract was huge, and it created substantial growth in that company.

I talked to somebody who worked for Itek who explained one of the interesting KH-9 contracting arrangements. They had two contracts with a company to build metal parts for the camera. One part was an outer frame, or something similar, that would hold the cameras, and the other part would go into this part and perform some other structural function. The winning company (lowest bid) was not cleared to know what they were building, or even that it was classified. But P-E realized that if they understood that the two parts went together, they could figure out what it might hold. So what P-E did was they had one contract for one part from Danbury, and then they arranged that one of P-E's subsidiaries, on the West Coast, would provide the other contract. The company would ship one part to Danbury, and the other part to California, where the P-E subsidiary would then ship it all the way across the country. This was a security measure, but it gives you a sense of how this stuff could become complicated compared to unclassified programs.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/02/2012 02:39 am
I am sorry but I posted this message to the old Hexagon post so I reposted to the current post.

The NRO has just released 100 new (a few are rereleased) documents related to the Hexagon program.  The link to the new documents are under the "What's New" link on the NRO web page.

I am looking forward to reviewing them in the next few days.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jcm on 10/02/2012 02:50 am
I am sorry but I posted this message to the old Hexagon post so I reposted to the current post.

The NRO has just released 100 new (a few are rereleased) documents related to the Hexagon program.  The link to the new documents are under the "What's New" link on the NRO web page.

I am looking forward to reviewing them in the next few days.

Oh damn, there goes my free time for the next week...

edit: well, Dwayne will enjoy these, lots of stuff about the war between USAF and CIA. Not much on the flight details that I'm more interested in, although doc 100 has the failure report for Hexagon 20, which also includes a mildly interesting program summary, with no new revelations
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/02/2012 11:32 am
Well, at least I'm finally gaining some time to read this stuff...

I'm somewhat schizo in what I'm interested in. Depends upon the time of day and the position of Jupiter in the sky. One thing I recently started wondering about was upgrades to the KH-9. I know that a number of upgrades were introduced over the lifetime of the program, but I don't really know what most of them were. Gotta figure that out.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/02/2012 12:41 pm
I am sorry but I posted this message to the old Hexagon post so I reposted to the current post.

The NRO has just released 100 new (a few are rereleased) documents related to the Hexagon program.  The link to the new documents are under the "What's New" link on the NRO web page.

I am looking forward to reviewing them in the next few days.

Oh damn, there goes my free time for the next week...

edit: well, Dwayne will enjoy these, lots of stuff about the war between USAF and CIA. Not much on the flight details that I'm more interested in, although doc 100 has the failure report for Hexagon 20, which also includes a mildly interesting program summary, with no new revelations


I beg to differ...

The planned mission was apparently going to be 540 days--300 primary and 240 solo (something is then blacked out) pages 31-32.  That would have been the longest mission by far--probably because of the earlier Titan 34D/KH-11 failure.  By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/02/2012 07:29 pm
By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 

I would not assume that. Solo could simply be collecting photos beyond those initially designated as primary to the mission.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/02/2012 08:00 pm
I have not been able to look through this very carefully (or much at all), but did notice this document.

Note that it says this:

"The MOL is a planned photo reconnaissance satellite development program with a first planned launch in the middle of 1973, intended to provide very high resolution photographs of targets of high interest. It will produce a best resolution of about [DELETED], whereas the unmanned GAMBIT-3 spotting camera system can be improved to give about [DELETED] at best. This MOL higher resolution will provide many critical fine details which will allow us to determine a number of performance characteristics of emerging weapons systems well in advance of test demonstrations. This capability could be of considerable value in any arms control limitation."


This has me thinking. One question is what was the planned resolution of the GAMBIT-3 as of the date of this document, April 1969? We know that the highest resolution of GAMBIT-3 was 2.5 inches (or even a little better). We also know that the planned resolution of MOL was 4 inches.

So my guess is that as of April 1969, the planned resolution of GAMBIT-3 was probably around 6-8 inches, and they thought that they could do better than that with MOL.

[more in a following post]
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/02/2012 09:39 pm
[following up]

A few more random thoughts:

-it was the Bureau of the Budget that recommended killing the KH-9 and keeping the MOL. But this memo makes clear that both DoD and CIA supported the KH-9.

-what was the basis of the argument that the MOL 4-inch resolution was going to be superior to the GAMBIT-3 resolution that was probably planned at 6-8 inches? Did anybody have any actual studies that demonstrated that this improvement in resolution had any value?

-note that the planned operational date for the MOL was summer 1973. That's the first time I think I've seen an operational date for MOL. I always assumed that it was a little earlier, like 1970 or 71 at the latest. We don't know what the operational tempo was for the MOL (yet), but my guess is that it was around four per year (i.e. once per quarter), and they were planning to build six. That means that they would have flown MOL and Gemini from mid-1973 to probably late 1974, although they could have decided to extend it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/02/2012 11:09 pm
I remember when the KH-8 was first declassified spotting a slide (I think in a video) that showed an upgraded corrected that looked more like, maybe a Wynn (?) Corrector? Might that explain (coupled with film upgrades) going from 6" or less to the final 2.5" resolution.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26821.msg809192#msg809192
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/03/2012 03:15 am
By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 

I would not assume that. Solo could simply be collecting photos beyond those initially designated as primary to the mission.

Counting the days of use for each RV on the successful HEXAGONS adds up to the stated primary mission with only minor discrepancies of 1 or 2 days (two RVs used on the same day perhaps.)  This fact reinforces my belief that solo means without RVs--am I missing something?

The days of use for only 1 RV are blacked out--inquiring minds would love to know why...
You can use the listed dates of RV releases and get the un-redacted lifetimes for all the RVs.
Counting days from the previous RV release (10/24/80) to the non-blacked out release date of RV 4 on Vehicle 16 (03/05/81) yields ~133 days--the longest by about 60 days.  Maybe the security screener didn't notice the dates... ???
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/03/2012 02:11 pm
By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 

I would not assume that. Solo could simply be collecting photos beyond those initially designated as primary to the mission.

Counting the days of use for each RV on the successful HEXAGONS adds up to the stated primary mission with only minor discrepancies of 1 or 2 days (two RVs used on the same day perhaps.)  This fact reinforces my belief that solo means without RVs--am I missing something?

The days of use for only 1 RV are blacked out--inquiring minds would love to know why...
You can use the listed dates of RV releases and get the un-redacted lifetimes for all the RVs.
Counting days from the previous RV release (10/24/80) to the non-blacked out release date of RV 4 on Vehicle 16 (03/05/81) yields ~133 days--the longest by about 60 days.  Maybe the security screener didn't notice the dates... ???

Is there any particular reason something like that would be blanked out in the first place, cannot see it myself?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/03/2012 02:57 pm
I'm too lazy to look this up, but didn't they add the M3 camera for later flights to do mapping? That was electro-optical. So that could have been the "solo" mission after they returned all the buckets.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/04/2012 12:14 am
I'm too lazy to look this up, but didn't they add the M3 camera for later flights to do mapping? That was electro-optical. So that could have been the "solo" mission after they returned all the buckets.

I thought I remembered hearing about an EO capability somewhere but I wasn't sure.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2012 04:30 am
I take that back. I was thinking of the Stellar Solid-State Camera Assembly, which didn't have much value beyond the primary mission.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/04/2012 09:17 am
By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 

I would not assume that. Solo could simply be collecting photos beyond those initially designated as primary to the mission.

If you assume that some of the sub-satellites that Hexagon carried on the forward section remained attached to the sv while in orbit, then the solo portion of the mission would be dedicated to the data collected by the sub-satellites.  This would allow a greater return on the cost of each mission and provide a more versatile sv.

I feel that the sub-satellites carried by Hexagon remains it's greatest secret.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/04/2012 09:26 am
By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 

I would not assume that. Solo could simply be collecting photos beyond those initially designated as primary to the mission.

Counting the days of use for each RV on the successful HEXAGONS adds up to the stated primary mission with only minor discrepancies of 1 or 2 days (two RVs used on the same day perhaps.)  This fact reinforces my belief that solo means without RVs--am I missing something?

The days of use for only 1 RV are blacked out--inquiring minds would love to know why...
You can use the listed dates of RV releases and get the un-redacted lifetimes for all the RVs.
Counting days from the previous RV release (10/24/80) to the non-blacked out release date of RV 4 on Vehicle 16 (03/05/81) yields ~133 days--the longest by about 60 days.  Maybe the security screener didn't notice the dates... ???

There is a chart on page number 65 of the file titled "HEXAGON" (Doc. No. BIF003W/2-093942-77) that lists the number of days that each RV was active and the length of time for the SOLO portion of each flight for missions 1201 through 1213.  All but two of the first 13 missions had a SOLO portion of various lengths after RV-4 was ejected.

Pages 62 through 64 of the same file contains additional information about mission duration and the length of the active phase for each RV for the first 13 missions.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2012 01:46 pm
If you assume that some of the sub-satellites that Hexagon carried on the forward section remained attached to the sv while in orbit, then the solo portion of the mission would be dedicated to the data collected by the sub-satellites.  This would allow a greater return on the cost of each mission and provide a more versatile sv.

I've thought about that, but I'm somewhat skeptical. It doesn't seem like leaving a payload attached would make sense, especially when you consider that it would be attached to the upper body of the forward assembly of the spacecraft, so it would not be able to look down, where the action is. The same applies even if it is a dedicated payload mounted up there.

That said, right now this is the best explanation I can think of.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2012 04:57 pm
One other possibility--agent communications (i.e. James Bond sends a message up to an orbiting satellite).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/04/2012 05:13 pm

...it would be attached to the upper body of the forward assembly of the spacecraft, so it would not be able to look down, where the action is...

That's what the men in black want you to think ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/04/2012 05:43 pm
How about a deception effort?

If the primary target, Russia, either wasn't aware of the limited RV supply or couldn't tell when they were recovered then keeping an otherwise impotent imagery collector passing over their country every day could have some value.

I would find it very hard to believe they weren't aware of the RV recovery hardware scheme (possibly via Christopher Boyce) for Hexagon though and would not be surprised if they were aware of the re-entries and captures because of the activity of their intel collection naval assets.

Keeping ANY imagery bird up after successive Titan-34D failures, having only 1 funtional KH-11 in orbit, and the shuttle gounding would also seem to have some value.

One other question, how realistic would it have been to expect vehicle 20 to live nearly twice as long as any other (batteries, solar cells, computers?)  In particular did it have the fuel to maintain that low orbit?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/04/2012 05:58 pm
What would Boyce have to do with this topic?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/04/2012 06:09 pm
What would Boyce have to do with this topic?

He revealed significant aspects of US satellite programs.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/04/2012 06:11 pm
What would Boyce have to do with this topic?

He revealed significant aspects of US satellite programs.

Not all and, especially not imagery ones.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2012 06:26 pm
What would Boyce have to do with this topic?

He revealed significant aspects of US satellite programs.

Boyce was at TRW working on signals-related birds. He would not have known about imagery stuff.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2012 06:28 pm
One other question, how realistic would it have been to expect vehicle 20 to live nearly twice as long as any other (batteries, solar cells, computers?)  In particular did it have the fuel to maintain that low orbit?

Just guessing here, but it would not have been unrealistic assuming that they shifted the way they operated the spacecraft during its primary mission. I've heard (maybe it is in the documents somewhere) that this last mission was primarily devoted to mapping, so they may have been able to operate it much more benignly than previous missions going after specific targets.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/04/2012 09:24 pm
In the docs I found something interesting. The previous document I mentioned from April 1969 referred to an operational date for MOL as summer 1973. There's another document in this collection from February 1969 referring to an operational date for MOL as fiscal year 1971. Now I don't know when the fiscal year was back in early 1969 (it shifted), but we can roughly assume that this means 1971.

That means that unless one of these documents was wrong in some way, the MOL schedule apparently slipped two years between Feb and April 1969.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/05/2012 08:12 am
Keeping ANY imagery bird up after successive Titan-34D failures, having only 1 funtional KH-11 in orbit, and the shuttle gounding would also seem to have some value.

One other question, how realistic would it have been to expect vehicle 20 to live nearly twice as long as any other (batteries, solar cells, computers?)  In particular did it have the fuel to maintain that low orbit?

The extended life of HEXAGON mission 20 might have been in response to the failure of the first Titan-34D launch but the second Titan-34D launch failure mentioned above was mission 20.  Mission planners might have tried to stretch HEXAGON's capabilities but they were probably desperate to have any photo satellite in orbit after the first Titan-34D launch failure.  It was not a fun time for the NRO.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/05/2012 12:37 pm
The extended life of HEXAGON mission 20 might have been in response to the failure of the first Titan-34D launch but the second Titan-34D launch failure mentioned above was mission 20.  Mission planners might have tried to stretch HEXAGON's capabilities but they were probably desperate to have any photo satellite in orbit after the first Titan-34D launch failure.  It was not a fun time for the NRO.

I think the decision to run the last one a lot longer was made a long time before that, and not in response to other events. They made the mission longer because it was their last KH-9.

There's an interesting aspect to this--how do you keep people working on the program when they know it is the last one? The smart people will jump ship to other companies and programs, and yet they still needed to do a lot of engineering support for the time the vehicle was going to be in orbit. So what they did was negotiate a special fund for all the people working on the program, incentives to stay, bonuses, etc. That required special CIA permission, and Perkin-Elmer took some money out of their own profit to do this.

Then the vehicle blew up and everybody was out of a job.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/05/2012 09:37 pm
Thanks to all for the corrections of my posts. Getting responses from Jim and Blackstar was worth the pain of the errors.   ;)

Another question, the article in the Museum of the USAF proves there was at least one ground test/stuctural vehicle (and apparently functional RVs) available after 20 was destroyed.  Was there ever any discussion about making it flight ready as a stop gap due the imagery short fall from the consecutive failures?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/05/2012 10:15 pm
Was there ever any discussion about making it flight ready as a stop gap due the imagery short fall from the consecutive failures?

Yes. I only know of Perkin-Elmer wanting to do this. I don't know if the CIA/USAF also discussed it. Apparently Perkin-Elmer kept lobbying until around 1988 to fly the ground test article on a space shuttle mission, although not as a free-flyer. Now that would not have gone to polar orbit, and it would have opened up a whole other can of worms in terms of security (there's a difference between using the shuttle to haul a classified payload into orbit and using the shuttle to operate the classified payload while in orbit).

Note that there had been at least one or two earlier efforts to do something like this. USAF was interested in that in the early 1980s. This was a P-E initiated effort after the flight 20 failure. P-E figured that they had this great asset in the form of a working set of cameras and other equipment just sitting on the ground and they wanted to find a reason to fly it (and bill the government for doing so). So they kept coming up with ideas but they never got anywhere. The ground article had been continuously modified and upgraded over the years. So even though it was built in the 1960s, it was fully modified by the 1980s.

There was one other proposal to use this equipment on a mission in the early 1990s that I can't reveal at the moment. I will say that it's truly unbelievable. I didn't believe it when I first heard it, because it makes no sense. But the information is from a totally reliable source. You'll be able to read about it eventually when somebody (not me) publishes on this, although details are still somewhat sketchy. Hopefully, somewhere the study that they produced on this mission still exists and will get declassified.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/06/2012 12:41 am
It looks like we now have a starting point for the cost of the HEXAGON and GAMBIT-3 systems from a BOB cost estimate (Document ID. BYE 11663-69) in 1969 of $350 million a year for 5 HEXAGON and 5 GAMBIT launches.

According to other documents released this number may not be correct but it is a starting point for the cost of the two systems.

A second memo (BYE-12629-69) involving the BOB documents states that if HEXAGON was terminated on April 1, 1969 the cost saveing between a mix on H/G-3 and G-3/C would be $78 million a year.

See attached files.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 10/06/2012 02:33 am
Was there ever any discussion about making it flight ready as a stop gap due the imagery short fall from the consecutive failures?

Yes. I only know of Perkin-Elmer wanting to do this. I don't know if the CIA/USAF also discussed it.

Am I glad I asked that question!  The answer, as much as you could give, is both interesting and tantalizing.

I'm somewhat surprised Lockheed didn't float the concept but then they were producing Hexagon's replacement at what one could safely assume was a healthy profit.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/06/2012 06:49 am
Ok, so if I understood well, they wanted to place a KH-9 (the test article) on the shuttle payload bay and fly that into orbit without releasing it - Spacelab style ?
That begs the question of the thing reusability. Of course if the shuttle brings the KH-9 on the ground after 10 days, then they can quietly reload it with film on the ground, and start flying again.
It also turn the shuttle into a kind of space SR-71 or U2.

The more I read about the NRO spysats, the more I think that at times, reality is ten time better than sci-fi.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/06/2012 02:08 pm
Ok, so if I understood well, they wanted to place a KH-9 (the test article) on the shuttle payload bay and fly that into orbit without releasing it - Spacelab style ?

Yes. Exactly.

Of course, it would be greatly restricted compared to a normal mission. The ground coverage would be less if they were not in a polar orbit. And they would only be up for about a week, compared to the missions they were flying by the mid-1980s, which were over six months.

I doubt that these proposals were received enthusiastically by the CIA or Air Force. They already had a backload of payloads to fly on the shuttle. And once the decision was made to close SLC-6 at Vandenberg, the shuttle could only fly at lower latitudes, placing much of the USSR out of reach. That probably sealed the deal. I imagine that somebody simply ran the numbers through a computer and showed how little of the USSR or other key targets they could image and that was the end of the argument.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: bobthemonkey on 10/06/2012 05:48 pm
Was there ever any discussion about making it flight ready as a stop gap due the imagery short fall from the consecutive failures?



There was one other proposal to use this equipment on a mission in the early 1990s that I can't reveal at the moment. I will say that it's truly unbelievable. I didn't believe it when I first heard it, because it makes no sense. But the information is from a totally reliable source. You'll be able to read about it eventually when somebody (not me) publishes on this, although details are still somewhat sketchy. Hopefully, somewhere the study that they produced on this mission still exists and will get declassified.

A film based MRO?

ETA: Archibald's post is arguably more likely than mine!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/06/2012 07:24 pm
A lunar KH-9 for Bush Space Exploration Initiative maybe ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/07/2012 08:14 pm
Did the KH-9 programme run on longer than intended as there seems to be a considerable overlap between its continuing use and the entry into service of its replacement?

Was this because its replacement could not provide all the coverage that was needed for some considerable time, or was there other reasons than this for this overlap in the two projects?

From what I have read its replacement is believed to have entered service in 1976 yet the KH-9 was still in use almost a decade later, if you include the final failed launch in the reckoning.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/07/2012 11:42 pm
1-Did the KH-9 programme run on longer than intended

1.5-as there seems to be a considerable overlap between its continuing use and the entry into service of its replacement?

2-Was this because its replacement could not provide all the coverage that was needed for some considerable time, or was there other reasons than this for this overlap in the two projects?

1-No. But this sorta depends upon what you mean by "intended." Certainly by the later 1970s they were making decisions on how long to keep flying the KH-9. And they may have started deliberately stretching out the launches to make the overall program last longer.

1.5-There was considerable overlap. Also overlap with the GAMBIT-3 (KH-8) program as well, which launched its last mission in April 1984. The KH-11 entered service in December 1976.

2-This is the tough question--why continue film-based systems long after the debut of the electro-optical system?

The answer seems to be complex: the KH-11 electro-optical system could not produce photos that were as high quality as the GAMBIT-3, or as broad area as the KH-9. So it's capabilities fell somewhere between those of the other systems (probably pretty high quality, but nowhere near close on area surveillance), but with the great benefit of being near instantaneous.

Now gradually the KH-11 got slightly higher resolution, but I don't think that its area coverage improved all that much, certainly not the amount that came out of the KH-9. Still, I think that it reached a point where it was good enough and so those other systems could be retired.

It's worth noting that the Russians never completely abandoned film. I think they still use it.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 10/07/2012 11:59 pm
1-Did the KH-9 programme run on longer than intended

1.5-as there seems to be a considerable overlap between its continuing use and the entry into service of its replacement?

2-Was this because its replacement could not provide all the coverage that was needed for some considerable time, or was there other reasons than this for this overlap in the two projects?

1-No. But this sorta depends upon what you mean by "intended." Certainly by the later 1970s they were making decisions on how long to keep flying the KH-9. And they may have started deliberately stretching out the launches to make the overall program last longer.

1.5-There was considerable overlap. Also overlap with the GAMBIT-3 (KH-8) program as well, which launched its last mission in April 1984. The KH-11 entered service in December 1976.

2-This is the tough question--why continue film-based systems long after the debut of the electro-optical system?

The answer seems to be complex: the KH-11 electro-optical system could not produce photos that were as high quality as the GAMBIT-3, or as broad area as the KH-9. So it's capabilities fell somewhere between those of the other systems (probably pretty high quality, but nowhere near close on area surveillance), but with the great benefit of being near instantaneous.

Now gradually the KH-11 got slightly higher resolution, but I don't think that its area coverage improved all that much, certainly not the amount that came out of the KH-9. Still, I think that it reached a point where it was good enough and so those other systems could be retired.

It's worth noting that the Russians never completely abandoned film. I think they still use it.



Yup, the last flew on May 17 and landed late last month (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=28640.0). I think this can be related to the huge delays to their own electro-optical system.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2012 12:24 am
I think the Russians fielded their own electro-optical system a very long time ago. They just have not replaced film.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/08/2012 06:19 am
Quote
ETA: Archibald's post is arguably more likely than mine!

Yes and no.

Yes - see Lunar Orbiter and that daring LMSS. If Samos (Lunar Orbiter)  and Gambit (LMSS) could go to the Moon, why not Hegaxon ?

No: it boils down to "how do you retrieve film / photos from lunar orbit ?"

Lunar Orbiter used film readout (scanning the film to turn the photos into an electronic signal); the LMSS was to use... a manned Apollo capsule (and its crew) to retrieve the precious film and bring it back to Earth.

The KH-9 face the same issue of how to retrieve the film / photos from lunar orbit?
Unless of course a film readout KH-9 existed... with the NRO you never know...

EDIT: or perhaps they found a way to rocket the film canister out of lunar orbit, to a reentry in Earth atmosphere, Apollo style. But then they need to reinforce the heatshield, otherwise the capsule and film will burn like a meteor.

Boy, speculation is fun. But it is just that - pure speculation. Back to the subject, don't want to clutter that excellent thread.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2012 11:59 am
Well, you guys are thinking right. Like I said, if somebody had told me this story I would have said "that's totally crazy and I don't believe it." But it comes from a great source who was there. Of course, the proposal never happened, probably because people laughed when they proposed it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/08/2012 06:06 pm
1-Did the KH-9 programme run on longer than intended

1.5-as there seems to be a considerable overlap between its continuing use and the entry into service of its replacement?

2-Was this because its replacement could not provide all the coverage that was needed for some considerable time, or was there other reasons than this for this overlap in the two projects?

1-No. But this sorta depends upon what you mean by "intended." Certainly by the later 1970s they were making decisions on how long to keep flying the KH-9. And they may have started deliberately stretching out the launches to make the overall program last longer.

1.5-There was considerable overlap. Also overlap with the GAMBIT-3 (KH-8) program as well, which launched its last mission in April 1984. The KH-11 entered service in December 1976.

2-This is the tough question--why continue film-based systems long after the debut of the electro-optical system?

The answer seems to be complex: the KH-11 electro-optical system could not produce photos that were as high quality as the GAMBIT-3, or as broad area as the KH-9. So it's capabilities fell somewhere between those of the other systems (probably pretty high quality, but nowhere near close on area surveillance), but with the great benefit of being near instantaneous.

Now gradually the KH-11 got slightly higher resolution, but I don't think that its area coverage improved all that much, certainly not the amount that came out of the KH-9. Still, I think that it reached a point where it was good enough and so those other systems could be retired.

It's worth noting that the Russians never completely abandoned film. I think they still use it.



Thanks for your response.

Talking about the KH-11's imaging capability I have read that over the period of its operational life it has increased in both size and mass. Some of this increase or so the speculation goes is down to the addition (increase) in signals intelligence payload, some down to changes in batteries, rocket system etc. But what has intrigued me is the speculation that the main mirror has been increased in size from 2.4 m to 3 m. How likely do you think such an increase would be, surely this wouldn't be the only way to improve image quality?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2012 07:28 pm
Talking about the KH-11's imaging capability I have read that over the period of its operational life it has increased in both size and mass. Some of this increase or so the speculation goes is down to the addition (increase) in signals intelligence payload, some down to changes in batteries, rocket system etc. But what has intrigued me is the speculation that the main mirror has been increased in size from 2.4 m to 3 m. How likely do you think such an increase would be, surely this wouldn't be the only way to improve image quality?

I don't think they increased the mirror diameter. But I cannot remember why I think that.

Note that the FIA mirrors that NRO recently donated to NASA are essentially the same size as we suspect that the original KH-11 mirrors were. If the KH-11 mirror size had gotten bigger, would they then have gone for a smaller mirror for FIA? Maybe, but that seems questionable.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/08/2012 07:34 pm
Talking about the KH-11's imaging capability I have read that over the period of its operational life it has increased in both size and mass. Some of this increase or so the speculation goes is down to the addition (increase) in signals intelligence payload, some down to changes in batteries, rocket system etc. But what has intrigued me is the speculation that the main mirror has been increased in size from 2.4 m to 3 m. How likely do you think such an increase would be, surely this wouldn't be the only way to improve image quality?

I don't think they increased the mirror diameter. But I cannot remember why I think that.

Note that the FIA mirrors that NRO recently donated to NASA are essentially the same size as we suspect that the original KH-11 mirrors were. If the KH-11 mirror size had gotten bigger, would they then have gone for a smaller mirror for FIA? Maybe, but that seems questionable.

Well I did wonder that but then remembered reading somewhere, don't ask me where now as I cannot remember that bit, but wasn't the FIA designed to try and reduce the size and costs of the next generation of reconnaissance satellites? So I thought perhaps as a result of this they had gone back to the original mirror size.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2012 08:12 pm
Well I did wonder that but then remembered reading somewhere, don't ask me where now as I cannot remember that bit, but wasn't the FIA designed to try and reduce the size and costs of the next generation of reconnaissance satellites? So I thought perhaps as a result of this they had gone back to the original mirror size.

They were definitely trying to reduce mass for FIA. The best source remains the NY Times article about FIA, posted here awhile ago. It says that one of their problems was that by reducing the mass substantially, they increased the opportunity for it to be affected by vibration. Like holding a camera in your hands rather than setting it on a tripod.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: bobthemonkey on 10/08/2012 08:14 pm
Well, you guys are thinking right. Like I said, if somebody had told me this story I would have said "that's totally crazy and I don't believe it." But it comes from a great source who was there. Of course, the proposal never happened, probably because people laughed when they proposed it.

You could have looked at a multi-body free return/gravity assist flight, perhaps doing venus and mars? Bus-1 was meant to have a decent amount of delta-v which could be used , along with the de-orbit engine on the RVs to drop entry velocity to something survivable. The orbital height would need to such that the entire centre belt of the planet could be captured in one pass, using altitude to trade detail for area coverage.

This is fun; sorry or the OT.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/08/2012 08:16 pm
Well, you guys are thinking right. Like I said, if somebody had told me this story I would have said "that's totally crazy and I don't believe it." But it comes from a great source who was there. Of course, the proposal never happened, probably because people laughed when they proposed it.

You could have looked at a multi-body free return/gravity assist flight, perhaps doing venus and mars? Bus-1 was meant to have a decent amount of delta-v which could be used , along with the de-orbit engine on the RVs to drop entry velocity to something survivable. The orbital height would need to such that the entire centre belt of the planet could be captured in one pass, using altitude to trade detail for area coverage.

This is fun; sorry or the OT.

BUS-1 wasn't KH-9
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: bobthemonkey on 10/08/2012 08:21 pm
Right; so it was KH-11 era then? I seem to remember a conversation with Blackstar over what came first (11 or BUS-1).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/08/2012 10:41 pm
Well I did wonder that but then remembered reading somewhere, don't ask me where now as I cannot remember that bit, but wasn't the FIA designed to try and reduce the size and costs of the next generation of reconnaissance satellites? So I thought perhaps as a result of this they had gone back to the original mirror size.

They were definitely trying to reduce mass for FIA. The best source remains the NY Times article about FIA, posted here awhile ago. It says that one of their problems was that by reducing the mass substantially, they increased the opportunity for it to be affected by vibration. Like holding a camera in your hands rather than setting it on a tripod.

Thanks. We know there is one more KH-11 to go up, but after that what happens then do they continue on with the current programme as at this time it's the best solution for the task because of the kind of issues with developing a smaller and cheaper replacement like the example you gave above?

Completely off topic but are there any speculated variants of the KH-11 believed to have been in service, namely the rumoured 'stealth' version and back on topic is it possible there were also variants of the KH-9 that haven't been disclosed yet?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/08/2012 10:56 pm
is it possible there were also variants of the KH-9 that haven't been disclosed yet?

No, because all SRV's are accounted for.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/08/2012 11:50 pm
is it possible there were also variants of the KH-9 that haven't been disclosed yet?

Not sure what you mean by this. If you mean other ones that flew, the answer is no. There's a lot of material that has been declassified, including the histories of the USAF group that did the recovery of the reentry vehicles (and I'll admit that I have not looked at those at all), and there's no indication of other spacecraft that ejected reentry vehicles that have not been declassified.

As for variants of the KH-9, they have only released a small number of documents. It is still somewhat murky trying to figure out what upgrades were made and when. And we still don't know if they applied anything other than a KH-9 designation to the spacecraft (in other words, was there a KH-9A, KH-9B? My suspicion is no). But I think it is fair to say that we now have about 95+% of the program declassified. There are very few mysteries left.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/09/2012 05:48 pm
is it possible there were also variants of the KH-9 that haven't been disclosed yet?

Not sure what you mean by this. If you mean other ones that flew, the answer is no. There's a lot of material that has been declassified, including the histories of the USAF group that did the recovery of the reentry vehicles (and I'll admit that I have not looked at those at all), and there's no indication of other spacecraft that ejected reentry vehicles that have not been declassified.

As for variants of the KH-9, they have only released a small number of documents. It is still somewhat murky trying to figure out what upgrades were made and when. And we still don't know if they applied anything other than a KH-9 designation to the spacecraft (in other words, was there a KH-9A, KH-9B? My suspicion is no). But I think it is fair to say that we now have about 95+% of the program declassified. There are very few mysteries left.

Yes that was what I was driving at but didn't really explain properly. There is supposition that the current version of the KH-11 is now known as the KH-12 Krystal so I was wondering if there was indications in the documentation that the KH-9 had undergone similar variants over time.

Didn't the KH-9 see an increase in its signals intelligence payload over time?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2012 06:37 pm
1-Yes that was what I was driving at but didn't really explain properly. There is supposition that the current version of the KH-11 is now known as the KH-12 Krystal so I was wondering if there was indications in the documentation that the KH-9 had undergone similar variants over time.

2-Didn't the KH-9 see an increase in its signals intelligence payload over time?

1-There were numerous upgrades, but they were internal changes and I doubt that you could tell the difference externally. They altered the lenses, shutters, filters, etc. I don't know if there is a comprehensive list in any of the declassified materials, although there are numerous mentions of different upgrades.

One pedantic point that I'll confess to is being disappointed that they really did not use the KH designation in NRO documents (it was more commonly used in the 1960s to refer to the KH-4, 4A, 4B, 5, 6, and 7). It appears that it was almost exclusively used for the imagery reports. In other words, people who were allowed to see the images but not necessarily cleared to know how the machine worked would get documents with the KH label on them. But the internal NRO documents almost always use the names HEXAGON or GAMBIT-3. We have one declassified document that is labeled KH-8A, and so it is possible that later versions of the GAMBIT-3 were designated KH-8B, KH-8C, and so on. But right now we just don't know.

I was hoping that this designation system was more commonly used by the NRO because it's a handier way of referring to the vehicle changes. Instead, it appears as if NRO documents for the entire run of the GAMBIT-3 program simply call it GAMBIT-3, even while imagery reports may have used variations of the KH-8 designation.

2-I don't know.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/09/2012 07:09 pm
1-Yes that was what I was driving at but didn't really explain properly. There is supposition that the current version of the KH-11 is now known as the KH-12 Krystal so I was wondering if there was indications in the documentation that the KH-9 had undergone similar variants over time.

2-Didn't the KH-9 see an increase in its signals intelligence payload over time?

1-There were numerous upgrades, but they were internal changes and I doubt that you could tell the difference externally. They altered the lenses, shutters, filters, etc. I don't know if there is a comprehensive list in any of the declassified materials, although there are numerous mentions of different upgrades.

One pedantic point that I'll confess to is being disappointed that they really did not use the KH designation in NRO documents (it was more commonly used in the 1960s to refer to the KH-4, 4A, 4B, 5, 6, and 7). It appears that it was almost exclusively used for the imagery reports. In other words, people who were allowed to see the images but not necessarily cleared to know how the machine worked would get documents with the KH label on them. But the internal NRO documents almost always use the names HEXAGON or GAMBIT-3. We have one declassified document that is labeled KH-8A, and so it is possible that later versions of the GAMBIT-3 were designated KH-8B, KH-8C, and so on. But right now we just don't know.

I was hoping that this designation system was more commonly used by the NRO because it's a handier way of referring to the vehicle changes. Instead, it appears as if NRO documents for the entire run of the GAMBIT-3 program simply call it GAMBIT-3, even while imagery reports may have used variations of the KH-8 designation.

2-I don't know.

I imagine that must get a bit frustrating after a while, I wonder if that's a system they still use, I have a suspicion it probably is.:)

You mention 95% of the documents have probably now been released I wonder if the other 5% will be released any time soon or do they still contain far too much material that is still classified, such as detail in certain areas of performance or references to still classified programs.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2012 07:44 pm
You mention 95% of the documents have probably now been released I wonder if the other 5% will be released any time soon or do they still contain far too much material that is still classified, such as detail in certain areas of performance or references to still classified programs.

No, I didn't say that 95% of the documents have been released. I think that 95% of the story has been released.

My guess is that they've released way under 1% of the documents. Seriously, you would not believe how much material they released on CORONA. It's huge. The imagery interpretation reports alone probably add up to a few hundred phone-book size piles of paper. None of the HEXAGON imagery interpretation reports have been released, but each mission generated tons of material--probably tens of thousands of pages for each of the 19 missions. So based upon all the material released on CORONA that took over a decade to get declassified, you can be sure that there is a vast amount more from these later programs that they have yet to declassify.

(Sidenote: my suspicion is that there will be a GAMBIT document release either next week Monday or at the beginning of November.)

But I do think that they've released most of the story of the HEXAGON. The histories have very few redactions, and what has been deleted is not really primary stuff. For HEXAGON, they have not released any mention of the subsatellites. Those were elint and possibly agent communications. There were a few science subsatellites, and maybe at some point we'll get that stuff. The other deletions concern the actual resolution (as opposed to the rough estimate that they released). But most of the overall story is there. Probably the biggest overall gap for both H and G is how their imagery was actually used. Little of that is out.

For GAMBIT they have not released the resolution and some technical details concerning the design of the optics (materials stuff seems to have been deleted). They also have not released anything related to the capability to photograph other satellites. But most of the GAMBIT story is declassified now.

I will say that based upon my long experience doing this stuff that there may be some interesting surprises in the material that they will declassify over the next few years, although it's the classic case of "interesting to whom?" Probably interesting to one or two serious recon geeks, but not to the person with only a casual interest in this subject.

Like any detailed subject, researchers may get excited about really obscure issues that nobody else on the planet cares about. JCM likes to track serial numbers, which doesn't interest me unless it reveals a bigger truth. I'm interested in some of the technical solutions to problems that they faced. For instance, the initial release of information on the GAMBIT-3 did not really explain how the "dual platen" system worked. But they have now released some info on that and I think it's rather cool. Probably nobody else will find that interesting. I will also be interested to learn how they actually operated the spacecraft in orbit. For instance, how did they decide to swoop down for lower passes, and how did they program the birds to do that?

(More rambling later.)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/10/2012 06:56 am
The only information I have heard about so far involving different HEXAGON versions is the Block I, II, and III nomenclature.  Even though the block nomenclature was used in the purchasing contracts to define how many vehicles were bought in each contract.  The contracts would have also specified what improvements were added to the SV during the program.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/10/2012 11:41 am
The only information I have heard about so far involving different HEXAGON versions is the Block I, II, and III nomenclature.  Even though the block nomenclature was used in the purchasing contracts to define how many vehicles were bought in each contract.  The contracts would have also specified what improvements were added to the SV during the program.


You're right. I forgot about those designations. I should have mentioned them.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/18/2012 09:04 am
is it possible there were also variants of the KH-9 that haven't been disclosed yet?

Not sure what you mean by this. If you mean other ones that flew, the answer is no. There's a lot of material that has been declassified, including the histories of the USAF group that did the recovery of the reentry vehicles (and I'll admit that I have not looked at those at all), and there's no indication of other spacecraft that ejected reentry vehicles that have not been declassified.

As for variants of the KH-9, they have only released a small number of documents. It is still somewhat murky trying to figure out what upgrades were made and when. And we still don't know if they applied anything other than a KH-9 designation to the spacecraft (in other words, was there a KH-9A, KH-9B? My suspicion is no). But I think it is fair to say that we now have about 95+% of the program declassified. There are very few mysteries left.

It would appear that early in the HEXAGON program (1973) a study was started that would make the Block IV HEXAGON (1219) the first major redesign of the HEXAGON system.  The study would examine a new camera with a faster F/2.0 aperture and a slower film transport that could eliminate the rewind function of the original HEXAGON.  See the attached excerpt from Perry's Vol. 3B file.  Perry's Vol. 3B does not indicate if the new camera was made or not.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/18/2012 12:45 pm
I have something that indicates that a major upgrade to the Block III involved the electronics. They developed a new fault tolerant system that gave them more ability to deal with a camera problem/failure. I don't have a lot of details on it, and it's rather obscure (and kind of boring), but apparently it was a significant electronics upgrade.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/18/2012 08:56 pm
I have something that indicates that a major upgrade to the Block III involved the electronics. They developed a new fault tolerant system that gave them more ability to deal with a camera problem/failure. I don't have a lot of details on it, and it's rather obscure (and kind of boring), but apparently it was a significant electronics upgrade.

Did this also result in any particular increase in the on orbit lifetime of the vehicle, as from looking at the respective on orbit operation times of the vehicles (from launch to decay) this seems to have steadily increased across its operational time frame? 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/18/2012 11:30 pm
I don't know if there were other modifications that increased the on-orbit lifetime. The upgrade that I have information about was aimed at camera control and safety (safety defined as the ability to keep operating even after something goes wrong).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 10/23/2012 09:17 am
Does anyone have any information on a possible version identification or contract term used by Perkin-Elmer called "Redirection" in addition to the Block IDs?  What could "Redirection" refer to?  I am referring to the following three quotes from page 172 in the Perkin-Elmer History file.

"...and the program was redirected for a second time."

"The Hexagon program was 10 years old and in full bloom.  S3 and the large looper were incorporated into the sensor subsystem and Redirection III stretched out the program to one flight a year of six months' duration."

"In 1978 both Redirection IV and Block IV were negotiated which further extended the program by two additional vehicles and four additional years."

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 10/23/2012 10:38 am
as well as color photos of a small NASA transport aircraft rigged for satellite recovery tests, ca 1978.


Interesting, which one ? C-119 ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 10/23/2012 11:57 am
Does anyone have any information on a possible version identification or contract term used by Perkin-Elmer called "Redirection" in addition to the Block IDs?  What could "Redirection" refer to?  I am referring to the following three quotes from page 172 in the Perkin-Elmer History file.

"...and the program was redirected for a second time."

"The Hexagon program was 10 years old and in full bloom.  S3 and the large looper were incorporated into the sensor subsystem and Redirection III stretched out the program to one flight a year of six months' duration."

"In 1978 both Redirection IV and Block IV were negotiated which further extended the program by two additional vehicles and four additional years."



Isn't self explanatory?  "Redirection" is when the customer changed the contract terms, specifically contract duration and number of articles.  It does mean the articles themselves were changed.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/23/2012 12:16 pm
as well as color photos of a small NASA transport aircraft rigged for satellite recovery tests, ca 1978.


Interesting, which one ? C-119 ?

No, not a C-119. I doubt that any of them were flying in the 70s. It looked something like this C-23. But it was rather boxy. It's a civilian aircraft and the kind of thing used on very small routes to carry cargo. I'd know it if I saw a picture, but haven't found it yet.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: arachnitect on 10/23/2012 05:38 pm
as well as color photos of a small NASA transport aircraft rigged for satellite recovery tests, ca 1978.


Interesting, which one ? C-119 ?

No, not a C-119. I doubt that any of them were flying in the 70s. It looked something like this C-23. But it was rather boxy. It's a civilian aircraft and the kind of thing used on very small routes to carry cargo. I'd know it if I saw a picture, but haven't found it yet.



This Guy? (Short SC7)

Was at Wallops apparently.

http://jetphotos.net/viewphoto.php?id=30129

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/23/2012 06:41 pm
That's it. Except that the rear fuselage was open. There was a dented KH-9 bucket mounted horizontally in there, and some rigging. Several photos of that. There was also a photo of about four guys standing in front of the plane. Now these were just a handful of photos, no description, but there might have been a description of what they were doing somewhere else and I did not see it.

My guess is that they were testing out a new winch or braking system. When the C-130 snagged the parachute lines, the cable was suddenly hooked onto a very heavy object. The cable played out and had to be slowed. At least early on they did this manually, with the crew chief with his hand on a braking mechanism to slow it down as it played out. Once they stopped it, he could then winch it in. They might have eventually gone to an automatic system.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/23/2012 06:53 pm
Geeze, don't get your fingers caught in that ... Ouch, kinda like fishing except that sardine really was a whopper!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/23/2012 06:55 pm
Geeze, don't get your fingers caught in that ... Ouch, kinda like fishing except that sardine really was a whopper!

Absolutely. Imagine being in the back of that C-130. The rear fuselage is open and you're trailing the poles and the cable with the hooks. When it catches the chute, that cable plays out very fast, and then has to be winched in. If you're not careful, there are plenty of opportunities to get smacked by that cable.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/24/2012 08:00 am
Indeed. It may be gory, Wes Craven or Saw style...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 10/24/2012 09:40 am
That's it. Except that the rear fuselage was open. There was a dented KH-9 bucket mounted horizontally in there, and some rigging. Several photos of that. There was also a photo of about four guys standing in front of the plane. Now these were just a handful of photos, no description, but there might have been a description of what they were doing somewhere else and I did not see it.

My guess is that they were testing out a new winch or braking system. When the C-130 snagged the parachute lines, the cable was suddenly hooked onto a very heavy object. The cable played out and had to be slowed. At least early on they did this manually, with the crew chief with his hand on a braking mechanism to slow it down as it played out. Once they stopped it, he could then winch it in. They might have eventually gone to an automatic system.


Document not available on NTRS:
Evaluation and operation of Wallops Flight Center Mid-Air Retrieval System on a Skyvan aircraft                                            

A Mid-Air Retrieval System (MARS) for parachute-borne payloads has been  evaluated and made operational at Wallops Flight Center. The evaluation  indicated that the Skyvan is a near-optimum aerial retrieval platform  from the standpoints of safety, reliability and economy. The system is  presently capable of retrieving parachute-borne payloads launched by  rockets and balloons weighing from 10 to 325 pounds as far as 250 n mi  from Wallops. Its payload retrieval capability could be increased to as  much as 1000 pounds.                                            

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19760052294&hterms=Mid-Air+Retrieval+System+MARS&qs=Ntx%3Dmode%2520matchallpartial%2520%26Ntk%3DAll%26N%3D0%26Ntt%3DMid-Air%2520Retrieval%2520System%2520%28MARS%29

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 10/24/2012 09:54 am
Interesting cover ?:

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19790080270_1979080270.pdf (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19790080270_1979080270.pdf)

Quote
Four kinds of rockets--two-stage Nike Orion,
single-stage Orion, Super Arcas and Super Loki--will
be used to carry the ozone measuring instruments into
the stratosphere. The rocket flights will coincide
with orbiting satellite overpasses of Wallops for comparison
of the rocket measurements with those of the
satellites. Meteorological rockets and balloons, as
well as ground based equipment, also will be collecting
ozone data.
New ground measuring techniques to determine the
distribution of ozone in the stratosphere will be
tested .
Several of the rocket payloads will be recovered
in mid-air by the Wallops Skyvan aircraft.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 10/24/2012 10:07 am
and a little more info on the MARS system here:

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19810015461_1981015461.pdf (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19810015461_1981015461.pdf)

PDF Page 10/11
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/24/2012 02:55 pm
Indeed. It may be gory, Wes Craven or Saw style...

I think Mythbusters did a segment on whether or not a cable could cut a person in half and determined that it cannot.  I never really thought it could, because it's just not sharp enough (and a cable small enough would lack the mass). You could get a very nasty blunt force trauma, however, as well as a bad laceration.

Fred Durant, a name some of you may recognize from early space history, was struck by an arrestor cable on one of the Great Lakes aircraft carriers during WWII. It put him in the hospital for quite awhile, but obviously did not kill him. (I interviewed him years ago about his history. Gotta locate that tape...)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/24/2012 02:58 pm
Document not available on NTRS:
Evaluation and operation of Wallops Flight Center Mid-Air Retrieval System on a Skyvan aircraft                                      

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle!

I'm pretty sure that the image I saw showed a KH-9 size (Mk VIII) bucket inside the back of that little plane. I honestly have a hard time imagining how they could do that. There wasn't much room, and you do need people to man-handle the thing onto the plane after you catch it. And how would that plane react to grabbing so much mass?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/29/2012 04:31 am
Missed this earlier in the week:

http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2012/10/hexagon_imagery.html

Intelligence Imagery Set to be Disclosed in 2013

October 22nd, 2012 by Steven Aftergood

A massive quantity of historical intelligence satellite imagery from the KH-9 HEXAGON program is being declassified and will be made public in a series of releases that are scheduled over the coming year, intelligence community officials say.

“The notable challenges to this effort are the sheer volume of imagery and the logistics involved in cataloging the imagery and moving it to archive,” Mr. Birmingham told Secrecy News.

“For context, and to grasp the scope of the project, the KH-9/HEXAGON system provided coverage over hundreds of millions of square miles of territory during its 19 successful missions spanning 1971-1984.  It is a daunting issue to address declassification of the program specifics associated with an obsolete system such as the KH-9, which involves the declassification of huge volumes of intelligence information gathered on thousands of targets worldwide during a 13 year time period.”
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 10/29/2012 05:16 pm
Nice one,

hoping for a google earth overlay of those images...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/29/2012 06:17 pm
I imagine that the logistics for this are going to be tough. They produced a huge amount of imagery, and it was all handled in analog format--people moving cans of film and putting it on light tables.

So now it has to be scanned, and the geo coordinates have to be logged somehow.

But on top of that, they won't release imagery better than around two feet, and KH-9 imagery was considerably better than that. So that imagery has to be degraded somewhat.

However, the nice thing about this is that it then allows them to release materials based upon the imagery. For instance, we could see things like reports on Argentine defenses on the Falkland Islands that were based upon imagery collection.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 10/29/2012 06:54 pm
I imagine that the logistics for this are going to be tough. They produced a huge amount of imagery, and it was all handled in analog format--people moving cans of film and putting it on light tables.

So now it has to be scanned, and the geo coordinates have to be logged somehow.

But on top of that, they won't release imagery better than around two feet, and KH-9 imagery was considerably better than that. So that imagery has to be degraded somewhat.

However, the nice thing about this is that it then allows them to release materials based upon the imagery. For instance, we could see things like reports on Argentine defenses on the Falkland Islands that were based upon imagery collection.

I agree, its a huge undertaking, I just hope to see some of those images online.

Why would they be degrading imagery ? (not talking about sensitive areas) now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag technology wise...

P.S. Did they release a coverage map already ? as the 2009 document detailing the KH-9 Mapping camera coverage seems to exclude the falklands ?
http://www.sci.uidaho.edu/cae/pubs/Surazakov2009fw.pdf
(pdf page 2)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/29/2012 07:59 pm
Why would they be degrading imagery ? (not talking about sensitive areas) now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag technology wise...

The U.S. government only licenses the sale of commercial imagery up to 0.5 meters.

The policy seems to be that they will not declassify historical reconnaissance imagery better than what they allow commercially. I bet that somebody using FOIA could get the official policy and supporting documents on this.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 11/02/2012 08:19 pm
Why would they be degrading imagery ? (not talking about sensitive areas) now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag technology wise...

The U.S. government only licenses the sale of commercial imagery up to 0.5 meters.

The policy seems to be that they will not declassify historical reconnaissance imagery better than what they allow commercially. I bet that somebody using FOIA could get the official policy and supporting documents on this.

I assume certain things will still be blocked out from the releases?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/02/2012 08:24 pm
They won't release any imagery of Israel, Area 51, and possibly a few other places.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 02/22/2013 09:38 am
I am posting what I think are interesting then and now photos of what was once a top secret photo of a top secret location taken by Hexagon's panoramic cameras and a photo from Yahoo's map software.  It is amazing what a few years will do to a top secret installation.  I would love to see a KH-8 photo of the same area but I know that the KH-8 photos will not be released.

I would like to try to figure out the significance of the triangular arrows in target areas "D", "E", and "F" and the GRD of the targets they point to.  Were the arrows painted onto the resolution targets or were they added by the photo interpreters during post flight analysis?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jester on 02/22/2013 09:48 am
@rguser

Nice, I've made them again, using Google Earth and add them, so it's easier to see
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Hoonte on 02/22/2013 10:30 am
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXBl03wVHOY
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 02/22/2013 12:09 pm
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXBl03wVHOY

KABOOOOOOM !!!

Thank you million time Hoonte - I had never seen a video of that massive explosion before, I did not even knew it had been filmed. Now that's what I call freakin' fireworks.
At 0:11 notice the huge ball of flame shooting upwards to the top of the explosion, then (at 0:25) smashing down on the nearby hill with a big secondary explosion.
Unbelievable - it's a tribute to hard-learned stringent safety measures no-one was hurt or killed in that huge mess.  :o
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/22/2013 12:11 pm

Thank you million time Hoonte - I had never seen a video of that massive explosion before,

Really?  It was only second to Challenger
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Hoonte on 02/22/2013 07:04 pm

Thank you million time Hoonte - I had never seen a video of that massive explosion before,

Really?  It was only second to Challenger

My pleasure Archilbald.

And Challenger didn't explode Jim.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/22/2013 07:07 pm

Thank you million time Hoonte - I had never seen a video of that massive explosion before,

Really?  It was only second to Challenger

My pleasure Archilbald.

And Challenger didn't explode Jim.

in terms of viewership at the time
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 02/22/2013 08:14 pm
@rguser

Nice, I've made them again, using Google Earth and add them, so it's easier to see

Indeed, very nice. Thanks to the both of you. Just to get it into the record, the target area is at 45.816 N, 63.296 E.

I've heard that the US had a similar set of resolution targets somewhere in the southwestern part of the country -- the name National Test Area comes as a vague memory. 

Edit:
P.S.: If someone has the interest and Russian skills, I betcha that the specs for the resolution targets can be found somewhere in the State Standards (GOST/ГОСТ).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/22/2013 08:41 pm
What a huge beast - I really understand the fascination going with those birds. Yes, they were fantastic machines !

You have to realize that it's still a sensitive subject to openly admit to photographing Russian and other countries' military installations that might be bad for present-day relations with them. So while it might be ok to declassify the (now obsolete) satellites themselves, releasing their photos might not be so much.

Probably not just Soviet territory but virtually everything that was of interest around the world during the 70s-80s was imaged by HEXAGON. Stuff going on in Asia, Africa, the Middle East. You name it. Apparently they have huge phone book sized directories of all photos taken by each satellite.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/22/2013 08:51 pm
I wonder if the full video showing the Titan failure during the last Hexagon launch will now be available or could be requested (FOIA?).  There were rumors several of the frames showed the payload outside of the shroud falling back to the launchpad...

Quote
I was the one who heard the story about the shroud getting blown off from somebody who worked at VAFB as an integration person (i.e. they put the payload on top of the thing that blew up). They said that there was a single frame that revealed something, probably the SRVs underneath. The person never told me what the payload was, but we already knew what was atop the rocket

Launch failures usually always result in the ejection of the payload rather than its destruction, which tends to only occur on impact with the ground. Apparently both the HEXAGON on the 4/86 launch and the NOSS satellite lost in 1993 continued transmitting signals until they fell to earth.

The NOSS 2 last flew in 1996, so it can't be considered for declassification until at minimum 2031. Or for that matter the ELINT lost in the 98 failure. Thus it will still be a while before it's possible to get any info on those.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/22/2013 08:54 pm
Apparently both the HEXAGON on the 4/86 launch and the NOSS satellite lost in 1993 continued transmitting signals until they fell to earth.


Doubtful.  Most spacecraft are quiescent during launch and only "wake up" at separation.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 02/22/2013 09:03 pm
Launch failures usually always result in the ejection of the payload rather than its destruction, which tends to only occur on impact with the ground.

I have no direct knowledge of what happened in the case of the Last HEXAGON, but a colleague who had been working in NRO Program A at the time said they spent a lot of time scouring the surrounding terrain for film shards. Second-hand information, so take it FWIW.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/22/2013 09:20 pm
Quote
Doubtful.  Most spacecraft are quiescent during launch and only "wake up" at separation.

Depends on the satellite. Y'all know how Vanguard 1 landed in some bushes near the pad and started transmitting signals, leading to Dorothy Kilgallen's famous remark that "Why doesn't somebody go out there, find it, and shoot it?"


I have no direct knowledge of what happened in the case of the Last HEXAGON, but a colleague who had been working in NRO Program A at the time said they spent a lot of time scouring the surrounding terrain for film shards. Second-hand information, so take it FWIW.

Yes, I did hear that. They found ribbons of film blowing in the breeze. Which kind of surprises me considering that it was a pretty damn huge satellite (roughly the size of a school bus) that fell from a very low altitude. You'd think it might get dented and crumpled up on impact, but not shatter into a million pieces and splatter its film all over the place.

The NOSS and Mercury satellites fell into the ocean, but we can well assume that a _very_ extensive effort was made to fish those top secret payloads out of there.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/22/2013 10:10 pm
Thank you million time Hoonte - I had never seen a video of that massive explosion before

This is one of the top rocket explosions of all time along with Atlas Centaur 1965, N1 1969, and Delta 1997.

Quote
I did not even knew it had been filmed. Now that's what I call freakin' fireworks.

Of course every launch has to be filmed from all possible angles for engineering purposes. There's a _lot_ more Challenger footage than the fuzzy CNN broadcast everyone's all seen.

Quote
At 0:11 notice the huge ball of flame shooting upwards to the top of the explosion, then (at 0:25) smashing down on the nearby hill with a big secondary explosion.
Unbelievable - it's a tribute to hard-learned stringent safety measures no-one was hurt or killed in that huge mess.

Trust me on this, they were plenty aware of the need for safety when you launch a giant tube filled with poisonous N2O2. After the accident, the Air Force issued a bulletin advising people in nearby towns to keep their windows closed for the rest of the day.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Art LeBrun on 02/22/2013 10:33 pm
Thank you million time Hoonte - I had never seen a video of that massive explosion before

This is one of the top rocket explosions of all time along with Atlas Centaur 1965, N1 1969, and Delta 1997.

Quote
I did not even knew it had been filmed. Now that's what I call freakin' fireworks.

Of course every launch has to be filmed from all possible angles for engineering purposes. There's a _lot_ more Challenger footage than the fuzzy CNN broadcast everyone's all seen.

Quote
At 0:11 notice the huge ball of flame shooting upwards to the top of the explosion, then (at 0:25) smashing down on the nearby hill with a big secondary explosion.
Unbelievable - it's a tribute to hard-learned stringent safety measures no-one was hurt or killed in that huge mess.

Trust me on this, they were plenty aware of the need for safety when you launch a giant tube filled with poisonous N2O2. After the accident, the Air Force issued a bulletin advising people in nearby towns to keep their windows closed for the rest of the day.
Here is another (not so close to the ground) top rocket failure.......
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 02/22/2013 10:55 pm
Yes, I did hear that. They found ribbons of film blowing in the breeze. Which kind of surprises me considering that it was a pretty damn huge satellite (roughly the size of a school bus) that fell from a very low altitude. You'd think it might get dented and crumpled up on impact, but not shatter into a million pieces and splatter its film all over the place.

An off-line commenter suggests that the film fragment dispersal might have been due to updrafts coming from fuel burning on the ground.  That doesn't address the initial shatter, of course.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/22/2013 11:18 pm
Here is another (not so close to the ground) top rocket failure.......

Ok well we've all seen that one many, many times.

BTW, I found you some goodies.

http://cosmopark.ru/r7/r74.htm

Quote
That doesn't address the initial shatter, of course.

They might have had a destruct system on the satellite itself, especially with it being a military one. I know that this was standard practice on Soviet missions.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/22/2013 11:45 pm
I've heard that the US had a similar set of resolution targets somewhere in the southwestern part of the country -- the name National Test Area comes as a vague memory. 

Fort Huachuca.

http://huachuca-www.army.mil/

But I think there were resolution targets in a bunch of other places. I seem to remember that there was one at Wright-Pat. And they were also set up at USAF bases with recon squadrons so that they could test their cameras. Plus there were portable ones. So a bunch.

Somewhere I have a CORONA-era document only a few pages long that includes the patterns and the dimensions for one of them. I'll look. By the way, if you dig around the old FAS site, in their imagery section, they have some CORONA photos of resolution test targets.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/22/2013 11:48 pm
You have to realize that it's still a sensitive subject to openly admit to photographing Russian and other countries' military installations that might be bad for present-day relations with them. So while it might be ok to declassify the (now obsolete) satellites themselves, releasing their photos might not be so much.

Probably not just Soviet territory but virtually everything that was of interest around the world during the 70s-80s was imaged by HEXAGON. Stuff going on in Asia, Africa, the Middle East. You name it. Apparently they have huge phone book sized directories of all photos taken by each satellite.

It hasn't been sensitive for a long time. You can get access to millions of square miles of CORONA era footage of Soviet and other targets. You can also dig around on the NRO website for some of the KH-7, 8 and 9 imagery that they released last year. There are plans to start declassifying bulks of it this year.

The only targets clearly off the list are Israel and Area 51.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/22/2013 11:49 pm
Launch failures usually always result in the ejection of the payload rather than its destruction, which tends to only occur on impact with the ground.

I have no direct knowledge of what happened in the case of the Last HEXAGON, but a colleague who had been working in NRO Program A at the time said they spent a lot of time scouring the surrounding terrain for film shards. Second-hand information, so take it FWIW.

That definitely happened. I've been working with a senior P-E engineer for awhile now. His colleagues were sent out to VAFB to pick up the wreckage. That included film. Lots of film.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/22/2013 11:51 pm
Yes, I did hear that. They found ribbons of film blowing in the breeze. Which kind of surprises me considering that it was a pretty damn huge satellite (roughly the size of a school bus) that fell from a very low altitude. You'd think it might get dented and crumpled up on impact, but not shatter into a million pieces and splatter its film all over the place.

It had some big high-pressure nitrogen tanks for pressurizing the film path. Those likely went off like a bomb at some point. They're right near the film supply.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/22/2013 11:53 pm
Trust me on this, they were plenty aware of the need for safety when you launch a giant tube filled with poisonous N2O2. After the accident, the Air Force issued a bulletin advising people in nearby towns to keep their windows closed for the rest of the day.

No, they were pretty sloppy about the whole thing. This guy seems to know what he's talking about:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1268/1

"That big ugly cloud also did some human damage. A letter written to the base commander a week after the explosion captured some of the drama. It was written by Martha Boise, who lived on the Hollister Ranch downwind of the explosion. Ms. Boise wrote: “Your rocket explosion last Friday, April 18th has affected my children. They were all exposed to the toxic cloud. They were not given the advantage of any warning or any information on the toxic material in the air surrounding them.” Ms. Boise wrote that her family had called Vandenberg twice about the air quality and the reply was that the base could not provide any information. She wanted to know why there had been no warning, what the toxic effects of the chemical cloud were, whether there was nuclear material on the rocket, who should they deal with, who should they call in event of a future explosion, and who would warn them the next time."

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Nittany Lion on 02/23/2013 12:18 am
I've heard that the US had a similar set of resolution targets somewhere in the southwestern part of the country -- the name National Test Area comes as a vague memory. 

Fort Huachuca.


Northeast of Libby AAF

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kking on 02/23/2013 12:40 am
The video of the Titan 34D9 explosion. I do have a video from various angles with blockhouse audio. If somebody can upload I can provide a dvd.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/23/2013 12:42 am
It hasn't been sensitive for a long time. You can get access to millions of square miles of CORONA era footage of Soviet and other targets. You can also dig around on the NRO website for some of the KH-7, 8 and 9 imagery that they released last year. There are plans to start declassifying bulks of it this year.

Hmm, you're probably right. The Zenit satellites were photographing all our stuff anyway, so it's not like we exactly did anything to them that they didn't do to us.

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The only targets clearly off the list are Israel

This is gonna provoke some comments from the Stormfront crowd.

Quote
and Area 51

That would be for the Art Bell crowd.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Nittany Lion on 02/23/2013 12:55 am
I've heard that the US had a similar set of resolution targets somewhere in the southwestern part of the country -- the name National Test Area comes as a vague memory. 

Wright-Pat


Southwest of the National Museum of the USAF

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/23/2013 12:56 am
The video of the Titan 34D9 explosion. I do have a video from various angles with blockhouse audio.

How much of the blockhouse audio do you suppose is bleeped out (and I don't mean because it was a classified launch) ;)

Anyway, they claim that afterwards, some people in the blockhouse actually knelt down and cried.

Statistically, the KH-11 loss the previous fall was bigger (involving a newer, more advanced satellite) but this got all the press due to the incredibly spectacular nature of the failure and as it came so soon after Challenger.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/23/2013 01:33 am
Hmm, you're probably right. The Zenit satellites were photographing all our stuff anyway, so it's not like we exactly did anything to them that they didn't do to us.

No "probably" about it. The images have been public since 1995. KH-7 imagery was released in 2002. Some 7, 8, and 9 imagery was released last year. Just use a search engine.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kking on 02/23/2013 07:01 am
The video of the Titan 34D9 explosion. I do have a video from various angles with blockhouse audio

It begins at liftoff..just maybe 30 seconds on each angle. All angles run about 10 minutes. One controller is saying "HOLY S**T THE THING BLEW UP.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 02/23/2013 07:51 am
Apparently both the HEXAGON on the 4/86 launch and the NOSS satellite lost in 1993 continued transmitting signals until they fell to earth.


Doubtful.  Most spacecraft are quiescent during launch and only "wake up" at separation.

According to the released document "Hexagon Program Preliminary Post Flight Report For Flight No. 20" the SV was indeed sending telemetry back to the ground stations until "(T+28.4) or some 20 seconds after booster explosion."  The SV stopped sending telemetry when it impacted the ground.  The report does state that some portions of the SV were turned off but portions of it were turned on in all three sections of the vehicle during launch.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kking on 02/23/2013 10:19 am
Where can one find the HEXAGON PROGRAM PRELIMINARY POST FLIGHT REPORT FOR FLIGHT 20. I looked on NRO website unless I missed it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Davd on 02/23/2013 10:55 am
It begins at liftoff..just maybe 30 seconds on each angle. All angles run about 10 minutes. One controller is saying "HOLY S**T THE THING BLEW UP.

Well at least they didn't say "Uh, there appears to be a malfunction of the vehicle..."

The right SRM seems to have punctured the core stage's fuel tank and caused assorted other damage, but most of the actual vehicle destruction apparently resulted from the left SRM separating and triggering the automatic self destruct system. At least that's what impression I got from the accident report. Keeping in mind that Titan 3/4 launches were powered only by the SRMs for the first two minutes and the core didn't activate until they separated.

Quote
Doubtful.  Most spacecraft are quiescent during launch and only "wake up" at separation

Quote
According to the released document "Hexagon Program Preliminary Post Flight Report For Flight No. 20" the SV was indeed sending telemetry back to the ground stations until "(T+28.4) or some 20 seconds after booster explosion."  The SV stopped sending telemetry when it impacted the ground.  The report does state that some portions of the SV were turned off but portions of it were turned on in all three sections of the vehicle during launch.

That isn't quite true as each satellite is different in terms of what components are powered on during launch. I did read that the NOSS in the 93 failure was transmitting signals until impact with the ocean while the Mercury in 98 was mostly inactive except for some heaters. I've never found any pictures or video of the NOSS failure, incidentally.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 02/23/2013 11:06 am
It begins at liftoff..just maybe 30 seconds on each angle. All angles run about 10 minutes. One controller is saying "HOLY S**T THE THING BLEW UP.

Well at least they didn't say "Uh, there appears to be a malfunction of the vehicle..."

The right SRM seems to have punctured the core stage's fuel tank and caused assorted other damage, but most of the actual vehicle destruction apparently resulted from the left SRM separating and triggering the automatic self destruct system. At least that's what impression I got from the accident report. Keeping in mind that Titan 3/4 launches were powered only by the SRMs for the first two minutes and the core didn't activate until they separated.

Quote
Doubtful.  Most spacecraft are quiescent during launch and only "wake up" at separation

Quote
According to the released document "Hexagon Program Preliminary Post Flight Report For Flight No. 20" the SV was indeed sending telemetry back to the ground stations until "(T+28.4) or some 20 seconds after booster explosion."  The SV stopped sending telemetry when it impacted the ground.  The report does state that some portions of the SV were turned off but portions of it were turned on in all three sections of the vehicle during launch.

Jim doesn't know what he's talking about; ignore him.

Wow... how long have you been using NSF?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 02/23/2013 11:10 am
It begins at liftoff..just maybe 30 seconds on each angle. All angles run about 10 minutes. One controller is saying "HOLY S**T THE THING BLEW UP.

Well at least they didn't say "Uh, there appears to be a malfunction of the vehicle..."

The right SRM seems to have punctured the core stage's fuel tank and caused assorted other damage, but most of the actual vehicle destruction apparently resulted from the left SRM separating and triggering the automatic self destruct system. At least that's what impression I got from the accident report. Keeping in mind that Titan 3/4 launches were powered only by the SRMs for the first two minutes and the core didn't activate until they separated.

Quote
Doubtful.  Most spacecraft are quiescent during launch and only "wake up" at separation

Quote
According to the released document "Hexagon Program Preliminary Post Flight Report For Flight No. 20" the SV was indeed sending telemetry back to the ground stations until "(T+28.4) or some 20 seconds after booster explosion."  The SV stopped sending telemetry when it impacted the ground.  The report does state that some portions of the SV were turned off but portions of it were turned on in all three sections of the vehicle during launch.

Jim doesn't know what he's talking about; ignore him. Every satellite is different in terms of what components are powered on during launch. I did read that the NOSS in the 93 failure was transmitting signals until impact with the ocean while the Mercury in 98 was mostly inactive except for some heaters. I've never found any pictures or video of the NOSS failure, incidentally.

It is out there--maybe Av Week.   I remember at least an image of the Titan IV on solids then a cloud when the solid let go...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/23/2013 11:13 am

Every satellite is different in terms of what components are powered on during launch. I did read that the NOSS in the 93 failure was transmitting signals until impact with the ocean while the Mercury in 98 was mostly inactive except for some heaters.

I said most and quiescent (meaning not transmitting), I did not say unpowered.  This was based on supporting more than 30 ELV launches, where that is the rule vs exception of spacecraft transmitting during launch phase.  How many have you supported?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/23/2013 11:32 am
Keeping in mind that Titan 3/4 launches were powered only by the SRMs for the first two minutes and the core didn't activate until they separated.


Wrong, the core starts 9-10 seconds before SRM separation.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/23/2013 01:19 pm
Jim doesn't know what he's talking about; ignore him.

You haven't made many posts so far, but you have managed to make a lot of erroneous statements. I suggest that you dial it down a bit. I'm approaching the point of activating my "ignore" filter.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 02/23/2013 02:04 pm
Fort Huachuca.
Northeast of Libby AAF

Hmm. The topic seems to be in the air: http://www.clui.org/newsletter/winter-2013/photo-calibration-targets

Morphic resonance, no doubt. ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/23/2013 10:24 pm
Well whatever. Of course I never filter people for simply disagreeing with their opinion because I'm that nice of a guy. That and it makes you seem really thin-skinned.

Okay, you're not getting it so I'll explain it simply: you're new, you are making a lot of factually inaccurate statements, and you're now poking at people who happen to know a lot about the subject because they actually work in the field in some way. That doesn't offend me (very little offends me--I'm really only offended by people who talk at the theater, bring more than 10 items to the express checkout line at the supermarket, and fail to use turn signals). But it does make me think that I don't need to pay attention.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/24/2013 01:58 am
Here's the Hexagon post-flight report mentioned earlier. Note that this is not a full accident investigation report.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/25/2013 11:58 am
Was the KH-9 close to the limit as to what the Titan could launch at the time as it was a fairly large & heavy object even by today's standards?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/25/2013 12:07 pm
Was the KH-9 close to the limit as to what the Titan could launch at the time as it was a fairly large & heavy object even by today's standards?

It drove the Titan IIID design, which was based on the IIIC.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/25/2013 12:54 pm
Was the KH-9 close to the limit as to what the Titan could launch at the time as it was a fairly large & heavy object even by today's standards?

It drove the Titan IIID design, which was based on the IIIC.

Other than the removal of the third stage how else was it optimised for LEO?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/25/2013 01:53 pm

Other than the removal of the third stage how else was it optimised for LEO?

Other than a different guidance system, there were no other changes.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/25/2013 02:31 pm

Other than the removal of the third stage how else was it optimised for LEO?

Other than a different guidance system, there were no other changes.

Thanks. One thing that puzzles me on Wikipedia is that it quotes the Titan iiiD's maximum launch capacity to LEO as being 27,000lb yet from the same source the KH-9 with mapping camera is quoted at weighing 29,000lb which is a 2000lb discrepancy?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 02/25/2013 03:10 pm
Thanks. One thing that puzzles me on Wikipedia is that it quotes the Titan iiiD's maximum launch capacity to LEO as being 27,000lb yet from the same source the KH-9 with mapping camera is quoted at weighing 29,000lb which is a 2000lb discrepancy?
Different orbits? KH-9 went to a low Polar orbit, did it do any of it's own reboost, or is this just another case of why you never fully trust wiki.

Curious as what orbit is being quoted for 27,000 lbs, since the D only flew to polar, it should be a polar orbit, a low inclination orbit would have be higher (but unrealistic due to the range used).

Edit: Did some digging, the 27k lbs comes from Mark Wades site, which probally predates the KH-9 declassification:

http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/titan3d.htm
Quote
LEO Payload: 12,300 kg (27,100 lb) to a 185 km orbit. Launch Price $: 14.000 million in 1985 dollars. Flyaway Unit Cost $: 52.200 million in 1965 dollars.

Many on NSF feel astronautix is a good starting point, but not authoritative.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/25/2013 03:18 pm

Other than the removal of the third stage how else was it optimised for LEO?

Other than a different guidance system, there were no other changes.

Thanks. One thing that puzzles me on Wikipedia is that it quotes the Titan iiiD's maximum launch capacity to LEO as being 27,000lb yet from the same source the KH-9 with mapping camera is quoted at weighing 29,000lb which is a 2000lb discrepancy?

That is wiki for you
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/25/2013 07:15 pm
Thank you both for that.

Can I make the assumption that the launch capability of the Titan iiiD has been under-stated rather than the KH-9 launch weight?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 02/25/2013 07:53 pm
Remember the KH-9 had several blocks that I would assume had different weights.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: ChileVerde on 02/25/2013 09:01 pm
I am posting what I think are interesting then and now photos...

To return to this for a second, the KH-9 picture has a "BE" number at the top, which would be the ZIP code of the site in the Bombing Encyclopedia, a fascinating post-WW II institution.

See

https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol3no2/html/v03i2a10p_0001.htm

In terms of data, though a significant undertaking for the time, at its biggest it would probably fit on the SD card in your camera.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 07/28/2013 07:45 pm
Copied over from the KH-8 thread--thanks to Blackstar for the heads up on the 31 Aug release and being the editor  ;)


http://www.amazon.com/Meeting-Challenge-Phil-Pressel/dp/1624102034/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1375030907&sr=8-2&keywords=Phil+Pressel

Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon Reconnaissance Satellite is the recently declassified story of the design, development, production, and operation of the Hexagon KH-9 reconnaissance satellite. It provided invaluable photographic intelligence to the United States government, and it stands as one of the most complicated systems ever put into space. In 1965 CIA Director John McCone issued the call for a satellite with unparalleled technical requirements that could visually map most of the landmass of the earth, photograph selected areas of interest, and return the resulting film safely to Earth. Developed by the Perkin-Elmer Corporation and operated between 1971 and 1986 Hexagon was the last film-based orbiting photo-reconnaissance satellite. This engineering marvel features the following achievements: the world's largest spherical thermal vacuum chamber used to test the system; the development and use of new and sophisticated electronics, such as LED's and brushless motors; the ability to precisely control the synchronization of film traveling at up to 200 inches per second at the focal plane, on a rotating camera, mounted in a moving vehicle and focused on a moving earth; sixty miles of film used on each mission; and, stereo photography of the entire surface of the earth. When film captured by the satellite was sent back to earth it launched in a film-return capsule which was snagged by an aircraft as it parachuted downward upon reentering the earth's atmosphere. In 1972 a film bucket containing sensitive images sank to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, resulting in a daring rescue three miles underwater by the U.S. Navy's submergence vehicle Trieste II. Featuring both technical details and historical anecdotes, former Perkin-Elmer engineer Phil Pressel has written the definitive account of this important chapter in U.S. intelligence and aerospace history.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 07/29/2013 12:08 am
My wife should so not leave her amazon account logged in, pre-ordered!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 07/31/2013 05:49 pm
Thanks for the heads up on that book.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/01/2013 10:52 pm
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/01/2013 11:14 pm
I like the cover art, wife still has not noticed the additional item in her amazon cart ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/01/2013 11:25 pm
I like the cover art,

This is just a flyer, not the cover. I have not seen the cover. I have the book and there are a lot of images in there that I don't think have previously been released. Not a lot of recon images, because all we have is the stuff previously released. But Phil had some interesting hardware photos and drawings.

And there are a lot of great stories. I'll share a few of them over the coming weeks.

This is Phil with the camera when it was briefly on display at Udvar-Hazy in September 2011.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 08/02/2013 12:00 am
What position did Phil Pressel hold on the Hexagon program and over what period?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/02/2013 01:45 am
What position did Phil Pressel hold on the Hexagon program and over what period?

He was the chief camera designer from 1966-1986.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/17/2013 03:07 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXBl03wVHOY&sns=em

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 08/17/2013 09:10 am
Does the book cover the sub-satellites it carried?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/17/2013 01:45 pm
Does the book cover the sub-satellites it carried?

No. It is primarily about the development of the camera system.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 08/17/2013 02:16 pm
Is that a new video? I don't think i have seen it before...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/17/2013 02:39 pm
Is that a new video? I don't think i have seen it before...

I had not seen it before either. Posted to YouTube in December 2012. I found out about it from Phil. One of his former coworkers just found it. She actually filmed it back in 1986. But when it blew up, her video was confiscated for the investigation and she never got it back. She said that she just stumbled upon it on YouTube.

I think I have some other video of this explosion that has not been seen before. It is from farther away and not as dramatic. I got it from a Lockheed Martin guy whose father (or father's friend) took it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/04/2013 07:07 pm
Book is now out.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/04/2013 07:50 pm
Interesting last time I looked Amazon had it listed as published the 28th September which from the info on here seemed a bit curious.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/05/2013 08:06 am
Coincidentally I received an email saying it has been pushed back to early October.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 09/05/2013 10:16 am
I just discovered the following link on the CIA's FOIA web site to a 2 hour video of a Smithsonian panel discussion on the CIA's attempted recovery of HEXAGON's 1201-3 RV.  I do not know if anyone has mentioned this link before on this discussion thread.  The video is too large to attach directly so I listed the web address of the video below.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/32000249
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/08/2013 03:38 pm
Something really odd is going on

Hello,

We now have delivery date(s) for the order you placed on September 01, 2013 :
   
  Pressel, Phil "Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite (Library of Flight)"
    Estimated arrival date: December 05, 2013 - December 10, 2013

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/10/2013 02:06 pm

My Amazon delivery estimate just changed to:

Quote
DELIVERY ESTIMATE Wednesday, September 18, 2013 - Friday, September 20, 2013 by 8:00pm

I haven't heard anything more since they informed me the release had moved to October.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/11/2013 02:36 am
.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/11/2013 02:44 am
I just discovered the following link on the CIA's FOIA web site to a 2 hour video of a Smithsonian panel discussion on the CIA's attempted recovery of HEXAGON's 1201-3 RV.  I do not know if anyone has mentioned this link before on this discussion thread.  The video is too large to attach directly so I listed the web address of the video below.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/32000249

Yeah, I was there. Those guys did several presentations over a few days. The first one was at CIA HQ, then one at the Navy Museum at the Washington Navy Yard, and then they finished with the Smithsonian one. I went to all three (the CIA HQ visit was the most fun--even got to see Bin Laden's AK-47). They told the same stories each time, but with some additional details at some vs. others. They are good stories, I would note. You can find the booklet "An Underwater Ice Station Zebra" here:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/historical-collection-publications/underwater-ice-station-zebra/index.html

What comes through in the stories is the difficulty of the operation. Operating the Trieste II DSV-1 was a real pain in the neck. You'll hear some of that in the Smithsonian talk.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/11/2013 03:41 am
.

You just had to rub in the fact that you have a copy  :'(
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/11/2013 02:05 pm
You know you are a space geek when you take the time to fully read the images Blackstar just posted!

(And are debating when the book arrives if you will read page 120 first)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/11/2013 08:48 pm
The Twister.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/11/2013 10:44 pm
Thanks, I assume the optical bar rotated in sync with the optical tube. Very ingenious.

Looking forward to the book.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/12/2013 12:46 pm
Now I get the air bars, it was to keep the film from being dragged sideways (and scratched) across the rollers as the Twister Twisted!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/12/2013 02:50 pm
Now I get the air bars, it was to keep the film from being dragged sideways (and scratched) across the rollers as the Twister Twisted!

Actually, some of the air bars enabled the film to move sideways (laterally) across the rollers. It's really clever once you visualize it. Most film systems used rollers, which of course means that the film touches the surface of the rollers. Pump air (dry nitrogen) out through the rollers and they don't touch and move along smoothly. And this allows you to move both across and sideways if necessary. (It's like an air hockey table.)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/12/2013 03:36 pm
Just can not imaging the vibrations they had to damp from the air pump... but yeah that was the realization when I looked at twister, dragging film sideways across a roller will scratch it, the air bar prevents the scratching and allows for some flexing and strain relief as the film is twisted.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/12/2013 04:43 pm
The HEXAGON video that they released two years ago has about 2 seconds showing the Twister. An enterprising person could take the video, cut those two seconds, and loop it, to get an idea of how it worked.

Phil has made a little wood and plastic model of the Twister that somewhat shows how it actually worked. It's not exact, but you get a sense of the motion.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/12/2013 06:42 pm
Just can not imaging the vibrations they had to damp from the air pump... but yeah that was the realization when I looked at twister, dragging film sideways across a roller will scratch it, the air bar prevents the scratching and allows for some flexing and strain relief as the film is twisted.
My guess would be that there was no "air pump" but rather a source of compressed dry N2. After all the system had to bring it on board.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/12/2013 06:51 pm

My guess would be that there was no "air pump" but rather a source of compressed dry N2. After all the system had to bring it on board.

there were bottles of GN2.  It was another limiting factor for spacecraft live just as film or propellant was.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/12/2013 07:01 pm
My guess would be that there was no "air pump" but rather a source of compressed dry N2. After all the system had to bring it on board.

Two big high pressure tanks of nitrogen.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/12/2013 07:19 pm


My guess would be that there was no "air pump" but rather a source of compressed dry N2. After all the system had to bring it on board.

there were bottles of GN2.  It was another limiting factor for spacecraft live just as film or propellant was.

Was it the limitations of all these systems that led to its early retirement & full replacement by the KH-11?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/12/2013 07:26 pm

Was it the limitations of all these systems that led to its early retirement & full replacement by the KH-11?

Why would you say early?
Anyways, it is obvious.  Realtime availability and no film to limit mission life was the reasonl
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/12/2013 07:39 pm
Was it the limitations of all these systems that led to its early retirement & full replacement by the KH-11?

What's "early"?

GAMBIT operated from 1963 to 1984. HEXAGON from 1971 to 1985 (last one blew up in 1986). That's a pretty long lifetime for a program.

KH-11 KENNEN started service in late 1976. Note that despite that, film systems stuck around for nearly another decade.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/12/2013 09:28 pm
Was it the limitations of all these systems that led to its early retirement & full replacement by the KH-11?

What's "early"?

GAMBIT operated from 1963 to 1984. HEXAGON from 1971 to 1985 (last one blew up in 1986). That's a pretty long lifetime for a program.

KH-11 KENNEN started service in late 1976. Note that despite that, film systems stuck around for nearly another decade.
Because in the early days the film systems had better resolution. The early KH11 systems didn't have the closely packed, high sensitivity ccd photo sensors that later systems have/had and their prime asset was real time strategic information. When better sensors became available for KH11 the film systems were retired.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/12/2013 11:15 pm
Melt Run,

I think it was more complicated than that.

If you look at the retirement of the CORONA (the only one we have a data point for), they predicted when the replacement system would be up and running and only bought enough to meet that date. With all the worries about the KH-9 schedule and the KH-4b program end, they hedged bets by producing a high altitude version of the KH-8, HIGH(ER) BOY. That was to provide wide area coverage incase they encountered significant KH-9 delays. 

Look at the flight history of the KH-8  (What the KH-11 replaced). During the 70's it was flying twice a year. After the first KH-11 flight, it dropped to barely once a year. It clearly looks like they tried to stretch the program out with the limited number left.

I would argue that the KH-8 program ended because they stopped budgeting for new vehicles, not because the early KH-11 was that bad/good.

And I know Blackstar has beaten me down on this before, but I truly believe the KH-9's unique wide area capabilities were never fully replaced. Hence programs like KH-11 8x and NRO choosing Boeing for FIA-I (The swiss army knife promise of wide area and high resolution). I do think they found other methods to provide the KH-9's primary product, search.

I suspect it was the shear cost, not the lack of realtime that caused the NRO to stop buying the pricey KH-9.

While for the KH-8 the argument could be made it was more lack of realtime that ended the program.

(You could argue, neither system was really shuttle compatible)

Like I said, I think it is very murky, and not as simple as realtime instead of film once the sensor technology caught up. I think the greater mystery is how did the early KH-11's perform. There are all sorts of tidbits like how long the KH-8 stuck around that might indicate it might not have been a smooth transition. But the lack of KH-8 launches in 78 and 80 might say otherwise.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jg on 09/13/2013 12:34 am
Electronic detector technology was improving by leaps and bounds in the late 1970's and early 1980's.

Relative to astronomical telescopes, ground looking telescopes get lots of photons; to replace the capability of the very wide area scans of the cameras, you basically need linear detectors used in a scanning mode rather than area detectors (until you try to play games like real time cameras observing attacks in small areas at limited spectral ranges, or at night, where life gets much harder in the IR because silicon isn't usable).

So I would guess the crossover point for KH-11 for wide area scanning applications that photographic film could do became possible technologically around 1980-1983; but then you have to integrate it into cameras, into the satellites, and get it launched, and the whole field was moving very fast (which means you'd be loathe to freeze on a design).

Certainly I remember (while I was working at Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory on one of the very first CCD cameras for astronomy) visiting ITEK and having the usual interesting conversations about what we were doing, and to a slight extent what they were working on (as much as they could share, which was not much).

I do remember being in their machine room they used to look at images: it was a literal Faraday cage, and all power entering the room was "scrubbed" to make any possibility of Tempest RF attacks on their screens impossible (since the Soviet spies were known to be targeting that building).  When they looked at the digitized imagery, they would seal the room and *nothing* came in or out except power to their computer.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/13/2013 12:53 am
Kevin
You're right- it is always more complicated then my simplistic answer. I guess we will have to wait for the next major NRO blast of declassifications to know. I doubt that we will hear the whole story even then. I have noted that history is written by the winners and the ugly realities and bad behavior are ignored or flatly written as the author (or their sponsor) would like history to be written. At this point those that know can't tell and those the tell don't really know.
Melt Run
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 12:56 am
Considering the "last" KH-11 just launched, I would assume we have to wait at least another 25 years.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 02:40 am
1-And I know Blackstar has beaten me down on this before, but I truly believe the KH-9's unique wide area capabilities were never fully replaced. Hence programs like KH-11 8x and NRO choosing Boeing for FIA-I (The swiss army knife promise of wide area and high resolution). I do think they found other methods to provide the KH-9's primary product, search.

2-I suspect it was the shear cost, not the lack of realtime that caused the NRO to stop buying the pricey KH-9.

1-I don't remember what I told you, but I also don't think that the KH-9's unique wide area capabilities were ever fully replaced. But I do think that they decided to live without that much capability. They added the Improved CRYSTAL Metric System to the KH-11 and that apparently got them good enough search capability.

2-How much did a HEXAGON cost?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 02:42 am
By the way, awhile back we were discussing the camera that flew on the shuttle that I speculated was a variation of the HEXAGON Mapping Camera. I still don't know if it was a variant of that camera. But I did recently obtain another declassified document indicating that NASA's plan made the CIA nervous and they wanted to discuss it. Not that surprising, since we know that they ultimately classified the film and also only flew the camera a single time. But we're getting bits and pieces of the story now.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/13/2013 06:51 am

Was it the limitations of all these systems that led to its early retirement & full replacement by the KH-11?
Why would you say early?
Anyways, it is obvious.  Realtime availability and no film to limit mission life was the reasonl

I am sure I read a mention on this very thread that the KH-9 was envisioned to be in use longer than it actual was but a combination of factors including cost saw it retired when it was?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 09/13/2013 09:20 am

Was it the limitations of all these systems that led to its early retirement & full replacement by the KH-11?
Why would you say early?
Anyways, it is obvious.  Realtime availability and no film to limit mission life was the reasonl

I am sure I read a mention on this very thread that the KH-9 was envisioned to be in use longer than it actual was but a combination of factors including cost saw it retired when it was?

From my understanding when the program first started, the personnel who transferred to California were told that they might be returning to St. Louis in 6 or 7 years as Mac thought the program would only last that long.  So for the program to have lasted from 1971 to 1987 (if the last HEXAGON mission did not fail on launch) then it lasted much longer than the original estimate for the program.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 12:01 pm

1-I don't remember what I told you, but I also don't think that the KH-9's unique wide area capabilities were ever fully replaced. But I do think that they decided to live without that much capability. They added the Improved CRYSTAL Metric System to the KH-11 and that apparently got them good enough search capability.

Then explain General Schwarzkopf's, "It's like looking at the world through a soda straw" after the First Gulf war.

Wasn't 8x a result of that?

Of course the question comes in, was it the KH-11 could only cover a limited area, or was it because the SDS was bandwidth limited.

Quote
2-How much did a HEXAGON cost?
We don't know. Enough that they looked into reusing the last two KH-9's with a space shuttle. 

We also don't know how much the KH-11's initially cost, the KH-11 required the SDS relay satellite. So the KH-11 system and infrastructure could not have been cheap. I wonder if the cost of the entire KH-11 (including SDS) program put budgetary pressures on the legacy film systems.

After the first KH-11 launch, they only flew 7 more KH-8's. Two of those in '77 followed the spring pattern of '76. One was a HIGH(ER) BOY that had been in storage since the early 70's. While the KH-8's of the post KH-11 period had longer lives than prior KH-8's, it really looks like they tried to stretch out the program. I wonder if they used them for tasks the KH-11 could not do (or yet do).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 12:29 pm

1-I don't remember what I told you, but I also don't think that the KH-9's unique wide area capabilities were ever fully replaced. But I do think that they decided to live without that much capability. They added the Improved CRYSTAL Metric System to the KH-11 and that apparently got them good enough search capability.

Then explain General Schwarzkopf's, "It's like looking at the world through a soda straw" after the First Gulf war.


"Good enough" for some.

Put it another way--if COMIREX (the committee that picked the imagery targets, and therefore essentially set the initial requirements for imagery) believed that greater coverage was necessary, they would have gotten it. They got the Improved Crystal Metric System. Obviously the people who developed the ICMS believed that it was sufficient for the search function. Not everybody would have agreed, of course.

Schwarzkopf would not have been happy with the KH-9s delays in returning imagery, by the way.

Apropos of nothing, I recently acquired a declassified document from June 1986 with a title like "Requirements for search in the next decade." Unfortunately, it is only the cover page for a report, and the next page says something like "Next 236 pages remain classified."

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 01:25 pm
Okay, 236 pages of black ink is kinda funny!

I think that perfectly highlights you have different users. COMIREX and the field commanders like General Schwarzkopf. At the same time COMIREX drove the requirements that defined the system. As you said, COMIREX is the some, and they control the people who write the checks.

Of course the requirements go all the way back to SAMOAS users having different needs than CORONA users. LeMay  wanted to see in real time when the USSR was fueling the bombers, while other people wanted to count the bombers.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/13/2013 01:28 pm


1-I don't remember what I told you, but I also don't think that the KH-9's unique wide area capabilities were ever fully replaced. But I do think that they decided to live without that much capability. They added the Improved CRYSTAL Metric System to the KH-11 and that apparently got them good enough search capability.

Then explain General Schwarzkopf's, "It's like looking at the world through a soda straw" after the First Gulf war.


"Good enough" for some.

Put it another way--if COMIREX (the committee that picked the imagery targets, and therefore essentially set the initial requirements for imagery) believed that greater coverage was necessary, they would have gotten it. They got the Improved Crystal Metric System. Obviously the people who developed the ICMS believed that it was sufficient for the search function. Not everybody would have agreed, of course.

Schwarzkopf would not have been happy with the KH-9s delays in returning imagery, by the way.

Apropos of nothing, I recently acquired a declassified document from June 1986 with a title like "Requirements for search in the next decade." Unfortunately, it is only the cover page for a report, and the next page says something like "Next 236 pages remain classified."

Thanks for all your feedback on this. Why go to the time & trouble of declassifying a cover but nothing else, you feel they might as well have not bothered.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/13/2013 01:39 pm
By the way, awhile back we were discussing the camera that flew on the shuttle that I speculated was a variation of the HEXAGON Mapping Camera. I still don't know if it was a variant of that camera. But I did recently obtain another declassified document indicating that NASA's plan made the CIA nervous and they wanted to discuss it. Not that surprising, since we know that they ultimately classified the film and also only flew the camera a single time. But we're getting bits and pieces of the story now.
Blackstar
From first hand knowledge I can say that the NASA Large Format Mapping Camera IS a direct variant of the of the HEXAGON Mapping Camera. The layout and calibration equipment are shown in one of the NRO declassified documents. The system consisted of three lenses, the "D" lens (Down) and two "U" lenses (Up). The D lens photographed the earth while the U lenses were simultaneously exposed to stars. The known geometry gave very accurate global position.
I was unaware of the reclassification of the product of the NASA camera and have had a print hanging in my office for decades. Shows most of southern New England.
Melt Run
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jg on 09/13/2013 02:35 pm
Per my previous comment on electronic imaging detectors and the transition to KH-11:

1) while it is clear that by sometime in the late 1970's to early 1980's the electronic imaging detectors existed for high resolution and wide area reconnaissance existed, I don't think the bandwidth to ship the data down from orbit may have existed then, and image compression algorithm research was also in its infancy (the funding of which may easily have been driven by the this need...)

2) you can easily do some computations on how much (raw) bandwidth is required: take the area you'd like to image, and the (now) known resolution of the cameras that existed then (which is the upper bound possible), along with how often you want to reimage the area to see if anything has changed.    You probably want of order 8-16 bits/pixel....

At 1 meter resolution, you need 1 million pixels/square KM, which works out to 1 or 2 MB/square KM (for monochrome images, and they really liked to have 2 different images for 3D, and several different spectral colors).  Simple tricks get you back a factor of 2 or more of bandwidth even before more modern image compression algorithms came into existence, but you get the general idea.

Depending on resolution you want, how big an area you need to image, and how frequently you want to look, the bandwidths needed quickly get to be very high for data transmission in that area (or even today).  So I can understand Schwartzkopf's 'soda straw' comments easily....

The bandwidth of film is actually quite high (but it's latency and cost sucks...).

This is related to the observation that a 747 full of disk drives has very, very, very high bandwidth, far beyond anything the Internet can provide even with multi-spectral fiber; just lousy latency.  So shipping disk drives is often the fastest way to get large amounts of data around the world.

So it's easy to see that the transition from film to fully electronic would have taken quite a long time.... It's when things got to be 'good enough' that the expense could no longer be justified, long before what you might consider "desirable".
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 02:44 pm
Since we don't have a SAMOAS thread, it is worth pointing out that Bandwidth killed the project. Meanwhile, due to different geometry, the same system worked just fine with Lunar Orbiter.

The difference that made the KH-11 possible and realtime was SDS. The bent pipe approach allowed the KH-11 to transmit data back to the US in realtime.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 03:03 pm
Why go to the time & trouble of declassifying a cover but nothing else, you feel they might as well have not bothered.

If you want an honest answer... well, actually, I don't know. I'll look at the document again. My suspicion is that the cover letter was a lower level of classification than the actual report. So what probably happened is that they reviewed the collection for declassification and determined that they could only declassify the cover, not the rest. However, that does not prevent me from submitting a FOIA request for the report, which I should probably do.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 03:06 pm
Okay, 236 pages of black ink is kinda funny!

I think that perfectly highlights you have different users. COMIREX and the field commanders like General Schwarzkopf. At the same time COMIREX drove the requirements that defined the system. As you said, COMIREX is the some, and they control the people who write the checks.

There was a big change during the 1990s that has left many intelligence and former intelligence officers bitter. After Desert Storm there was a shift to make the intelligence agencies more focused on meeting military requirements rather than intelligence requirements. So the systems and procedures were altered to produce data that was valuable for tactical commanders. For instance, regular reports on the location of SAMs in an area of interest. That is important for routing your aircraft and missiles and such. But fewer assets were devoted to typical big picture strategic intelligence collection. The military has ruled the roost on this stuff for at least a decade and a half.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 03:09 pm
I was unaware of the reclassification of the product of the NASA camera and have had a print hanging in my office for decades. Shows most of southern New England.
Melt Run

I could be wrong about that. I have a vague memory that the product was not publicly released. But I have not checked any of my notes on that.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/13/2013 03:38 pm
I was unaware of the reclassification of the product of the NASA camera and have had a print hanging in my office for decades. Shows most of southern New England.
Melt Run

I could be wrong about that. I have a vague memory that the product was not publicly released. But I have not checked any of my notes on that.
You may be right in that the only product I have seen was the this single photo that was distributed to the project staff. I much prefer it to the traditional coffee cup with the mission LOGO.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/13/2013 03:44 pm
, I don't think the bandwidth to ship the data down from orbit may have existed then, a

It has existed since 1976.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jg on 09/13/2013 03:50 pm
, I don't think the bandwidth to ship the data down from orbit may have existed then, a

It has existed since 1976.

How much bandwidth?  When?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/13/2013 04:13 pm
, I don't think the bandwidth to ship the data down from orbit may have existed then, a

It has existed since 1976.

How much bandwidth?  When?


That is when the first two SDS satellites were launched.   The second was launched 4 months before the first KH-11.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 04:48 pm
, I don't think the bandwidth to ship the data down from orbit may have existed then, a

It has existed since 1976.

How much bandwidth?  When?


That is when the first two SDS satellites were launched.   The second was launched 4 months before the first KH-11.

You're missing the point. His point is not that the satellites did not exist. His point is that even with SDS, they may have lacked the bandwidth required to transmit all of the imagery. That seems like a reasonable argument.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 09/13/2013 05:10 pm

You're missing the point. His point is not that the satellites did not exist. His point is that even with SDS, they may have lacked the bandwidth required to transmit all of the imagery. That seems like a reasonable argument.

That would have been a "problem" until a block change/upgrade to the SDS, which was likely in the 90's
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/13/2013 05:22 pm

You're missing the point. His point is not that the satellites did not exist. His point is that even with SDS, they may have lacked the bandwidth required to transmit all of the imagery. That seems like a reasonable argument.

That would have been a "problem" until a block change/upgrade to the SDS, which was likely in the 90's

And that was his point--bandwidth may have been a major limitation early in the program. Go back earlier in the thread.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 05:26 pm
Dumb question,

I have seen 8x referred to in two different contexts, one the KH-11 was covering 8x as much ground, the other being that they increased the bandwidth of the bird by 8x. Do we have any additional information on what 8x was?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/13/2013 07:01 pm
Dumb question,

I have seen 8x referred to in two different contexts, one the KH-11 was covering 8x as much ground, the other being that they increased the bandwidth of the bird by 8x. Do we have any additional information on what 8x was?
It is a guess but given the design of the two telescopes that were given to NASA I would have to say that the FOV was increased by a linear factor of 8x. Given that a KH11 works in push broom mode that would require the bandwidth to increase by 8x also. So the answer would be YES to both.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 07:19 pm
Other than it is believed that the two telescopes given to NASA came from Boeing's canceled FIA-I program, and not the Lockheed KH-11 program.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/13/2013 09:12 pm
Other than it is believed that the two telescopes given to NASA came from Boeing's canceled FIA-I program, and not the Lockheed KH-11 program.
Like I said it was a guess. One thing I can say is if the comm systems are eventually upgraded to Laser Comm there won't be a band width issue for some time and the antennas will be a LOT smaller.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/13/2013 11:02 pm
That is assuming that when they increase the FOV they also keep the same resolution.

To make a bad analogy on shaky ground.

If we assume the focal plane remains the same between regular and 8x operations, hence the same sensor(s),
If we assume a similar field of view similar to the KH-8, ~10 miles
If we assume a resolution similar to the KH-8 brag of 2.5".

Then go 8x, lets say through a focal reducer or something equivalent.

We get a strip 80 miles wide at a resolution of 20", lets call it two feet.

While not quite as wide as the KH-9, it puts us in a similar resolution range. 80 miles is quite wide.

To me, that makes more sense than having a bigger sensors, and a larger focal plane. Optically that is a tough one.

Like I said a fair amount of shaky assumptions, but you can do wide area without increasing your bandwidth.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/14/2013 09:32 am
Why go to the time & trouble of declassifying a cover but nothing else, you feel they might as well have not bothered.

If you want an honest answer... well, actually, I don't know. I'll look at the document again. My suspicion is that the cover letter was a lower level of classification than the actual report. So what probably happened is that they reviewed the collection for declassification and determined that they could only declassify the cover, not the rest. However, that does not prevent me from submitting a FOIA request for the report, which I should probably do.

Be interesting to see what you get back on it, we can but see if maybe some of the contents will be declassified this time.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/14/2013 01:22 pm
That is assuming that when they increase the FOV they also keep the same resolution.

To make a bad analogy on shaky ground.

If we assume the focal plane remains the same between regular and 8x operations, hence the same sensor(s),
If we assume a similar field of view similar to the KH-8, ~10 miles
If we assume a resolution similar to the KH-8 brag of 2.5".

Then go 8x, lets say through a focal reducer or something equivalent.

We get a strip 80 miles wide at a resolution of 20", lets call it two feet.

While not quite as wide as the KH-9, it puts us in a similar resolution range. 80 miles is quite wide.

To me, that makes more sense than having a bigger sensors, and a larger focal plane. Optically that is a tough one.

Like I said a fair amount of shaky assumptions, but you can do wide area without increasing your bandwidth.
Kevin
Interesting analysis. I think that having bigger sensors is straight forward since if the KH11 works in push broom then the sensor can be made as long as you want by staggering multiple sensors.
A larger field is available via TMA (three mirror anastigmat) configurations. E.g. http://www.ssl.berkeley.edu/~mlampton/6687-23.pdf
There have been several upgrades of the SDS sats.
My intuition would go with continued high resolution and increased dated rates. There is also the possibility of data buffers on board. After all likely 80% of the orbit is over areas of no interest allowing that time to download.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jg on 09/14/2013 01:56 pm
That is assuming that when they increase the FOV they also keep the same resolution.

To make a bad analogy on shaky ground.

If we assume the focal plane remains the same between regular and 8x operations, hence the same sensor(s),
If we assume a similar field of view similar to the KH-8, ~10 miles
If we assume a resolution similar to the KH-8 brag of 2.5".

Then go 8x, lets say through a focal reducer or something equivalent.

We get a strip 80 miles wide at a resolution of 20", lets call it two feet.

While not quite as wide as the KH-9, it puts us in a similar resolution range. 80 miles is quite wide.

To me, that makes more sense than having a bigger sensors, and a larger focal plane. Optically that is a tough one.

Like I said a fair amount of shaky assumptions, but you can do wide area without increasing your bandwidth.
Kevin
Interesting analysis. I think that having bigger sensors is straight forward since if the KH11 workers in push broom then the sensor can be made as long as you want by staggering multiple sensors.
A larger field is available via TMA (three mirror anastigmat) configurations. E.g. http://www.ssl.berkeley.edu/~mlampton/6687-23.pdf
There have been several upgrades of the SDS sats.
My intuition would go with continued high resolution and increased dated rates. There is also the possibility of data buffers on board. After all likely 80% of the orbit is over areas of no interest allowing that time to download.

Exactly; the bandwidths required to transmit the full resolution of cameras (telescopes) like this is *huge*;  I know, just from my astronomy background...

These days, you can paper the entire focal plane with real time imagers at staggering resolution (i've had a 4k by 4k CCD imager in my hand, and the spooks can afford much more than astronomers).  Astronomers mosaic imagers like this over a focal plane. (just go look at Kepler).

So bandwidth is (and has always been) the limitation on how much of what kind/resolution/time resolution of imagery you can get to the ground ever since sometime in the late 1970's, when electronic imagers "came of age".  They *can't* ship all the bits down all the time, even today, I would guess, despite all the technological progress.

So Schwartzkopf's complaint of "soda straws", when dealing with a country the size of Iraq rings very true...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/14/2013 03:43 pm

An assumption on my part but my take is that the KH11 does not take two D snapshots (as in astronomy) but utilizes a long linear array normal to it's line of flight. The image is built up as the line of flight sweeps the linear array across the ground. The rate of acquisition is totally determines by the orbital parameters. This all means that when you go from a 2k linear detector to a 4K linear detector you only increase the data rate by a factor of 2x, not a factor of 4000X. Granted with multi spectral requirements the total data dump grows but it is closer to the length of the arrays times the number of spectral bands, not expodencially.
Given the above, contempory data compression and advances in SDS and data buffering I expect that the data rates are under control. When laser comm is incorporated the data rates will jump by orderes of magnitude.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/14/2013 08:23 pm
The famous leaked Aircraft Carrier photo's were definitely push broom. The streaking is due to different sensitivities   of the pixels in a 1D array.

Something to chew on, while never having worked with a Silicone Diode array, that is something I would expect from one. A CCD should transfer all the charge to a single AtoD, so I would expect less variation. That said, single tap CCD's are not the only beast, multi-tap and even single AotD's for each pixel column do exist. There was an interesting JPL patent in the mid 90's for tying individual pixels columns to individual AtoD's. Thus giving awesome sensor readout rates.

Communications bandwidth is not the only bandwidth issue. Readout rate is also an issue that is easier to deal with multiple taps on a 1d sensor.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/14/2013 09:24 pm
The famous leaked Aircraft Carrier photo's were definitely push broom. The streaking is due to different sensitivities   of the pixels in a 1D array.

I've been planning on doing an article about that incident again. The image of Russian carriers has shown up several times over the decades, and I wanted to note what was going on. But I really would like to get a full color image of the Jane's magazine cover. I only have the black and white. I know that I've seen the color one, but I don't know if I've seen it as a scan on the net or if I actually had a copy in my hands once.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 09/14/2013 09:25 pm
JG writes
"These days, you can paper the entire focal plane with real time imagers at staggering resolution (i've had a 4k by 4k CCD imager in my hand, and the spooks can afford much more than astronomers).  Astronomers mosaic imagers like this over a focal plane. (just go look at Kepler)."

Another example of a system using mutipal chips is the BAE ARGUS camera where 368 cell phone cameras at 5 megapixels are checker boarded together to produce a single 1.84 giga pixel image. Now that presents a data rate issue, epically when the output is at 15 frames per second.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/20/2013 08:52 pm
I'm so confused but yippee!!   ;D ;D

Your estimated delivery date is:
Monday, September 23, 2013
        
Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite (Library of Flight)
Sold by Amazon.com LLC
        
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 09/21/2013 09:35 pm
I'm so confused but yippee!!   ;D ;D

Your estimated delivery date is:
Monday, September 23, 2013
        
Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite (Library of Flight)
Sold by Amazon.com LLC
        

Got a nice surprise in the mail today, two day early  :)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/22/2013 09:32 am
My copy turned up out of the blue as well.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/24/2013 07:25 pm
I just stumbled across this. I don't know anything about it. But I have vague recollections that Jeff Geiger was the Air Force historian at Vandenberg.

I'm disappointed that the cut-off date is 1966. Vandenberg expanded substantially with the acquisition of the Sudden Ranch for SLC-6 and the MOL program, and I think that did not happen until 1966.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/25/2013 10:02 pm
My copy just arrived :)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/02/2013 08:04 pm
http://www.osa-opn.org/home/articles/volume_24/october_2013/features/spy_in_the_sky_the_kh-9_hexagon/#.Ukx2NLw1fY0

Spy in the Sky: The KH-9 Hexagon
Phil Pressel

The United States’ KH-9 Hexagon was arguably the most complicated film-based reconnaissance satellite ever put into orbit. Nearly a quarter century after its final launch, camera-designer Phil Pressel shares the no-longer-top-secret details of the mission.


In 1965, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John McCone posed a challenge to a select few American companies: Create a surveillance satellite that combines the best features of its predecessors—the broad area coverage of Corona and the high-resolution images of the KH-7 Gambit. Thus, the seed was planted for what would eventually become the KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite—the last film-based orbiting reconnaissance camera to be developed for the U.S. government.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/02/2013 08:04 pm
http://www.matthewaid.com/post/62801029466/kh-9-satellite-imagery-now-available-at-the-national


KH-9 Satellite Imagery Now Available at the National Archives

October 1, 2013

Nate Jones at the National Security Archive informs me that the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has literally dumped hundreds, if not thousands, of cans of raw KH-9 HEXAGON high-resolution satellite imagery upon the National Archives.Hooray!

The problem, and it is a HUGE one,  is that nobody knows what is in the KH-9 imagery film cans because NGA did not provide the Archives with a finding aid or index to accompany the newly released materials! All that is on the front of the film cans is the mission number and some vague and unhelpful geographic designators. No dates or any further information.

Unfortunately, this is typical of the way the intelligence community releases material. It is now incumbent on us to go can to can trying to piece together a rough index and finding aid for these newly release imagery materials. Any volunteers out there familiar with satellite imagery?

For those of you interested in what potential is contained in these film cans, take a look at this declassified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) collection of selected KH-9 satellite imagery demonstrating its clarity and high-resolution. http://www.nro.gov/history/csnr/gambhex/docs/hexagon_kh-9_imagery_web.pdf
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/02/2013 09:18 pm
I'm getting a DNS error when I type in http://National Archives.Hooray, you think the DNS error is part of the shutdown ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 10/02/2013 09:43 pm
I'm getting a DNS error when I type in http://National Archives.Hooray, you think the DNS error is part of the shutdown ;)
Most likely, I also was shut out of a couple of sites.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/09/2013 09:24 am
I was reading the reviews for this new book on Amazon & a couple of them seemed a bit disappointed that it only covered the camera system. Haven't got to reading it myself yet but I thought that it was known before it was released this was the case?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2013 11:57 am
I was reading the reviews for this new book on Amazon & a couple of them seemed a bit disappointed that it only covered the camera system. Haven't got to reading it myself yet but I thought that it was known before it was released this was the case?

It's the internet, there's no barrier to entry.

Oh, and one of those reviews was written by Jeff Bell, who has never had a nice word to say about anything or anybody, and he lives in Hawaii.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2013 11:58 am
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/09/2013 12:55 pm
Is that an ad poster? Or are they changing the cover?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2013 02:20 pm
Is that an ad poster? Or are they changing the cover?

That's from the print version of this:

http://www.osa-opn.org/home/articles/volume_24/october_2013/features/spy_in_the_sky_the_kh-9_hexagon/#.Ukx2NLw1fY0


Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/09/2013 02:57 pm


Thanks for that link. Some good illustrations.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/14/2013 05:46 pm
http://thespacereview.com/article/2383/1

Eyes of the Big Bird
by Dwayne Day
Monday, October 14, 2013

In 2004, I wrote an article about why there was no KH-9 HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Museum near Washington Dulles International Airport (see: “The invisible Big Bird: Why there is no KH-9 spy satellite in the Smithsonian”, The Space Review, November 8, 2004). The first HEXAGON launched in 1971 and the last in 1986, and the huge satellite had earned the nickname “big bird.” It used high-speed film to record images that covered vast amounts of territory, returning the images to the Earth in film-return capsules. In the late 1990s the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) was actively working on declassifying the HEXAGON and the GAMBIT satellite programs, but that effort had ground to a halt.

Shortly after I wrote that article I received a phone call from a man named Phil Pressel. “Are you the person who wrote the article in The Space Review?” Yes, I replied. “I’m the guy who built that thing!” he said. He wouldn’t say the name of the “thing” or even what it did. But he said he had worked for the Perkin-Elmer Company, had helped design the “payload” on the satellite, and that he was writing a history about it.

Phil Pressel’s history has now been published by AIAA Press. Titled Meeting The Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite, it is a detailed, behind-the-scenes account of designing the most complex mechanical device ever flown in space, and one of the most powerful reconnaissance cameras ever built. It is a great read.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/14/2013 07:19 pm
Nice twist on a review, I have been greatly enjoying the book in my free time...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/15/2013 04:42 pm
Quote
There was one other proposal to use this equipment on a mission in the early 1990s that I can't reveal at the moment. I will say that it's truly unbelievable. I didn't believe it when I first heard it, because it makes no sense. But the information is from a totally reliable source. You'll be able to read about it eventually when somebody (not me) publishes on this, although details are still somewhat sketchy. Hopefully, somewhere the study that they produced on this mission still exists and will get declassified.

Can this be revealed now that the book has been published ;)  ?

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/15/2013 05:58 pm
Quote
There was one other proposal to use this equipment on a mission in the early 1990s that I can't reveal at the moment. I will say that it's truly unbelievable. I didn't believe it when I first heard it, because it makes no sense. But the information is from a totally reliable source. You'll be able to read about it eventually when somebody (not me) publishes on this, although details are still somewhat sketchy. Hopefully, somewhere the study that they produced on this mission still exists and will get declassified.

Can this be revealed now that the book has been published ;)  ?



Did you read the TSR article? It's mentioned in there.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/15/2013 06:30 pm
ah, the Mars thing. This is crazy ! So how did they intented to retrieve the film buckets so far away from Earth ? sending capsules back, or film readout ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 10/16/2013 01:03 pm
ah, the Mars thing. This is crazy ! So how did they intented to retrieve the film buckets so far away from Earth ? sending capsules back, or film readout ?
There are lots of proposals, and reasons that they don't go forward. I expect that the issues you stated would be among the reasons it didn't go forward. Of course today I don't imagine anyone would suggest a film system. Never the less - interesting.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/16/2013 01:11 pm
Imagine if we had to rely on film for probes to Jupiter... Keeping the film from fogging in that radiation environment would make Mars look like a cake walk ;)

I apologize for taking us off topic on that musing...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/16/2013 02:50 pm
ah, the Mars thing. This is crazy ! So how did they intented to retrieve the film buckets so far away from Earth ? sending capsules back, or film readout ?

I don't know. Unfortunately, Phil doesn't remember much about the study other than it involved three people: him, an astronaut (he doesn't remember the name), and somebody else. It was very highly classified. They had to work in a special SCIF. And it was either late 1980s or early 1990s. My suspicion is that it might have been a result of the 1993 failure of Mars Observer: possibly somebody said "Hey, we have this powerful camera system sitting in storage, could it do anything useful?"

It blew my mind when he told me about it, but he is a very credible source and doesn't make stuff up.

I hope that NRO eventually (no, not "eventually," soon!) releases that report. But they seem to have had a hiatus from their document releases.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/16/2013 06:44 pm
I have no doubts the resolution would have been excellent, with Mars atmosphere being thinner than Earth... although the KH-9 was not for high-res, but for wide mapping (AFAIK).
I understand the fascination for the KH-9 and spy satellites. It was the NRO Apollo. What a machine. We never build a Mars Excursion Module, but we build this. And the history of NASA - NRO partnerships along the years is awesome. Spy satellites as planetary mappers - this is better than sci-fi.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 10/16/2013 08:46 pm
I have no doubts the resolution would have been excellent, with Mars atmosphere being thinner than Earth... although the KH-9 was not for high-res, but for wide mapping (AFAIK).
I understand the fascination for the KH-9 and spy satellites. It was the NRO Apollo. What a machine. We never build a Mars Excursion Module, but we build this. And the history of NASA - NRO partnerships along the years is awesome. Spy satellites as planetary mappers - this is better than sci-fi.
There is good precedent for using spy cameras for space mapping. The KH80 pan camera which was the go to camera for the SR71 and is still occasionally used in the U2 was flown on the Apollo missions to map the moon.
I believe it covered about 55% of the lunar surface.
The KH 80 is seen below being loaded.
So I spy and NASA were already in bed together.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: jg on 10/16/2013 10:27 pm
I have no doubts the resolution would have been excellent, with Mars atmosphere being thinner than Earth... although the KH-9 was not for high-res, but for wide mapping (AFAIK).
I understand the fascination for the KH-9 and spy satellites. It was the NRO Apollo. What a machine. We never build a Mars Excursion Module, but we build this. And the history of NASA - NRO partnerships along the years is awesome. Spy satellites as planetary mappers - this is better than sci-fi.
There is good precedent for using spy cameras for space mapping. The KH80 pan camera which was the go to camera for the SR71 and is still occasionally used in the U2 was flown on the Apollo missions to map the moon.
I believe it covered about 55% of the lunar surface.
The KH 80 is seen below being loaded.
So I spy and NASA were already in bed together.

Actually, it goes back well before NASA.

Dr. James G. Baker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Baker), who designed the U2 camera and lots of later optics in these systems, with Edwin Land convinced Eisenhower to build the U2, SR71, and kicked off satellite reconnaissance; I know he also worked on Samos and certainly consulted on the KH series.

Dr. Baker was an astronomer at Harvard (and my mentor, when I was young).  During the second world war, he organized a group of amateur astronomers at BU to help build cameras for WW2; many of those went on to become professional opticians at places like ITEK and elsewhere.

I'm still trying to figure out all the things that Jim had a finger in, and/or designed himself.

I still have a contact print he gave me centered on New York harbor taken with a camera (probably in a B36), and is a strip from horizon to horizon.  It's 18" wide by about 10 feet long!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Melt Run on 10/17/2013 10:34 pm
I have no doubts the resolution would have been excellent, with Mars atmosphere being thinner than Earth... although the KH-9 was not for high-res, but for wide mapping (AFAIK).
I understand the fascination for the KH-9 and spy satellites. It was the NRO Apollo. What a machine. We never build a Mars Excursion Module, but we build this. And the history of NASA - NRO partnerships along the years is awesome. Spy satellites as planetary mappers - this is better than sci-fi.
There is good precedent for using spy cameras for space mapping. The KH80 pan camera which was the go to camera for the SR71 and is still occasionally used in the U2 was flown on the Apollo missions to map the moon.
I believe it covered about 55% of the lunar surface.
The KH 80 is seen below being loaded.
So I spy and NASA were already in bed together.

Actually, it goes back well before NASA.

Dr. James G. Baker (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Baker), who designed the U2 camera and lots of later optics in these systems, with Edwin Land convinced Eisenhower to build the U2, SR71, and kicked off satellite reconnaissance; I know he also worked on Samos and certainly consulted on the KH series.

Dr. Baker was an astronomer at Harvard (and my mentor, when I was young).  During the second world war, he organized a group of amateur astronomers at BU to help build cameras for WW2; many of those went on to become professional opticians at places like ITEK and elsewhere.

I'm still trying to figure out all the things that Jim had a finger in, and/or designed himself.

I still have a contact print he gave me centered on New York harbor taken with a camera (probably in a B36), and is a strip from horizon to horizon.  It's 18" wide by about 10 feet long!
JG
It sounds like it is possible that our paths must have passed. I knew Jim but obviously not as well as you given that you had the good fortune to have him as your mentor.
Having spent 31 years at ITEK I'm sure I must have known several of the individuals you refer to.
If I were to guess in would put the Baker/ Nunn systems among the best known albeit only one of many.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/29/2013 03:58 am
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2392/1

Working in the shadows: Phil Pressel and the Hexagon spy camera
by Roger Guillemette and Dwayne Day
Monday, October 28, 2013

The history of the Cold War is filled with stories of people who fled persecution in Europe or elsewhere and ended up working in the American defense and intelligence fields. Physicists like Leo Szilard and Hans Bethe fled Germany to work on the Manhattan Project. Michael Yarymovych spent part of his childhood in a German work camp and fled the Russian attack on Berlin only to later travel to the United States and eventually serve as Chief Scientist of the US Air Force. Pedro Rustan escaped Castro’s Cuba by swimming across Guantanamo Bay, became a colonel in the US Air Force, and eventually developed advanced technology for American intelligence satellites. And Phil Pressel endured the Nazi occupation in occupied Belgium and France, traveled to the United States, and two decades later helped to design one of the most powerful satellite reconnaissance cameras ever built—a secret he kept for 46 years, sharing it with no one, not even his wife, from the time he first went to work for the Perkin-Elmer optics company in 1965.

On September 17, 2011, the then 74-year-old Holocaust survivor and kidney transplant recipient patiently waited in line with his wife as the doors opened to a large tent structure at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center. His life-long secret, an integral component in one of the United States’ most closely guarded assets, a behemoth larger than a school bus, was now on display for the whole world to see: the just-declassified KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 12/05/2013 05:10 pm
Phil Pressel's book is on sale right now for $25 along with a bunch of other aero and space books.

And you DO NOT have to be an AIAA member:

http://arc.aiaa.org/page/25for25sale

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 12/05/2013 06:28 pm
Phil Pressel's book is on sale right now for $25 along with a bunch of other aero and space books:

http://arc.aiaa.org/page/25for25sale



Thanx for the heads-up although the bank account may take a beating  :(
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 12/05/2013 08:03 pm
I ordered a bunch of books, including Parker Temple's book ("Shades of Gray," which is not to be confused with "Fifty Shades of Grey"*). The shuttle book is a lot cheaper via this deal than Amazon. The one downside is that their shipping costs are a bit high. They don't ship media mail, which is nutty.



























*Just noticed that you can get a new copy of this cheaper via Amazon.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: plutogno on 12/13/2013 04:09 pm
Phil Pressel's book is on sale right now for $25 along with a bunch of other aero and space books.

I received my copy today. thanks for the link!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 03/13/2014 12:18 pm
I just stumbled across this. I don't know anything about it. But I have vague recollections that Jeff Geiger was the Air Force historian at Vandenberg.

I'm disappointed that the cut-off date is 1966. Vandenberg expanded substantially with the acquisition of the Sudden Ranch for SLC-6 and the MOL program, and I think that did not happen until 1966.

I got my copy and I am also disappointed.  Just looking at the table of contents, the main body is 190 pages with an additional 70 pages of appendices.  There are only 40 pages dealing with VAFB in the main body.  Here is the kicker, there are more than 50 pages dealing with entertainment (USO) of the troops at Camp Cooke.  That just blew me away, more than a quarter of the book on that subject.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/13/2014 01:15 pm
I just stumbled across this. I don't know anything about it. But I have vague recollections that Jeff Geiger was the Air Force historian at Vandenberg.

I'm disappointed that the cut-off date is 1966. Vandenberg expanded substantially with the acquisition of the Sudden Ranch for SLC-6 and the MOL program, and I think that did not happen until 1966.

I got my copy and I am also disappointed.  Just looking at the table of contents, the main body is 190 pages with an additional 70 pages of appendices.  There are only 40 pages dealing with VAFB in the main body.  Here is the kicker, there are more than 50 pages dealing with entertainment (USO) of the troops at Camp Cooke.  That just blew me away, more than a quarter of the book on that subject.

Ugh. You gotta be bleeping kidding me!

When he was VAFB historian, he had a reputation for being unhelpful, among other things. He apparently treated the records collection there as his own property and wouldn't let anybody see it. I heard a story about somebody who had a substantial collection of official USAF videotapes, probably covering launch operations. They turned the material over to him for preservation, only to later have him deny that he had any of the material.

They apparently have a new historian. I have not tried to contact them.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/13/2014 03:15 pm

I ordered a bunch of books, including Parker Temple's book ("Shades of Gray," which is not to be confused with "Fifty Shades of Grey"*). The shuttle book is a lot cheaper via this deal than Amazon. The one downside is that their shipping costs are a bit high. They don't ship media mail, which is nutty.



























*Just noticed that you can get a new copy of this cheaper via Amazon.

When I searched for that it linked to another book Spy Satellites by Ambassador Thomas Graham is that worth a look as well?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/13/2014 04:49 pm

When I searched for that it linked to another book Spy Satellites by Ambassador Thomas Graham is that worth a look as well?

I don't know. Why don't you post something about it?

I was just wondering if you had heard of it, if you haven't then fair enough.

This is its Amazon link.

http://www.amazon.com/Satellites-Intelligence-Technologies-Changed-History/dp/0295986867/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_z
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/24/2014 12:18 pm
More Gambit/Hexagon material has been declassified by the NRO.

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Mar-2014/0151.html
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 03/24/2014 02:18 pm
Thanks, A fair amount on Higher boy. I did notice an interesting memo on the final KH-8 flyout strategy ( http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/GAMBIT%20DM/26.pdf ).

Kinda odd that it looks like they blotted out "barring any HEXAGON ######## failures". A black bit of foreshadowing?

I hope someday to have the time to dig into the new release, looks very interesting.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/24/2014 02:21 pm
I haven't got the ability to look into it at this moment but is there anything detailed on the ELINT piggyback satellites?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 03/24/2014 02:30 pm
More Gambit/Hexagon material has been declassified by the NRO.

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Mar-2014/0151.html

That is over a year old and already pointed out here

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26821.msg999587#msg999587
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/24/2014 02:51 pm
More Gambit/Hexagon material has been declassified by the NRO.

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Mar-2014/0151.html

That is over a year old and already pointed out here

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26821.msg999587#msg999587

If it is I apologise for posting but as I said above I haven't the ability to check it out at this time.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 03/25/2014 01:37 pm
I just stumbled across this. I don't know anything about it. But I have vague recollections that Jeff Geiger was the Air Force historian at Vandenberg.

I'm disappointed that the cut-off date is 1966. Vandenberg expanded substantially with the acquisition of the Sudden Ranch for SLC-6 and the MOL program, and I think that did not happen until 1966.

I got my copy and I am also disappointed.  Just looking at the table of contents, the main body is 190 pages with an additional 70 pages of appendices.  There are only 40 pages dealing with VAFB in the main body.  Here is the kicker, there are more than 50 pages dealing with entertainment (USO) of the troops at Camp Cooke.  That just blew me away, more than a quarter of the book on that subject.

Ugh. You gotta be bleeping kidding me!

When he was VAFB historian, he had a reputation for being unhelpful, among other things. He apparently treated the records collection there as his own property and wouldn't let anybody see it. I heard a story about somebody who had a substantial collection of official USAF videotapes, probably covering launch operations. They turned the material over to him for preservation, only to later have him deny that he had any of the material.

They apparently have a new historian. I have not tried to contact them.

Only 3 pages dealing with the Navy, slightly touches on management of the PMR.  Doesn't discuss the building of pads on the Navy facility.

Doesn't go into each missile type as they are hosted on the base.

No mention of AFSTC (Air Force Space Test Center), counterpart to AFMTC.  No mention of the 6565 Test Wing or even 6594 Launch Ops Squadron

I was very disappointed
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 04/01/2014 08:15 pm
From a Museum of the USAF periodic email--right down the road so I plan to attend :)

Lecture to focus on spy satellite

Hexagon KH-9 During a special presentation at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29, Phil Pressel will present "The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite." The Hexagon was the last orbiting reconnaissance camera that used film for photography, and it played an important part in U.S. intelligence and aerospace history. The Hexagon program ended in 1986 but was not declassified until September 2011. Pressel's talk will feature interesting anecdotes, personal stories and some technical details about this complex camera system that was capable of distinguishing objects two to three feet in size from an altitude of 100 miles above the earth. Watch the museum's website for more information as the event nears.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/04/2015 02:03 pm
Phil Pressel, who designed the HEXAGON camera system and wrote a book about it, is going to be live on The Space Show this Friday. You can call in with all your spysat questions:

http://www.thespaceshow.com/newsletterfinal.htm

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 02/04/2015 04:07 pm
Very good book I might add, I completely enjoyed it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/06/2015 04:28 pm
You can download his presentation here:

https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/phil-pressel-friday-2-6-15/

I tried to convert the PowerPoint file into a pdf, but it came out ridiculously big and I could not attach it here.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: AnalogMan on 02/06/2015 06:13 pm
You can download his presentation here:

https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/phil-pressel-friday-2-6-15/ (https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/phil-pressel-friday-2-6-15/)

I tried to convert the PowerPoint file into a pdf, but it came out ridiculously big and I could not attach it here.

Here's a pdf version (its about 1/3 the size of the original powerpoint file)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/08/2015 09:13 pm
The blog entry for Phil's appearance on The Space Show is here:

https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/phil-pressel-friday-2-6-15/

You can listen to the program here:

http://thespaceshow.com/detail.asp?q=2409

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/13/2015 02:39 am
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 03/18/2015 08:34 am
Can anyone confirm for me the definition of what the NRO means when they say that a camera system has a ground resolved distance (grd) of 2 feet?  Does it mean that the system can resolve a 2 foot object and a 2 foot space or does it mean it can resolve a 1 foot object with a 1 foot space for a total of 2 feet?  Also how does it compare to a resolution of 2 feet?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 05/06/2015 01:48 am
From a NRO Facebook post  "View NRO satellites on the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Virtual Tour: http://bit.ly/1yw56TR. Select the center dot in the Cold War section of the map (Cold War – 078). GAMBIT 1 and GAMBIT 3 are to the left, Hexagon to the right. Select each image for more information, or click on the links below:"

Hexagon   http://www.nmusafvirtualtour.com/media/067/067q.html
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 09/23/2015 05:26 am
Quote
Surprisingly, a few years later Pressel was asked to work on a highly classified study about whether the KH-9 camera system could be sent to Mars.

http://www.space.com/21064-nasa-donated-spy-telescope-mars.html

Could the KH-9 mission have been similar ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/23/2015 01:13 pm
More likely, it would have been quite different.

Remember:

The KH-9 telescope was two 1/2 meter telescopes that rotated sweeping wide swaths left and right of the orbital plane, the donated mirrors are 2.4 meter and will most likely sit and stare or take long narrow strips.

The KH-9 was a medium to high resolution broad area search system producing a strip up to 340 miles wide with a resolution better than one foot. These mirrors will have a narrower field of view at higher resolution.

The KH-9 would most likely been tasked with producing a high resolution map of Mars, which now exist. The proposed mission sounds more like an MRO replacement. It sounds like they want to look at sections of Mars at very high resolution.

From the article, it also sounds like they want it to look down (replacing MRO) and up (replacing Hubble). That should be very interesting... Especially for planetary science, It will be significantly closer to the Jovian system giving us better views without the cost of another Galileo.

So in a nut shell, it could replace MRO, Hubble, Galileo, and Cassini (not as well but it will produce high resolution imaging of the outer planets. A void that will not be filled anytime soon).

To be cynical, money exists to study Mars, money does not exist to replace Hubble, some one just said by proposing this we get a "Hubble replacement" by raiding the money set aside for Mars.

I would be curious at Blackstar's take on this one... I don't think this would be a "bad" mission, but I question motives.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/23/2015 03:04 pm
Quote
Surprisingly, a few years later Pressel was asked to work on a highly classified study about whether the KH-9 camera system could be sent to Mars.

http://www.space.com/21064-nasa-donated-spy-telescope-mars.html

Could the KH-9 mission have been similar ?

I've asked Phil about this study and he really does not remember much at all about it other than he worked on it with two other people, one of whom was an astronaut (he does not remember the name) and that they did it in a secure area of a CIA facility, probably in the late 1980s or early 1990s. My guess is they worked at a vault at CIA HQ or something like that. He doesn't remember why they did it or who sponsored it, or any of the technical details. Somebody I know FOIA'd the study and got a "no records found" reply. My guess is that a copy of the study exists somewhere, but that there's probably a massive pile of boxes filled with KH-9 records and it is in the bottom of one of them.

My guess is that this might have been associated with the loss of the Mars Observer, and maybe somebody, like a NASA representative to NRO, suggested that there was a big classified camera system sitting in a warehouse that maybe could be used at Mars, and so maybe NASA or NRO threw a few tens of thousands of dollars in discretionary funds (agency administrators always have a small discretionary budget to fund things that come up, and the head of CIA or NRO might have a fat discretionary fund). So they then got this small group together to see if it could work.

It strikes me as pretty bizarre. KH-9 was a film return program, and you'd have to send that camera all the way to Mars, take photos, and then bring back the film. Not an efficient way to do things. So they might have done a study, concluded "Yes, it is feasible, but stupid," and that was it.

Note that it has been a number of years since NRO has released any more KH-9 files. They certainly have hundreds of thousands of pages of them sitting somewhere.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 09/23/2015 04:32 pm
Quote
KH-9 was a film return program, and you'd have to send that camera all the way to Mars, take photos, and then bring back the film. Not an efficient way to do things.

Indeed that sounds quite stupid - how does the film bucket goes back to Earth ? it needs a big rocket engine to escape Mars gravity, then the capsule has to withstand months of deep space cold, and then it has to resist a re-entry at 11 km/s.

Or perhaps they planned to use film read-out, like Lunar orbiter.  But the KH-9 would have to be modified.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/23/2015 06:03 pm
Didn't film readout require special film? Would that film had been compatible with the KH-9 camera?

Of course all this would have required a rocket larger than Titan to loft it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/23/2015 09:15 pm
Of course all this would have required a rocket larger than Titan to loft it.

I don't think so. Figure that they would have had only a single film return vehicle and they would have dramatically reduced the film load. So the basic spacecraft would have been significantly smaller.

I'm not saying that this is a good idea, but maybe they found a way to make a realistic proposal.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 09/24/2015 09:57 am
I think a big Centaur could do the job of pushing the KH-9 out of Earth gravity well. Perhaps they could have used EOR.
Say a Titan launches the Centaur into orbit, a Shuttle carries the KH-9. They meet in orbit, and then the shuttle uses its robotic arm to dock the Centaur to the KH-9 rear bulkhead. Then fire the Centaur, and go to Mars.
There was a pre-Challenger plan to achieve JPL Mars Sample return that way.

Then another silly aspect of the proposal is, how does the KH-9 brake into Mars orbit ? AFAIK the KH-9 propulsion system used monopropellant hydrazine with a very crappy specific impulse.

Admittedly, I feel I'm beating a dead horse.  :)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/24/2015 03:05 pm
I think a big Centaur could do the job of pushing the KH-9 out of Earth gravity well. Perhaps they could have used EOR.
Say a Titan launches the Centaur into orbit, a Shuttle carries the KH-9. They meet in orbit, and then the shuttle uses its robotic arm to dock the Centaur to the KH-9 rear bulkhead. Then fire the Centaur, and go to Mars.
There was a pre-Challenger plan to achieve JPL Mars Sample return that way.

Then another silly aspect of the proposal is, how does the KH-9 brake into Mars orbit ? AFAIK the KH-9 propulsion system used monopropellant hydrazine with a very crappy specific impulse.

Admittedly, I feel I'm beating a dead horse.  :)


You're making the assumption that they would launch an entire KH-9. They were only studying the use of the camera system, not the entire vehicle. So assume the camera system with a new film supply (much smaller) and only a single reentry vehicle. Much smaller spacecraft.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/24/2015 09:37 pm
Then what would be the benifit of reusing the KH-9 technology be? You are designing an all new spacecraft. My guess is that is most likely what killed it.

1. Film has to survice several years in space without fogging.
2. Thermal load on the system is different
3. Would need larger solar arrays
4. Now need to redesign it arround a single film bucket
5. Now need to redesign the film vault to hold a smaller load
6. Now need to design a new spacecraft
7. Now need a com system that works at Mars
8. Now need to reduce enough weight to get it to Mars

I wonder if they came up with a similar list, stood back, went oh my, asked how much that would cost, then went nah...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/25/2015 12:20 am
Yeah, I pretty much agree with your list. It's a head-scratcher. But I believe Phil. He has been very good at remembering stuff as it happened, not making stuff up.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: arachnitect on 10/27/2015 12:34 am
Another Space Review article on Titan 34D-9
Launch failures: Titan Groundhog Day
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2852/1

Quote
Any launch produces some concern, but the launch of Titan 34D-9 planned for that day was considerably more intense in that respect than most. The previous launch from SLC-4, Titan 34D-7 in August of 1985, had failed. The loss was especially traumatic. A few of the “big” Titans equipped with solid rocket motor strap-on stages had failed at Cape Canaveral, but none had been lost at Vandenberg before the D-7 launch.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: David1884 on 02/25/2016 06:03 am
I knew historian Jeff Geiger and worked well with him on a couple of projects that I was researching while stationed at VAFB.  He was extremely knowledgeable and very helpful to me. Sure he doesn't let people go rummaging through the archives and pulling things out of order.  Show me any legitimate historical archives that allows the public go into the files -- not the National Archives, or even the UCSB college special collections library.  You guys are just trash talking him with hearsay.

I purchased a copy of his book and IT DOES cover the Sudden Ranch acquisition, the MOL project, and the transfer of the space & missile range from the Navy to the Air Force. All of these events happened in 1965-66. Having known Mr. Geiger and his penchant for accuracy, among the many good things I can say about his book with absolute certainly is that his information is 100 percent factually true.

Yes, I too would liked to have seen more about VAFB in his book, but he explains in the book the reason for the cutoff at 1966.  Had he brought the book up to the 1980s and beyond, the publisher would probably have increased the price of the book into the stratosphere.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 03/04/2016 08:19 pm
Since we don't have a good NRO thread, and I hope it might relate to the KH-11, not the KH-9, or maybe DSP, or all of the above,  but....

Tweet today from the NRO:
Quote
NRO ‏@NatReconOfc  15m15 minutes ago
Stay tuned for a special video, "The NRO and Operation Desert Storm" with IC partners including DNI James Clapper @ODNIgov. #DesertStorm
https://twitter.com/NatReconOfc/status/705860755535495171

Interesting? Anything in the declassification pipeline?
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/05/2016 02:55 pm
Since we don't have a good NRO thread, and I hope it might relate to the KH-11, not the KH-9, or maybe DSP, or all of the above,  but....

Tweet today from the NRO:
Quote
NRO ‏@NatReconOfc  15m15 minutes ago
Stay tuned for a special video, "The NRO and Operation Desert Storm" with IC partners including DNI James Clapper @ODNIgov. #DesertStorm
https://twitter.com/NatReconOfc/status/705860755535495171

Interesting? Anything in the declassification pipeline?

Too late for the KH-9 to have been in use & seems too early for KH-11 declassification so it must be a more generalist examination.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/05/2016 03:14 pm
Too late for the KH-9 to have been in use & seems too early for KH-11 declassification so it must be a more generalist examination.

I think it will be generalist too. However, they might declassify some imagery. Remember that there was KH-11 imagery released during the 1990s regarding Afghanistan and Kosovo. Not high quality stuff, but some. They could easily take some old imagery, degrade to half a meter resolution (approximately the current commercial standard) and release that. Then there would be some discussion of increasing support for the military, etc.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Ronsmytheiii on 03/05/2016 10:05 pm
LOTS of videos and documents now posted at the NRO web-site!!!

http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html

Displaying "Internal Server Error" tonight.  Hmmmmm.

 - Ed Kyle

Try this:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130619215510/http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/06/2016 01:19 am
LOTS of videos and documents now posted at the NRO web-site!!!

http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html

Displaying "Internal Server Error" tonight.  Hmmmmm.

 - Ed Kyle

Try this:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130619215510/http://www.nro.mil/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html


You realize you were replying to a message five and a half years old, right?

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 03/06/2016 09:01 pm
Too late for the KH-9 to have been in use & seems too early for KH-11 declassification so it must be a more generalist examination.

I think it will be generalist too. However, they might declassify some imagery. Remember that there was KH-11 imagery released during the 1990s regarding Afghanistan and Kosovo. Not high quality stuff, but some. They could easily take some old imagery, degrade to half a meter resolution (approximately the current commercial standard) and release that. Then there would be some discussion of increasing support for the military, etc.
Also don't forget, the current administration did release some Syrian images that clearly looked like they came from a non commercial provider (KH-11?). There was some discussion in one of these threads...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/06/2016 11:01 pm
Too late for the KH-9 to have been in use & seems too early for KH-11 declassification so it must be a more generalist examination.

I think it will be generalist too. However, they might declassify some imagery. Remember that there was KH-11 imagery released during the 1990s regarding Afghanistan and Kosovo. Not high quality stuff, but some. They could easily take some old imagery, degrade to half a meter resolution (approximately the current commercial standard) and release that. Then there would be some discussion of increasing support for the military, etc.
Also don't forget, the current administration did release some Syrian images that clearly looked like they came from a non commercial provider (KH-11?). There was some discussion in one of these threads...

There's no reason that the intelligence community could not put out a brief video discussing imagery support during Desert Storm. They could easily discuss things like monitoring the location of the Iraqi army to enable the flanking maneuver that went around them, as well as other things, like figuring out the best way to cut off the Iraqi forces in Kuwait based upon how they were deployed. And if they wanted to, they could declassify some 25-year-old spysat images to make their point.

Now if they really wanted to get into the subject--and I doubt that they do, because government organizations rarely like to honestly face their past--they could delve into some of the darker aspects as well. For instance, the "Baby Milk Factory" case, where the Air Force blew up what they suspected was a chemical weapons facility but was in fact... a baby milk factory.* Or they could address the attack on the bunker that they thought was a command and control facility but in reality held a couple of hundred civilians who were killed. It would be interesting to learn what role imagery intelligence played in those mistakes, and what they learned from them in an effort to not repeat them in the future.






*This one got a lot of doubters because workers at the facility were shown wearing uniforms with "Baby Milk Factory" printed on the back in English, and lots of people thought that seemed like ridiculous and sloppy propaganda. But apparently the uniforms with the words printed on them were supplied by the foreign manufacturer of the facility and the workers simply wore what they were given. Life is full of absurdities.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/08/2016 07:47 pm
This is tomorrow. If I wasn't caught up with other things, I'd attend:

http://admin.listpilot.net/mpower/showHtml.do?ac=afa&id=a6vthcc_5a218eae

Desert Storm 25 Years Later
An Inflection Point
A Discussion with:
The Commanders, Planners, & Air Crews
of the Desert Storm Air Campaign


In the early morning of January 17, 1991, the United States launched the opening strikes of Operation Desert Storm. These missions unveiled new technologies, strategies, and tactics that forever changed the parameters of war. The pairing of stealth, precision and an effects-based strategy bridged the gap between the long-promised potential of aerial attack with the actual means of real-world employment.

The Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute invites you to join us for a symposium to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Desert Storm and a major revolution in warfare. The symposium will be held on March 9 from 1:00 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. at the Cosmos Club in Washington DC.

This unique event takes stock of the lessons of Desert Storm, and considers what these achievements can teach us about the future vectors for America's security strategy, and associated investments.

This venue is an opportunity to engage with the planners of Desert Storm from the top commanders and strategists, to those tasked with flying the missions. This event will examine the virtues and lessons of the "second offset strategy,” and their influence on investment in the next generation of game changing capabilities. Not since 1991 have this range of key actors involved with the Desert Storm Air Campaign, been assembled in one place to discuss this pivotal conflict.

We hope that you will be able to join us.

Keynote Speaker
Gen David Goldfein, USAF, Vice Chief of Staff

Senior Leaders
The Honorable Dr. Donald Rice, 17th Secretary of the Air Force
Gen Chuck Horner, USAF (Ret) Joint/Combined Force Air Component Commander, Desert Storm

The Air Campaign Planners
Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF (Ret)
Col John Warden, USAF (Ret)

The Operators
Lt Gen George Muellner, USAF (Ret)
Lt Gen Orville Wright, USAF (Ret)
 Lt Gen Greg Biscone, USAF
Maj Gen Greg Feest, USAF (Ret)

The Analysts
Dr. Ben Lambeth
Mr. Barry Watts
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 03/09/2016 07:22 pm
Quote
Gen Orville Wright

That guy was born to be an aviator from the craddle
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Hog on 03/11/2016 04:25 pm
I remember the late General Schwarzkopf being disappointed that the reconnaissance capability of the SR-71 Blackbird was unavailable during desert Shield and Desert Storm.

This was also a period in time just after STS started flying again.  There were some classified payloads that were waiting for rides to orbit.

I don't see the KH-9 Desert Storm link though.  Hexagon was all done in the mid 80's wasn't it?
From NASA

NSSDCA ID: 1984-065A

Launch Information
Launch Date: 1984-06-25 at 18:43:00 UTC
Launch Vehicle: Titan 34D
Launch Site: Vandenberg AFB, United States
Decay Date: 1984-10-18

Before this happened in 1986.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXBl03wVHOY

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/11/2016 07:10 pm
There was a document about Desert Storm released in the mid-1990s that included a lament that a still-classified reconnaissance system was not available for the war. Its wide area capability would have been very useful. It's pretty clear they were referring to HEXAGON, although it had been gone for about six years by then. I'll leave it to some enterprising person to overlay the HEXAGON coverage swath on Kuwait and Iraq.

There were later 1980s proposals (or at least one proposal) to fly the remaining engineering camera in the shuttle bay. These never got approved.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 03/12/2016 12:09 pm
Since we don't have a good NRO thread, and I hope it might relate to the KH-11, not the KH-9, or maybe DSP, or all of the above,  but....

Tweet today from the NRO:
Quote
NRO ‏@NatReconOfc  15m15 minutes ago
Stay tuned for a special video, "The NRO and Operation Desert Storm" with IC partners including DNI James Clapper @ODNIgov. #DesertStorm
https://twitter.com/NatReconOfc/status/705860755535495171

Video is now available:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCjt-pRSB8Y (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCjt-pRSB8Y)

As suggested by Blackstar, it includes a couple of overhead images.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/12/2016 04:10 pm
Thanks for the video. Blimey Clapper has been in intelligence fifty years that's one heck of a long career.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/12/2016 05:32 pm
The video was a little more insular than I had hoped. It primarily discusses in general terms how NRO assets were not useful for the military and how that resulted in a big change in an effort to make them more useful, so that today they are highly integrated. No mention of things like TENCAP ("Tactical Exploitation of National CAPabilities") and efforts during the war to get those assets into the field. Some of that happened, but not a lot. For instance, they show a trailer being loaded into a C-5. I think that was part of a TENCAP ground station.

Really, other than a few of the still images, I didn't see anything that has not come out before, some of it back in the 1990s. Maybe the specific story about the imagery right before the invasion being two weeks old was new, but there are a number of 1990s-era stories, including official ones, about how ill-suited NRO assets were for the task. So although the purpose of this video was a general overview of the issue, it didn't reveal anything new or particularly notable. See my earlier post about what I think could have been new and interesting (i.e. discussion of some of the big mistakes during the war and how imagery may have played a role).

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/28/2016 02:49 pm
Also relevant here, because it refers to the early years of the HEXAGON:


http://thespacereview.com/article/2954/1


Big Bird and the Big Mother
US intelligence community monitoring of the Soviet lunar program after Apollo
by Dwayne Day
Monday, March 28, 2016

It’s not easy pinpointing exactly when the race to the Moon was won. Many historians claim it was when Apollo 8 circled the Moon in December 1968. Certainly it was over by July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin put their bootprints in the lunar dirt. But even after the race was over, the Soviets continued working on their plans to send men to the Moon, and the US intelligence community kept a careful watch on their activities.

Throughout the 1960s, American CORONA and GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites had overflown the sprawling Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, which the CIA referred to as Tyura-Tam, and photographed the development of what National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC, or “enpic”) experts had labeled “Complex J,” the massive launch pad facility where the Soviets launched their N-1 rockets. In 1969, several American intelligence systems had detected a massive explosion of the rocket that CIA analysts had initially called “the big mother” and later formally designated the “J vehicle.” The rocket had barely cleared its tower when it malfunctioned, fell back onto the pad, and blew itself to kingdom come. The explosion had been devastating, causing major damage to the pad.

Seventeen days later, Neil and Buzz landed at Tranquility.

The July explosion was, in fact, the second N-1 launch and the second failure. The first had occurred in February 1969 and been missed by US intelligence agencies when it blew up too far downrange to leave a visible debris field, but not high enough to appear on tracking radar. The July 1969 failure had dealt a more serious blow to the program, however, taking one of the two launch pads out of service for years. Over the next few years, US intelligence satellites continued to monitor that facility for signs of recovery and new activity. CORONA flew a few more missions before it was retired, and a GAMBIT spacecraft flew every few months, providing very high resolution images of the launch complex.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 03/29/2016 08:34 am
To Blackstar,  could you please post the web address of the newly released HEXAGON OAK reports if they are available on-line.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/29/2016 11:00 am
To Blackstar,  could you please post the web address of the newly released HEXAGON OAK reports if they are available on-line.

They're not available online. I got them at an archive.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: simonbp on 03/29/2016 08:29 pm
Dwayne, I love this quote and am saving for the future:

Quote
The Swiss make fine watches, the Germans make fine cars, and the Americans made sophisticated spacecraft like HEXAGON.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 03/29/2016 09:05 pm
Dwayne, I love this quote and am saving for the future:

Quote
The Swiss make fine watches, the Germans make fine cars, and the Americans made sophisticated spacecraft like HEXAGON.

Then there's another one you might like.

"The Egyptians built the pyramids. America builds space shuttles."--John Pike

(Not an exact quote, but I saw something like that from him in a newspaper article back in the 1990s.)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 03/29/2016 09:27 pm
Good article.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2016 07:06 am
Wonder if this book will be worth a look when published. The author appears he should know his stuff.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1785210866/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1464073453&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=spy+satellite+manual+2016
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 06/13/2016 05:40 pm
The designer of the KH-9 camera will be at the USAF museum on June, 14, in front of the satellite mockup.
A short presentation of the man and his work by Dwayne Day:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3004/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3004/1)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 06/13/2016 05:56 pm
I think Phil is going to give a talk four times tomorrow. I don't know the exact times, but they are something like 11, 12:30, 2 and 4--essentially spread out across the day. I'll be there, also touring the museum.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 06/14/2016 02:25 am
Phil's first talk is at 10 AM and it will be video recorded.


Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 06/15/2016 02:37 am
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/03/2016 12:25 am
CNN program about Hexagon Sunday night:

http://www.cnn.com/videos/tech/2016/08/05/declassified-ep-8-hexagon-2.cnn

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/03/2016 12:29 am
A relatively long article about the Hexagon. I'm quoted in it, so is Phil Pressel who built the camera.

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/01/us/declassified-spy-satellite-hexagon/index.html

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/03/2016 01:36 am
Nice article, but eight film buckets? Should have offered to proof read it for them ;)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/03/2016 02:59 am
Nice article, but eight film buckets? Should have offered to proof read it for them ;)

I counted about 4-5 relatively minor mistakes in the article. But trust me, I had very low expectations. It was one of the most aggravating interviews I've done. The guy kept doubting things that I told him and I almost said "Look, you called me for information, so why do you keep disbelieving me?"

For example, he didn't believe me when I said that the best resolution for the Hexagon was still classified. And then he was annoyed when I would not tell him what it was. And I told him that Hexagon worked with Gambit, which had even better resolution, but he seemed steadfast about not mentioning any other systems besides Hexagon. And then when I told him that current systems can probably see a bit into the infrared he didn't believe me because he thought that infrared satellites were something entirely different. (I had to explain to him how many commercial cameras have infrared capability and use a filter to block IR wavelengths, but that also did not seem to register with him.) Surprisingly, some of the stuff I told him actually ended up in the article. But after fifteen minutes of that I started getting angry.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 09/03/2016 01:10 pm
Must resist urge to make Incredible Hulk jokes ;)

But I agree, I swear at times, the majority of my co-workers do not know any history or science beyond what they see on the discovery channel. If it was not covered on one of those shows, they don't have the depth and are unwilling to accept facts beyond the show. You know how many times over the last few days someone came up to me and said Facebook lost a satellite on Thursday? I have a term for it, Cliff Notes science. they do not know, or want to know beyond the cliff notes.

Though, as far as CNN goes, much better than CNN airline crash coverage. On Airline message boards you get whole threads mocking CNN and it's coverage. It is that bad....
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/03/2016 02:04 pm
Must resist urge to make Incredible Hulk jokes ;)

But I agree, I swear at times, the majority of my co-workers do not know any history or science beyond what they see on the discovery channel. If it was not covered on one of those shows, they don't have the depth and are unwilling to accept facts beyond the show. You know how many times over the last few days someone came up to me and said Facebook lost a satellite on Thursday? I have a term for it, Cliff Notes science. they do not know, or want to know beyond the cliff notes.

Though, as far as CNN goes, much better than CNN airline crash coverage. On Airline message boards you get whole threads mocking CNN and it's coverage. It is that bad....

I thought PBS do more serious documentaries in the US, mind you all the ones I see over here on their UK channel seem to be just about US history. No science or anything like that.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: catdlr on 09/04/2016 05:35 am
Must resist urge to make Incredible Hulk jokes ;)

But I agree, I swear at times, the majority of my co-workers do not know any history or science beyond what they see on the discovery channel. If it was not covered on one of those shows, they don't have the depth and are unwilling to accept facts beyond the show. You know how many times over the last few days someone came up to me and said Facebook lost a satellite on Thursday? I have a term for it, Cliff Notes science. they do not know, or want to know beyond the cliff notes.

Though, as far as CNN goes, much better than CNN airline crash coverage. On Airline message boards you get whole threads mocking CNN and it's coverage. It is that bad....

I thought PBS do more serious documentaries in the US, mind you all the ones I see over here on their UK channel seem to be just about US history. No science or anything like that.

IMHO, The quality of US made documentaries over the recent years has gone downhill (might be due to budgets and/or cost).  I've seen more and more PBS documentaries that rely on BBC input as well as British people (scientist, narration, etc).  The US based documentaries rely on too much blood and gore shots or bloody reenactments.  BBC is more humane on that score.  It's a rare day to see a great documentary created from Nat Geo, NOVA or from Ken Burns.  My 2 cents.


Sorry, but let'e get back on the subject.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 09/04/2016 01:11 pm
Just to be clear: I am not in this CNN documentary. I was complaining about the interview for the story that pitches the CNN documentary.

I have been told that the documentary is pretty good, but that they spent way too much time on the recovery of the sunken film bucket rather than the Hexagon. That incident was a minor one in the history of the program.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 09/07/2016 12:57 am
Reached the British press as well.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3772714/Hexagon-satellites-took-pictures-better-Google-Earth-Cold-War.html
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2016 02:09 am
Pages posted to Amazon from the new Haynes book "Spy Satellites" by David Baker. I have not seen the book yet.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 10/09/2016 09:51 am
Just got my copy, the Amazon pages look pretty representative of the whole book.  Main criticism on a quick look is that Guiseppe's drawings are printed rather too small on the page.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 10/09/2016 11:21 am
Just got my copy, the Amazon pages look pretty representative of the whole book.  Main criticism on a quick look is that Guiseppe's drawings are printed rather too small on the page.
Any interesting stuff on the KH-11?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 10/09/2016 12:05 pm
Not really, the little that's already available, impressions based on Hubble.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/09/2016 04:32 pm
It is possible to do more on KENNEN, but it requires a lot of work. I have managed to acquire a number of documents and do some careful analysis trying to figure out blocks/models and such. But I haven't written on it because it's a lot of mental work. It's a lot more analysis than sifting through documents. And in the end, it would be a high analysis-to-data ratio, which makes me nervous. I don't like speculating that much.

I may get to writing something on KENNEN, but there are more productive subjects to mine.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/10/2016 03:46 pm
Just received the book US Spy Satellites 1959 onwards written by Dr David Baker who according to the blurb on the back of the book worked with NASA on the Gemini, Apollo & Shuttle programmes between 1965 & 1990. He's currently the editor of Spaceflight magazine so he's got quite the space flight biography. The book is part of the Haynes manual series with the Corona, Samos, Gambit & Hexagon taking up the majority of the book. Though WS-117L, MOL/Dorian & Kennen also get mentions. There is a good deal of text but also quite a number of photos & illustrations. A number of the illustrations are by Giuseppe de Chiara whose work will be familiar to people on these threads. Also some larger scale illustrations by Ian Moores. Plus background stuff in the agencies who are the clients for the data generated. Seems mostly focussed on visual reconnaissance.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/10/2016 10:21 pm
Just received the book US Spy Satellites 1959 onwards written by Dr David Baker who according to the blurb on the back of the book worked with NASA on the Gemini, Apollo & Shuttle programmes between 1965 & 1990.

Baker has a fascinating early background history that I'm hoping he will tell someday soon.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 10/11/2016 11:51 am
He is a member of this forum and posted many times (and that was always interesting stuff)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/11/2016 12:27 pm
He is a member of this forum and posted many times (and that was always interesting stuff)

Thanks. Sounds like the book should be a good read then.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Hog on 10/31/2016 01:14 pm
It's interesting compare and contrast the cost difference between the KH-9 and KH-11 programs.


KH-9
"The total cost of the 20 flight KH-9 program from FY1966 to FY1986 was US$3.262 billion in respective year dollars"

KH-11
"According to Senator Kit Bond initial budget estimates for each of the two legacy KH-11 satellites ordered from Lockheed in 2005 were higher than for the latest Nimitz-class aircraft carrier (CVN-77) with its projected procurement cost of US$6.35 billion as of May 2005. In 2011, after the launch of USA-224, DNRO Bruce Carlson announced that the procurement cost for the satellite had been US$2 billion under the initial budget estimate, which would put it at about US$4.4 billion (inflation adjusted US$4.64 billion in 2015)."
"In April 2014, the NRO assigned a "worth more than $5 billion"  to the final two legacy KH-11 satellites."


.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 02:34 pm

It's interesting compare and contrast the cost difference between the KH-9 and KH-11 programs.


I would caution against taking the comparison too far. Inflation adjustments are notoriously hinky things--there are various ones for different purposes. In fact, there is an aerospace inflation adjuster that is considerably higher than the general one (which I think is the Consumer Price Index inflator) that most people refer to. Thus, the cost of that historical program when inflated to today's dollars would likely be much higher.

I'd also caution against something else--the cost is not the most important measurement of value. If you spend $2 billion on a satellite but it enables you to avoid spending hundreds of billions of dollars on military equipment, then it is a good investment.

And finally... some of the KH-11s have been in service for a VERY LONG time. If you take the procurement cost and then divide it out by how long it was in service, it turns out to be an incredible investment.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/31/2016 05:41 pm
Does that include the Delta Heavy? Depending on which numbers you use, they can very pricey.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/31/2016 06:54 pm
Probably belongs in the KH-8 thread, but everyone's favorite satellite photo target just trolled NSF by posing for a new social media snapshot.

https://twitter.com/DigitalGlobe/status/793149319637508096

Quote
DigitalGlobe
Impressive shot of Russia's aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, captured last Friday by #GeoEye1
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Hog on 10/31/2016 07:01 pm

It's interesting compare and contrast the cost difference between the KH-9 and KH-11 programs.


I would caution against taking the comparison too far. Inflation adjustments are notoriously hinky things--there are various ones for different purposes. In fact, there is an aerospace inflation adjuster that is considerably higher than the general one (which I think is the Consumer Price Index inflator) that most people refer to. Thus, the cost of that historical program when inflated to today's dollars would likely be much higher.

I'd also caution against something else--the cost is not the most important measurement of value. If you spend $2 billion on a satellite but it enables you to avoid spending hundreds of billions of dollars on military equipment, then it is a good investment.

And finally... some of the KH-11s have been in service for a VERY LONG time. If you take the procurement cost and then divide it out by how long it was in service, it turns out to be an incredible investment.
On taking the comparison too far, I agree 100%.  I was looking at the cost of some of these birds, and then looking at the mission length of the different birds.

I like the comparison of cost to the modern Nimitz class carrier.  To some, it might be difficult to justify a satellite, the size of a school bus (approx.) that's only job is to provide imaging, whereas an aircraft carrier, 1/5 of a mile long, can project substantial power anywhere on the Earth.  But as you mention, if that one satellite can provide you with information that helps you to decide if you require a fleet of 10 carriers, or a fleet of 2 carriers.

You mention the life span of some of these KH-11 satellites have been in service for a long time.  Yes, they sure have.  I was surprised to see that some of them are/were approaching 20 years.  That has to help the financial investment vs. service length argument.  The kh-11 service length is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum compared to the KH-9 units, whose service length is measured in months, as in 3-4 months for some of them.

Excellent points as always Blackstar, on such a fascinating subject.  I only wish that my lifespan would be long enough to see more detail of these systems as their "dark" status is slowly illuminated for our examination.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: IainMcClatchie on 10/31/2016 07:04 pm
If folks are interested in Hexagon (KH-9), you might want to read "Meeting the Challenge: The Hexagon KH-9 Reconnaisance Satellite" by my friend Phil Pressel and many others.  Each chapter was written by someone who worked on that section of the program.  Because the book was written while the program was classified, there were severe constraints on what the various authors could say to each other, and so it can get repetitive when different chapters explain the same thing.  But it's authoritative.

I also have a 2013 blog post (http://ambivalentengineer.blogspot.com/2013/04/optical-bar-cameras.html) [edit: fixed link] on the Optical Bar Camera technology in the Hexagon which I had to completely rewrite once I got talking with Phil.

The $3.262B number looks very wrong.  Is that a per-satellite number?  I have no inside information, and the cost of the KH-9 program was never declassified to my knowledge.  But among other things I don't think that would cover even the cost of 20 Titan-34D launches, let alone the payload construction costs.

I've also heard the film canister midair retrievals were fairly costly, although without specific numbers I'd be surprised if those 95 recovery missions (each requiring six aircraft) were a significant fraction of the overall budget.

https://www.amazon.com/Meeting-Challenge-Hexagon-Reconnaissance-Satellite/dp/1624102034/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477943451&sr=8-1&keywords=phil+pressel
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 07:05 pm
I like the comparison of cost to the modern Nimitz class carrier. 

The current USS Ford is turning out to be far more expensive than planned.

On a related note, there was a satellite built whose cost dwarfs the numbers you provided. When you eventually read about it, you'll spit out your coffee. It's insane. But not my story to tell.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/31/2016 07:15 pm
I like the comparison of cost to the modern Nimitz class carrier. 

The current USS Ford is turning out to be far more expensive than planned.

On a related note, there was a satellite built whose cost dwarfs the numbers you provided. When you eventually read about it, you'll spit out your coffee. It's insane. But not my story to tell.
Did it actually fly, or was this gem of a Teal Ruby cut off in the Mist of development like FIA?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: IainMcClatchie on 10/31/2016 07:17 pm
The longevity of the KH-9s [edit: I mean KH-11s] on orbit is mostly a testament to the program troubles NRO has had trying to replace them.  They've outright cancelled at least one program, and the nonclassified physical apparatus of the two telescopes built during that program were donated to NASA.  So far as I know, nothing has been done with them yet.

The basic problem with spysats is that the military folks got used to having continuous video imagery of targets for days/months at a time, especially seconds before and after strikes.  I'm pretty sure they are getting video good enough to recognize people as well.  Spysats don't do any of that.  Spysats give coverage of blue ocean and Russia and China, but with hot zone attention using different assets NRO has lost a good chunk of their customer base.

The new photon sieve technology (lenses made of large membranes with zillions of tiny holes in them) may lead to an order of magnitude jump in aperture for optical telescopes, without corresponding price increases.  If possible, apertures larger than 30 meters would make it possible to recognize individuals from orbit.  That leaves the continuous coverage problem, which would have to be solved with large numbers of satellites.  This seems much less likely to be solved.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 07:22 pm
1-You mention the life span of some of these KH-11 satellites have been in service for a long time.  Yes, they sure have.  I was surprised to see that some of them are/were approaching 20 years.

2-That has to help the financial investment vs. service length argument.  The kh-11 service length is at the exact opposite end of the spectrum compared to the KH-9 units, whose service length is measured in months, as in 3-4 months for some of them.

1-Yes. If you WAG it and say that the satellite and rocket cost $1.5 billion in 1996 and has been operating for 20 years, that works out to an amortized cost of $75 million per year, which is an outstanding return (now the reality is that there are operating costs, paying people on the ground to operate the dishes and to control the spacecraft and to do supporting engineering, but that's probably on the order of $10 million per satellite per year or so).

2-HEXAGON started with only a few months but eventually got much longer. I think the longest one was ~270 days. However, that comparison has to be taken in context. The HEXAGON missions were stretched out because NRO was also operating GAMBIT-3 and KENNEN by that time, so they did not need it as much, and in the same way. They got more immediate vital intelligence from the KENNEN and used the HEXAGON for other purposes.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 07:23 pm
I like the comparison of cost to the modern Nimitz class carrier. 

The current USS Ford is turning out to be far more expensive than planned.

On a related note, there was a satellite built whose cost dwarfs the numbers you provided. When you eventually read about it, you'll spit out your coffee. It's insane. But not my story to tell.
Did it actually fly, or was this gem of a Teal Ruby cut off in the Mist of development like FIA?

Flying.

Insane.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 07:25 pm
The $3.262B number looks very wrong.  Is that a per-satellite number?  I have no inside information, and the cost of the KH-9 program was never declassified to my knowledge.  But among other things I don't think that would cover even the cost of 20 Titan-34D launches, let alone the payload construction costs.

It is a declassified budget figure in one of the declassified histories. But there is no itemization of what is in that figure.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 07:26 pm
The longevity of the KH-9s on orbit is mostly a testament to the program troubles NRO has had trying to replace them.  They've outright cancelled at least one program, and the nonclassified physical apparatus of the two telescopes built during that program were donated to NASA.  So far as I know, nothing has been done with them yet.

You mean longevity of the 11's on orbit.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 10/31/2016 07:27 pm
Probably belongs in the KH-8 thread, but everyone's favorite satellite photo target just trolled NSF by posing for a new social media snapshot.

https://twitter.com/DigitalGlobe/status/793149319637508096

Quote
DigitalGlobe
Impressive shot of Russia's aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, captured last Friday by #GeoEye1


Thank you for this. For some time now I have been meaning to write an article about the aircraft carrier as a favorite target for US spysats. It's the equivalent of a meme, I guess. I just have not gotten around to writing that.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/31/2016 07:31 pm
I like the comparison of cost to the modern Nimitz class carrier. 

The current USS Ford is turning out to be far more expensive than planned.

On a related note, there was a satellite built whose cost dwarfs the numbers you provided. When you eventually read about it, you'll spit out your coffee. It's insane. But not my story to tell.

Would this happen to have been a Shuttle payload?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 10/31/2016 07:34 pm
I like the comparison of cost to the modern Nimitz class carrier. 

The current USS Ford is turning out to be far more expensive than planned.

On a related note, there was a satellite built whose cost dwarfs the numbers you provided. When you eventually read about it, you'll spit out your coffee. It's insane. But not my story to tell.
Did it actually fly, or was this gem of a Teal Ruby cut off in the Mist of development like FIA?

Flying.

Insane.

Given what the NRO does with "normal" budgets of several billion dollars per satellite, I can't wait to read about what they do with budgets dwarfing that. Though I guess the Misty satellites must not have come cheap.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 10/31/2016 07:34 pm
Quote
Did it actually fly, or was this gem of a Teal Ruby cut off in the Mist of development like FIA?
Flying.

Insane.
Must be a cube sat then ;)

Well, just to lift one payload, didn't the Delta Heavy require very expensive upgrades to the RS-68A. That must have bloated the costs of NROL-15, hmmm.....?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 10/31/2016 07:43 pm
I don't imagine the Advanced Orion satellites are cheap.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 11/01/2016 10:24 pm
Quote
Did it actually fly, or was this gem of a Teal Ruby cut off in the Mist of development like FIA?
Flying.

Insane.
Must be a cube sat then ;)

Well, just to lift one payload, didn't the Delta Heavy require very expensive upgrades to the RS-68A. That must have bloated the costs of NROL-15, hmmm.....?

Those upgrades are now standard for the remaining Delta IVs so the cost is spread out.  Launcher costs also have nothing to do with cost of a satellite, correct?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 11/01/2016 10:27 pm

The basic problem with spysats is that the military folks got used to having continuous video imagery of targets for days/months at a time, especially seconds before and after strikes.  I'm pretty sure they are getting video good enough to recognize people as well.  Spysats don't do any of that.  Spysats give coverage of blue ocean and Russia and China, but with hot zone attention using different assets NRO has lost a good chunk of their customer base.


Wrong.  You can't do target development off of just video.  No bomb dropped or missile fired by the US has been based solely off of UAV or other video.  Collateral damage assessments won't allow it.  Weapon system video is PART of the BDA process and not the last.  Precise impact point coordinates are derived from rectified imagery, not video.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 11/01/2016 11:48 pm
Those upgrades are now standard for the remaining Delta IVs so the cost is spread out.  Launcher costs also have nothing to do with cost of a satellite, correct?
Normally I would agree, but the upgrade was required for one payload. No payload, no RS-68A upgrade. Someone had to foot the bill, and that would have been what ever that payload was. Cost accounting, or how many dolars can you dance on the head of rocket.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: IainMcClatchie on 11/02/2016 12:43 am
...No bomb dropped or missile fired by the US has been based solely off of UAV or other video.  Collateral damage assessments won't allow it.  Weapon system video is PART of the BDA process and not the last.  Precise impact point coordinates are derived from rectified imagery, not video.

Really?  Predators fire Hellfire missiles, which guide to a laser spot that comes from the gimbal on the UAV.  It's not clear to me that a Hellfire has a GPS at all or needs any coordinates.  Maybe you mean that, after the strike, the precise impact point is located and viewed in rectified imagery taken before the strike, to help bomb damage assessment.  Can't the same gimbals that are providing the monitoring video also provide the before and after still imagery needed for BDA?  I'm genuinely interested in anything you can tell me, as I've heard of some interest in upgrading the optics on the Predator and I'd like to understand what's wanted better.

My understanding is that anti-personnel strikes from drones happen after very long periods of continuous monitoring to confirm the identity of the person being killed (and maybe learn a bit about their relationships as well).  That's what I was referring to.

I think they've also been using Predators to gather imagery of strike sites after the dust cloud settles.  While this may not be video, the point is that a drone can often get the imagery a lot sooner than a satellite can, so long as the drone doesn't have to unexpectedly fly a long way first.

For basemap rectified imagery, KH-11s are the wrong tool.  NRO probably uses GeoEye or WorldView-3 for basemaps.

So it seems I've covered a lot of the usual customers for NRO.  What am I wrong about?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 11/02/2016 01:45 am
...No bomb dropped or missile fired by the US has been based solely off of UAV or other video.  Collateral damage assessments won't allow it.  Weapon system video is PART of the BDA process and not the last.  Precise impact point coordinates are derived from rectified imagery, not video.



For basemap rectified imagery, KH-11s are the wrong tool.  NRO probably uses GeoEye or WorldView-3 for basemaps.

So it seems I've covered a lot of the usual customers for NRO.  What am I wrong about?

Basically everything.  How do you think that Predator knew where to go to fire that Hellfire?  How did NGA, not NRO, do baseline maps before Commercial imagery satellites?  Full motion video has it's key place in the modern world but imagery will not lose it's key role. 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: IainMcClatchie on 11/02/2016 08:33 am
I'm not learning from you yet, but I'd like to.

1972-1986 NRO used KH-9 imagery for mapping.  Lots of great 60 cm GSD imagery, but crappy infrastructure to turn it into a basemap.
1990 Gulf War 1.  Generals notice the lack of recent KH-9 basemap, and KH-11s have long latency
1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act allows commercial satellite imaging.
1992 KH-11 Block 3 first launch.  Great pics, but still not much coverage.
1995 Predator operational.
1997 EarlyBird-1 launched.  300 cm GSD, NRO is probably unhappy with this but they'll take it.
1999 IKONOS launched.  NRO can use this: 80 cm GSD.  At this point they've got cheap commercial global mapping, so why would they use anything else?
2003 Gulf War 2

My guess is that between 1986 and 1999, NRO did not have frequently updated maps.  The KH-11s at the time took ~10 cm GSD images, but weren't set up to cover whole countries.  Multiple KH-11 replacement programs failed, possibly from requirements creep.  I'm sure there was much unhappiness.

Q: How did the Predator know where to go to fire that Hellfire?
A: They used the GPS-referenced basemap, which came from satellites.  In the last 17 years, that's been commercial satellites.

I'm not arguing that there is no need for satellites, just not NRO battleships like KH-11s or KH-12s.  Commercial satellites handle basemap just fine.  In the last couple of decades, NRO hasn't been able to articulate an imagery satellite mission with well funded users that isn't better done with drones.

Bomb damage assessment can't be done well from commercial satellites, of course, as the resolution is too coarse and timeliness is lousy.  But why can't BDA be done from imagery from an MX-15 on a Predator?  That gimbal delivers very nice stills as well as video.

Maybe some day we'll want BDA in denied airspaces.  A KH-12 would be great for that.  But it seems hard to imagine that a $2 billion B-2 is going to get in and out of some place we can't even risk a $15 million Predator, frequently enough to justify a $4 billion satellite.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 11/02/2016 09:24 am
I'm not learning from you yet, but I'd like to.

1972-1986 NRO used KH-9 imagery for mapping.  Lots of great 60 cm GSD imagery, but crappy infrastructure to turn it into a basemap.
1990 Gulf War 1.  Generals notice the lack of recent KH-9 basemap, and KH-11s have long latency
1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act allows commercial satellite imaging.
1992 KH-11 Block 3 first launch.  Great pics, but still not much coverage.
1995 Predator operational.
1997 EarlyBird-1 launched.  300 cm GSD, NRO is probably unhappy with this but they'll take it.
1999 IKONOS launched.  NRO can use this: 80 cm GSD.  At this point they've got cheap commercial global mapping, so why would they use anything else?
2003 Gulf War 2

My guess is that between 1986 and 1999, NRO did not have frequently updated maps.  The KH-11s at the time took ~10 cm GSD images, but weren't set up to cover whole countries.  Multiple KH-11 replacement programs failed, possibly from requirements creep.  I'm sure there was much unhappiness.

Q: How did the Predator know where to go to fire that Hellfire?
A: They used the GPS-referenced basemap, which came from satellites.  In the last 17 years, that's been commercial satellites.

I'm not arguing that there is no need for satellites, just not NRO battleships like KH-11s or KH-12s.  Commercial satellites handle basemap just fine.  In the last couple of decades, NRO hasn't been able to articulate an imagery satellite mission with well funded users that isn't better done with drones.

Bomb damage assessment can't be done well from commercial satellites, of course, as the resolution is too coarse and timeliness is lousy.  But why can't BDA be done from imagery from an MX-15 on a Predator?  That gimbal delivers very nice stills as well as video.

Maybe some day we'll want BDA in denied airspaces.  A KH-12 would be great for that.  But it seems hard to imagine that a $2 billion B-2 is going to get in and out of some place we can't even risk a $15 million Predator, frequently enough to justify a $4 billion satellite.

How can you argue against something when no one without sufficient security clearance knows everything they do. And don't pretend you can guesstimate everything they do because I am sure you can't. They obviously see a utility in them otherwise they wouldn't be preparing Block V for launch.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 11/02/2016 05:27 pm
.  In the last couple of decades, NRO hasn't been able to articulate an imagery satellite mission with well funded users that isn't better done with drones.


What is that based on?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 11/02/2016 06:19 pm
I'll try to be informative.

I'm not learning from you yet, but I'd like to.

1972-1986 NRO used KH-9 imagery for mapping.  Lots of great 60 cm GSD imagery, but crappy infrastructure to turn it into a basemap.
1990 Gulf War 1.  Generals notice the lack of recent KH-9 basemap, and KH-11s have long latency
1992 Land Remote Sensing Policy Act allows commercial satellite imaging.
1992 KH-11 Block 3 first launch.  Great pics, but still not much coverage.
1995 Predator operational.
1997 EarlyBird-1 launched.  300 cm GSD, NRO is probably unhappy with this but they'll take it.
1999 IKONOS launched.  NRO can use this: 80 cm GSD.  At this point they've got cheap commercial global mapping, so why would they use anything else?
2003 Gulf War 2

My guess is that between 1986 and 1999, NRO did not have frequently updated maps.  The KH-11s at the time took ~10 cm GSD images, but weren't set up to cover whole countries.  Multiple KH-11 replacement programs failed, possibly from requirements creep.  I'm sure there was much unhappiness.

* The KH-9 had a dedicated mapping  camera (with its own film bucket), with lower resolution  than the optical bar (I estimate around 3m based on the focal length) but better georeferencing (it had its own stellar camera for attitude determination).
* If you have sources on the use of KH-9 data during Gulf War 1, please share.
* The NRO did publicly consider alternatives to commercial sats for wide coverage, but Digital Globe and Geoeye complained to Congress. Note wide coverage and mapping are different: what was lacking was high coverage at high resolution (0.25-0.4m, see http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1400/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1400/1)), whereas mapping can be done at much lower resolutions (Airbus advertises its 1.5m Spot satellites for mapping).
* I would not assume too much about a lack of mapping capabilities. A mapping sensor with moderate resolution (3m for instance) could be mounted on later KH-11 blocks for all we know, like the mapping camera was mounted on the KH-9s.

Quote
In the last couple of decades, NRO hasn't been able to articulate an imagery satellite mission with well funded users that isn't better done with drones.

On the contrary, the renewed KH-11 contracts show that there are missions that are not better done with drones. Drones cannot deliver imagery of places deep inside a country, if you don't want to violate their airspace. Drones are not necessarily more reactive than a satellite constellation.

Quote
Bomb damage assessment can't be done well from commercial satellites, of course, as the resolution is too coarse and timeliness is lousy.  But why can't BDA be done from imagery from an MX-15 on a Predator?  That gimbal delivers very nice stills as well as video.

Maybe some day we'll want BDA in denied airspaces.  A KH-12 would be great for that.  But it seems hard to imagine that a $2 billion B-2 is going to get in and out of some place we can't even risk a $15 million Predator, frequently enough to justify a $4 billion satellite.

Bomb damage assessment can definitely be done with commercial satellites. See (http://img.over-blog.com/600x408/3/69/76/43/Par-theme/Securite---Defense/Lybie---Al-Jufra/Al-Jufra---Munitions---Apres---13-10-2011.jpg)
(taken from http://regard-sur-la-terre.over-blog.com/article-en-libye-des-images-de-la-base-aerienne-d-al-jufra-avant-et-apres-les-bombardements-102507520.html)

The Digital Globe constellation currently ensures two revisits a day (I think), which is not that bad latency-wise.

As you said, BDA in a denied airspace cannot be done by a predator drone. Near-real time systems (KH-11 and FIA radar) plus commercial imagery (with appropriately placed ground stations) are the way to go.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 11/02/2016 07:27 pm
* I would not assume too much about a lack of mapping capabilities. A mapping sensor with moderate resolution (3m for instance) could be mounted on later KH-11 blocks for all we know

Improved Metric CRYSTAL System was included in at least the block 3 satellites, maybe even the block 2s. So mapping has been incorporated into the system for a very long time.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 11/02/2016 07:46 pm
* I would not assume too much about a lack of mapping capabilities. A mapping sensor with moderate resolution (3m for instance) could be mounted on later KH-11 blocks for all we know

Improved Metric CRYSTAL System was included in at least the block 3 satellites, maybe even the block 2s. So mapping has been incorporated into the system for a very long time.

The article I saw on Spaceflight Now that the next KH-11s to be launched will be Block 5s, in your view is that a good estimate?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 11/06/2016 11:12 am
An article speculating on the orbits of the future KH-11s:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/08/vladimir-putin-plots-a-new-fleet-of-spies-in-space.html
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 12/13/2016 05:56 pm
Using declassified Hexagon images of the Himalayas amongst other places.

Spy satellites reveal Himalayan melt

Quote
Scientists have used Cold War spy satellites to reveal the dramatic environmental changes in the Himalayas.
They compared pictures collected by a US reconnaissance programme with recent satellite data to measure the extent of glacial melt.
They believe the now-declassified images could help to show how other remote regions have changed over time.
The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco.
“This imagery will be getting used more and more,” said Josh Maurer from Columbia University in New York.
The images were taken by a United States spy satellite programme that went by the codename of Hexagon.
During the 1970s and 1980s, it launched 20 huge reconnaissance satellites into space, which secretly snapped areas of interest below.
The images were taken on rolls of film, which were then dropped by the satellites, and collected mid-air by passing military planes.
The material collected was declassified in 2011 and is now being digitised by the US Geological Survey (USGS) for scientists to use.

More on the link.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38307176
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 12/13/2016 08:17 pm
Using declassified Hexagon images of the Himalayas amongst other places.

Spy satellites reveal Himalayan melt

Quote
Scientists have used Cold War spy satellites to reveal the dramatic environmental changes in the Himalayas.
They compared pictures collected by a US reconnaissance programme with recent satellite data to measure the extent of glacial melt.
They believe the now-declassified images could help to show how other remote regions have changed over time.
The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco.
“This imagery will be getting used more and more,” said Josh Maurer from Columbia University in New York.
The images were taken by a United States spy satellite programme that went by the codename of Hexagon.
During the 1970s and 1980s, it launched 20 huge reconnaissance satellites into space, which secretly snapped areas of interest below.
The images were taken on rolls of film, which were then dropped by the satellites, and collected mid-air by passing military planes.
The material collected was declassified in 2011 and is now being digitised by the US Geological Survey (USGS) for scientists to use.

More on the link.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38307176

Very interesting. The stereo imaging capability of the KH-9 allowed them to reconstruct the glaciers in 3D, and accurately measure their loss of volume. I guess they can thank the Sino-Indian tensions of the 70s an 80s.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 12/13/2016 08:30 pm
Shows you how impressive its imaging capability was. Makes you wonder what the current KH-11s can do.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 12/13/2016 08:45 pm
Using declassified Hexagon images of the Himalayas amongst other places.

Spy satellites reveal Himalayan melt

Quote
Scientists have used Cold War spy satellites to reveal the dramatic environmental changes in the Himalayas.
They compared pictures collected by a US reconnaissance programme with recent satellite data to measure the extent of glacial melt.
They believe the now-declassified images could help to show how other remote regions have changed over time.
The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco.
“This imagery will be getting used more and more,” said Josh Maurer from Columbia University in New York.
The images were taken by a United States spy satellite programme that went by the codename of Hexagon.
During the 1970s and 1980s, it launched 20 huge reconnaissance satellites into space, which secretly snapped areas of interest below.
The images were taken on rolls of film, which were then dropped by the satellites, and collected mid-air by passing military planes.
The material collected was declassified in 2011 and is now being digitised by the US Geological Survey (USGS) for scientists to use.

More on the link.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-38307176

Very interesting. The stereo imaging capability of the KH-9 allowed them to reconstruct the glaciers in 3D, and accurately measure their loss of volume. I guess they can thank the Sino-Indian tensions of the 70s an 80s.

Yes.  I wonder what other glaciated mountain ranges received similar coverage.

Some further thoughts:
How about Arctic Ocean ice cover?

Were Antarctica and its margins observed and mapped by Hexagon missions?  I know its strategic importance was probably low, plus it's often cloudy, plus no sunlight to illuminate it around the June solstice.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 12/13/2016 09:31 pm
I had dinner with the HEXAGON's camera designer last week. He gave me one of the beryllium rollers they used in the camera system. Very lightweight.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: SWGlassPit on 12/14/2016 04:58 pm
Beryllium is an awesome engineering material, except for the whole beryllium-dust-being-super-toxic bit.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 12/14/2016 08:25 pm
Beryllium is an awesome engineering material, except for the whole beryllium-dust-being-super-toxic bit.

I guess I should take it out of my mouth then, huh?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: as58 on 12/14/2016 09:19 pm
Beryllium is an awesome engineering material, except for the whole beryllium-dust-being-super-toxic bit.

I guess I should take it out of my mouth then, huh?

Only try it once and never actually inhale.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 12/18/2016 04:34 pm
btw. Lacking a dedicated U-2/RQ-4 thread, thought I'd mention this article just published on FlightGlobal.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/global-hawk-ms-177-flight-test-expected-in-coming-da-432502/


Quote
Northrop Grumman has installed the UTC MS-177 multispectral sensor on board its RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned air vehicle, and plans to carry out the maiden flight of the payload on the type in coming days.

Quote
MS-177 is the next generation of the Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System-2 (SYERS-2), a sensor that is carried on the Lockheed Martin U-2 Dragon Lady manned high-altitude surveillance aircraft.

The Global Hawk is set to replace the U-2 in this long-endurance surveillance role, and integration of the new sensor is part of that transition. A February demonstration saw SYERS-2 flown aboard the RQ-4 during a test flight at Palmdale, while the U-2’s Optic Bar Camera has also been flown, Northrop announced in October.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/05/2017 02:08 pm
Probally only Blackstar and StarOne will be interested in this: http://www.afcent.af.mil/Units/380thAirExpeditionaryWing/News/Display/tabid/5419/Article/1039789/after-40-years-of-service-legacy-mission-system-for-high-altitude-u-2-is-replac.aspx

Any ideas what sensor was retired?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 01/05/2017 07:45 pm
Probally only Blackstar and StarOne will be interested in this: http://www.afcent.af.mil/Units/380thAirExpeditionaryWing/News/Display/tabid/5419/Article/1039789/after-40-years-of-service-legacy-mission-system-for-high-altitude-u-2-is-replac.aspx

Any ideas what sensor was retired?

Probably a radar or ELINT sensor. The optical bar from the U-2 has been integrated on Global Hawk in 2016, and the next optical bar is planned to fly on the Global Hawk this year, so it's not either of them:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/northrop-rq-4b-trials-dragon-ladys-syers-2-sensor-422396/
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/05/2017 11:32 pm
Yeah, kinda obscure there, huh? "Mission system" without saying what the heck it is! But it sounds more like it is a system for integrating sensors and not the sensors themselves.

U-2/SR-71 cameras have found their way into space. There has been some crossover there. Nobody has ever really written a history exploring the crossover of the technology and systems.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 01/06/2017 08:36 am
Yeah, kinda obscure there, huh? "Mission system" without saying what the heck it is! But it sounds more like it is a system for integrating sensors and not the sensors themselves.

U-2/SR-71 cameras have found their way into space. There has been some crossover there. Nobody has ever really written a history exploring the crossover of the technology and systems.

Dr David Baker's recent book on the history of US spy satellites very, very briefly touches on this.

Probally only Blackstar and StarOne will be interested in this: http://www.afcent.af.mil/Units/380thAirExpeditionaryWing/News/Display/tabid/5419/Article/1039789/after-40-years-of-service-legacy-mission-system-for-high-altitude-u-2-is-replac.aspx

Any ideas what sensor was retired?

The general public, those that are interested, tend to forget that though the U-2 is no longer classified its payloads and missions often still are. What's the betting this new payload probably integrates across other airframes like the RQ-170.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 01/06/2017 01:34 pm
What ever it is, sure gets a fair amount of flight time:

Quote
“In just the last year of service, this mission system has supported over 550 sorties, with over 5,000 flying hours.”

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/30/2017 08:30 pm
http://thespacereview.com/article/3160/1

Black ZEUS: The top secret shuttle mission that never flew
by Dwayne Day
Monday, January 30, 2017


In the late 1970s, the secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which developed and operated the United States’ fleet of intelligence satellites, began studying a top secret payload that would fly inside the Space Shuttle’s payload bay. The payload, named ZEUS, would have featured a pair of powerful reconnaissance cameras capable of observing large portions of the Soviet Union during a shuttle flight. One variant of ZEUS would have been a recoverable “free-flyer” satellite, deployed by the shuttle and retrieved by a later shuttle mission. ZEUS was so secret that not even its existence was acknowledged—blacker than black, as the spooks would say. But now, recently declassified documents have shed light on this top secret, almost completely unknown shuttle payload.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/30/2017 08:35 pm
In coming weeks I'll be writing more about proposals to fly the HEXAGON on the space shuttle based upon newly-declassified information. There were a lot of studies of this subject during the 1970s and later in the 1980s. That included various modifications of the HEXAGON spacecraft. I have seen images of a min-mod version of the HEXAGON, a 5-SRV version (that's five on the bottom instead of the normal 4) and also a substantial modification of the HEXAGON, with a smaller satellite control section, the film supply moved forward, and six Satellite Recovery Vehicles.

In addition, there were a number of other studies as well, including a version that would have kept the optics and a single SRV in the shuttle bay, with the shuttle sending the film down in one bucket halfway through the mission and then returning with the remaining film at the end of the mission.

And of course there were a lot of aspects of shuttle operations that had to be evaluated, such as how to grab onto this very big satellite in orbit (bigger than Hubble) and then load it into the payload bay.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 01/31/2017 06:32 am
http://thespacereview.com/article/3160/1

Black ZEUS: The top secret shuttle mission that never flew
by Dwayne Day
Monday, January 30, 2017


In the late 1970s, the secret National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which developed and operated the United States’ fleet of intelligence satellites, began studying a top secret payload that would fly inside the Space Shuttle’s payload bay. The payload, named ZEUS, would have featured a pair of powerful reconnaissance cameras capable of observing large portions of the Soviet Union during a shuttle flight. One variant of ZEUS would have been a recoverable “free-flyer” satellite, deployed by the shuttle and retrieved by a later shuttle mission. ZEUS was so secret that not even its existence was acknowledged—blacker than black, as the spooks would say. But now, recently declassified documents have shed light on this top secret, almost completely unknown shuttle payload.

Excellent stuff. It seems that to a degree that the senior rank and file NRO personnel were ahead of the curve when it came to being sceptical about moving all their payloads to the Shuttle.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 01/31/2017 07:12 am
Very interesting as usual.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/31/2017 07:23 pm
Apparently in 1973 the NRO undertook a study to look at transitioning the HEXAGON to the space shuttle. At the time they planned to do this starting with SV-21 (21st HEXAGON). NRO ultimately only bought 20 HEXAGONs. I do not know what their initial procurement strategy was. Did they think that they would use up 19 vehicles between 1971 and 1979 (when shuttle was expected to fly?). Ultimately, they started increasing the lifetimes of the later vehicles and did not fly vehicle number 20 until 1986, when it blew up.

The initial study was going to look at four configurations:

-"Zero Mod" (simply substituting shuttle for the Titan 34D)
-Abort survivable
-Retrieval/reuse
-Shuttle exploitation (adding 9000 pounds capability)
  -payload improvement
  -near real-time readout
  -longer life (2 years)
  -survivability aids

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/31/2017 07:57 pm
So, either as a result of that 1973 study, or possibly a later initiative (I'm not quite sure yet), there were a number of new configurations for HEXAGON that were studied:

-a basic retrieval/reuse version of HEXAGON that looks pretty much like the one that flew, with the mapping camera and forward SRV up front. There were some modifications required for this one, including new hold points for the satellite in the payload bay, plus a kind of "kickstand" up front between SRVs 2 and 3, connecting the vehicle to the bottom of the payload bay. They also had to make some mods to the HEXAGON's propellant system to allow for dumping fuel, plus retractable solar arrays. But for the most part it looks pretty much like all the other HEXAGON satellites.

-a 5-SRV HEXAGON, with no mapping camera forward (or its SRV). Imagine the basic 4-SRV HEXAGON, but with a fifth SRV up front. For some reason the front SRV is labeled "0" and then the rest are 1-4.

-a heavily redesigned 6-SRV HEXAGON. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one. Six SRVs up front, but I don't know if they are smaller than the regular ones. Behind this is the cameras, with the film supply moved between the cameras, instead of behind them. A redesigned and shorter satellite control system (bus) is behind that. I think this would take advantage of having more room above the satellite in the payload bay by moving the film supply forward and up a big. That shortens the overall vehicle, which can then be lengthened by adding two SRVs up front. This may have also involved an increase in focal length for the cameras (that's unclear).

-what may have been a single-SRV pallet inside the shuttle payload bay along with the two cameras
. This would have worked by having the shuttle orbit for awhile, fill up a film bucket and eject it back to Earth. The shuttle would then continue in orbit for a few more days before closing up and bringing the camera and remaining film back to Earth.

-the ZEUS study mentioned in my article.

I'm still in the process of sorting a lot of this out. It is going to take some effort. The official history "The HEXAGON Story" implied that NRO only conducted studies on flying in the shuttle a few times, whereas it now appears that there were quite a few studies of different options, possibly between 1973 and 1988 or so.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/03/2017 12:23 am
Small article in Aviation Week in 1979 that refers to the ZEUS system, although not by name.

See also the note above it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/03/2017 02:46 am
Small article in Aviation Week in 1979 that refers to the ZEUS system, although not by name.

See also the note above it.

Also TDRSS for Lacrosse.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 02/03/2017 05:20 pm
Small article in Aviation Week in 1979 that refers to the ZEUS system, although not by name.

See also the note above it.

Also TDRSS for Lacrosse.

Interesting. Why would they use TDRSS when they have SDS?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/03/2017 06:25 pm

Interesting. Why would they use TDRSS when they have SDS?

Helped NASA offset costs and different customers
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/03/2017 09:05 pm
They were adding capacity and needed more relay capability. TDRSS had more capacity than NASA needed and could be shared. There's probably a fascinating history somebody could write about TDRSS. For instance, early on in the 1970s it was going to be a commercial system, and NASA was simply going to buy access to it. Sound familiar? That fell through and NASA ended up building the whole thing.

Another much more recent aspect to it is that for a long time the "national security users" (guess) were paying NASA rent on the system, apparently a good deal for NASA. That left the part of NASA that included TDRSS rather flush with funds. But something happened in recent years--I don't know what--and the money got a lot tighter for NASA.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/03/2017 10:39 pm
I need to amend something in the article. Halfway through the article you see a graphic showing a bunch of camera configurations on a shuttle pallet. It turns out that these configurations were notional and evaluated for a program called Wide Area Surveillance Platform, or WASP. WASP was really the first evaluation of using the shuttle for manned recon missions. It started in the mid-1970s, after the NRO had evaluated launching HEXAGON on the shuttle (including recovery, and including on-orbit refurbishment and resupply of HEXAGON). WASP was a study effort from about 1975-1977, and was followed by ZEUS in 1978-1979. Essentially, WASP was the study, and ZEUS became the development.

There were two optics systems evaluated for ZEUS. One was a Perkin-Elmer system that was similar to HEXAGON's camera, but different in many ways. Another was a Fairchild system. More details in the future.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Arch Admiral on 02/04/2017 04:45 am
The use of TDRSS to return radar images from LACROSSE marked a radical change in policy - up to then all military and intel satellites had their own dedicated tracking sites. It seems that LACROSSE could have shared the existing SDS/Quasar comsats. Their HEO orbits gave a better view of the USSR than TDRSS got from GEO. Why did the spook community suddenly decide to share a vital system with  NASA?

Nowadays it seems that TDRSS is pretty much divided up, with a dedicated intelligence ground station (the north site at White Sands) and enough satellites for some to be permanently allocated to the spooks. But clearly this wasn't the case in the early days when there was only one ground station (White Sands South) and one or two satellites. How much trouble did this cause?

In the early 80s I often called NASA the "Military Spacelift Command" (most people didn't get the joke). But if Shuttle hadn't been such a failure and the spooks hadn't given up on it, possibly it wouldn't have been a joke anymore.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/04/2017 01:11 pm

Nowadays it seems that TDRSS is pretty much divided up, with a dedicated intelligence ground station (the north site at White Sands)


No, the Air Force facility is next to the south one


 But clearly this wasn't the case in the early days when there was only one ground station (White Sands South) and one or two satellites. How much trouble did this cause?


Not much because other than Shuttle, there were very few users until ISS and EOS.

Shuttle
HST
ERBS
Solar Max
GRO
UARS
EUVE
Landsat 4/5

After these, the TDRSS had more than 4 spacecraft

Shuttle Radar Lab wasn't until after the 5th TDRS was in orbit.


In the early 80s I often called NASA the "Military Spacelift Command" (most people didn't get the joke).

Because it is really not an accurate description.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/04/2017 01:18 pm
The Guam Remote Ground Terminal was added due to GRO loosing a tape recorder. I wonder if it was the DOD wanting the ZOE closed.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Michel Van on 02/13/2017 09:26 am
New from CIA they uploading there Photo Archive on Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciagov/albums

40  photos like  1972 "Underwater Ice Station Zebra" the salvage of Hexagon Spy sat Capsule from ocean floor.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ciagov/albums/72157630990648818/with/7748440774/

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8282/7748440774_36da1b7378_c.jpg)

(https://c1.staticflickr.com/9/8296/7748441398_149f464289_c.jpg)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 02/13/2017 03:47 pm
Cool pictures, really.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/13/2017 05:18 pm
In a few hours you'll see on The Space Review my article on carrying a HEXAGON in the space shuttle, including on-orbit repair and servicing. Features some newly-declassified images showing how they would do it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/13/2017 09:01 pm
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3172/1

Black ops and the shuttle (part 1)
On-orbit servicing and recovery of the HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite

by Dwayne Day
Monday, February 13, 2017

In December 1993, the space shuttle Endeavour rendezvoused with the Hubble Space Telescope to conduct one of the most high-profile missions of the entire shuttle program. Over the next ten days, the crew of mission STS-61 installed corrective optics to fix the Hubble’s flawed vision, replaced instruments and gyroscopes and solar panels, and sent Hubble off as practically a new telescope.

Twenty years earlier, the secretive National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) that operated America’s fleet of intelligence satellites evaluated the possibility of doing this kind of mission on a regular basis with the largest reconnaissance satellite then in the inventory, the schoolbus-sized HEXAGON. The NRO and its contractors studied refurbishment and resupply of satellites in orbit, as well as recovery and refurbishment on the ground, considering the value and the drawbacks—and, most importantly, the costs—of resurrecting expired intelligence spacecraft.

This was the first of many studies over the next decade initiated by the NRO to evaluate adapting its various intelligence satellites to use the Space Transportation System. Much of the history of the NRO’s involvement in the space shuttle program remains classified. But many new details are emerging about this period and particularly the NRO’s largest, and most important spacecraft at the time.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/13/2017 09:02 pm
From my article:
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 02/14/2017 10:27 am
Considering the sheer complexity of the KH-9 film system it would have been one hell of a headache to work on it while in-orbit.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/14/2017 12:35 pm
Boy, I was wrong about the orientation in the payload bay.  I thought they would place it so that the SRV's would be accessible while in the payload bay at the pad.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 02/14/2017 12:38 pm
Figure 5.2-1 must be really old.  It has an umbilical on the Orbiter near the crew cabin. 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: russianhalo117 on 02/14/2017 03:51 pm
Well the KH fleet was one of the primary reasons of West Coast Shuttle amongst other reasons. My father was a photochemist and systems engineer in the USAF and later at other agencies and was away from the family 221 days of the year working on spy cameras and film return canisters for both planes and spacecraft until the day they switched to digital.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/14/2017 04:10 pm
Considering the sheer complexity of the KH-9 film system it would have been one hell of a headache to work on it while in-orbit.

Yeah. I have a hard time understanding how they would have threaded the film through the camera in orbit. Even if they left a bit of film in the camera sticking out either end, it would have had to be spliced to a leader coming out of the last reentry vehicle, and also spliced onto the new film supply. Then it would have to be pulled through the camera. All that in zero-g, with no way for a human to visibly monitor it.

Add to that replacing the consumables. Not only the fuel supply, but they used pressurized nitrogen in the film path. Which makes me wonder how they would then seal up the system and repressurize it after bringing up the new film and SRVs. It would have been a very complex on-orbit resupply job.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Kansan52 on 02/14/2017 04:36 pm
Thank you. Your articles and explanations always reveal so well that I feel 'smarter' (at least better informed) after each read!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 02/14/2017 05:09 pm
Quote
In fact, the length of the shuttle’s payload bay had been dictated by the requirement to carry the HEXAGON

There had been a lot of discussion about this precise point over the last decade. Is this the final story ? Or is there some unknown NRO (or military) satellite still classified that mandated, by itself, the shuttle payload bay length ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/14/2017 05:19 pm
Quote
In fact, the length of the shuttle’s payload bay had been dictated by the requirement to carry the HEXAGON

There had been a lot of discussion about this precise point over the last decade. Is this the final story ? Or is there some unknown NRO (or military) satellite still classified that mandated, by itself, the shuttle payload bay length ?

Final story. I have at least one declassified document from (I think) 1975 that clearly states that the length was dictated by the HEXAGON. I'll have to dig it up, but it says something like "The HEXAGON can be carried in the shuttle bay because the payload bay length was established to carry it..."

Width is something different, but length was established by the H.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 02/14/2017 07:15 pm
Considering the sheer complexity of the KH-9 film system it would have been one hell of a headache to work on it while in-orbit.

Yeah. I have a hard time understanding how they would have threaded the film through the camera in orbit. Even if they left a bit of film in the camera sticking out either end, it would have had to be spliced to a leader coming out of the last reentry vehicle, and also spliced onto the new film supply. Then it would have to be pulled through the camera. All that in zero-g, with no way for a human to visibly monitor it.

Add to that replacing the consumables. Not only the fuel supply, but they used pressurized nitrogen in the film path. Which makes me wonder how they would then seal up the system and repressurize it after bringing up the new film and SRVs. It would have been a very complex on-orbit resupply job.

I think you hit upon the biggest problem. The entire film system was kept pressurized to control humidity and film outgassing.

If I recall from Pressel's excellent book, wasn't the film loaded backwards through the four film buckets onto the spool. Be interesting to try to thread all that backwards through four new film buckets and maintain pressurization. 
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: russianhalo117 on 02/14/2017 08:47 pm
Articles are now appearing that are based upon my ZEUS article. They link to my original article, but don't give me name credit for writing it:

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2825430/us-spooks-planned-to-turn-the-space-shuttle-into-a-huge-spy-ship-to-snoop-out-soviets-cold-war-nukes/

http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/research/a25133/zeus-space-shuttle-spy-plan/

file copyright infringement claims on them if possible.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/14/2017 10:36 pm
So to add a bit more to the story: by 1975 the NRO rejected putting the HEXAGON on the shuttle. From what I can tell, they did not rule out eventually launching the HEXAGON on the shuttle, but they decided upon no on-orbit servicing and no recovery and relaunch. They also rejected highly modifying the HEXAGON to take advantage of the shuttle's larger payload bay.

At this point the NRO initiated one or more studies under the designation Wide Area Surveillance Program, or WASP. WASP was a study to put optics inside the payload bay and fly a manned reconnaissance mission.

WASP eventually turned into ZEUS. ZEUS was a study of two camera systems, one by Perkin-Elmer and the other by Fairchild. The P-E design was not based on HEXAGON.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/14/2017 11:02 pm
So ZEUS was studied from around 1978-1979 (I'll try to get exact dates). According to a declassified interview with a former congressional staffer who was involved in NRO oversight, ZEUS was really Director of National Reconnaissance Office Hans Mark's pet project. But it would have required up to four shuttle missions per year. That would have been expensive. This person claims that it was possible to upgrade the KH-11 KENNEN to increase its bandwidth and that would solve the area search requirement--so ZEUS was not necessary.

There are some holes in this story, and I'd treat it all as tentative until I can get better info. One of the problems is that during the 1991 Gulf War there were complaints that the KENNEN coverage (by then it was named CRYSTAL) was "like looking at the battlefield through a soda straw." So clearly upgrades to KENNEN did not solve the area search requirement. I suspect that the upgrades increased the coverage a bit compared to the early KH-11s, but not enough to truly replace the HEXAGON's coverage.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Archibald on 02/15/2017 08:55 am
Surely enough the lineage of Key Holes was long split between high-resolution (Gambit, Dorian) and broad mapping (Corona and Hexagon).
I always felt that the KH-11 more belonged to the high-resolution camp and thus that the KH-9 capability was never fully replaced. Looks like they regretted it in GW1.

Which begs an interesting question: was there a KH-9 successor project somewhere between 1971 and 1985 ?

Both Corona and Hexagon produced enormous volumes of photos. One can wonder if KH-11 -era digital memory storage could have handled such volume.
I wonder what is harder from a storage point of view: small number of very high resolution pictures OR a boatload of medium resolution pictures ?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Hobbes-22 on 02/15/2017 11:24 am
A large number of images is the more difficult case, mainly because it creates the question of which images are worth analyzing and which can be discarded.
The technical issues can be handled by throwing enough hardware at the problem.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/15/2017 01:02 pm
Both Corona and Hexagon produced enormous volumes of photos. One can wonder if KH-11 -era digital memory storage could have handled such volume.

A lot of KH-11 storage was photographic--they burned the images to film "chips" that I think were about six inches by 12 inches. Those things went into storage. I assume they also had a huge collection of magnetic tapes.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 02/15/2017 06:10 pm
So ZEUS was studied from around 1978-1979 (I'll try to get exact dates). According to a declassified interview with a former congressional staffer who was involved in NRO oversight, ZEUS was really Director of National Reconnaissance Office Hans Mark's pet project. But it would have required up to four shuttle missions per year. That would have been expensive. This person claims that it was possible to upgrade the KH-11 KENNEN to increase its bandwidth and that would solve the area search requirement--so ZEUS was not necessary.

There are some holes in this story, and I'd treat it all as tentative until I can get better info. One of the problems is that during the 1991 Gulf War there were complaints that the KENNEN coverage (by then it was named CRYSTAL) was "like looking at the battlefield through a soda straw." So clearly upgrades to KENNEN did not solve the area search requirement. I suspect that the upgrades increased the coverage a bit compared to the early KH-11s, but not enough to truly replace the HEXAGON's coverage.

The fate of the wide-area search role is indeed quite a mystery. It's possible it was taken over by the KH-11 for strategic search: imaging all of the USSR every year (the KH-9 spec) could be doable even with a limited field of view. For instance, Worldview 4 has a 13km field of view but still manages to image 0.6 Mkm2 per day, so napkin math says it can image the 22 M km2 of the former USSR in 36 days. Of course in reality it's going to take longer. Taken the other way around, imaging 22M km2 in 1 year means only 4 000km2 need to be imaged per satellite pass on average. That sounds feasible even with a field of view a few km wide, by acquiring long, thin strips.

The same limited field of view may not have satisfied GW1 commanders who wanted to see the whole battlefield every day. So tactical wide area surveillance may not be feasible with the KH-11. That would explain the debates about 8X and other wide-area systems after the Gulf War.

Another theory is that the wide area search role was filled by the Lacrosse radar sats. The last Hexagon launch is in 1986, the first Lacrosse launch is in 1988. So the dates seem to fit. Since radar allows to see at night and through cloud, and can give wide swath and high resolution (but not at the same time), it would make sense that Lacrosse was intended for tactical wide-area search, to hunt for Soviet mobiles launchers for instance. Under that theory, Lacrosse is a strategic asset to be used for nuclear conflict and was very recent in 1991, so its imagery would not have been provided to GW1 commanders. It would have been reserved to the Strategic Air Command.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/16/2017 02:16 am
The fate of the wide-area search role is indeed quite a mystery. It's possible it was taken over by the KH-11 for strategic search: imaging all of the USSR every year (the KH-9 spec) could be doable even with a limited field of view. For instance, Worldview 4 has a 13km field of view but still manages to image 0.6 Mkm2 per day, so napkin math says it can image the 22 M km2 of the former USSR in 36 days. Of course in reality it's going to take longer. Taken the other way around, imaging 22M km2 in 1 year means only 4 000km2 need to be imaged per satellite pass on average. That sounds feasible even with a field of view a few km wide, by acquiring long, thin strips.

The same limited field of view may not have satisfied GW1 commanders who wanted to see the whole battlefield every day. So tactical wide area surveillance may not be feasible with the KH-11. That would explain the debates about 8X and other wide-area systems after the Gulf War.

Another theory is that the wide area search role was filled by the Lacrosse radar sats. The last Hexagon launch is in 1986, the first Lacrosse launch is in 1988. So the dates seem to fit. Since radar allows to see at night and through cloud, and can give wide swath and high resolution (but not at the same time), it would make sense that Lacrosse was intended for tactical wide-area search, to hunt for Soviet mobiles launchers for instance. Under that theory, Lacrosse is a strategic asset to be used for nuclear conflict and was very recent in 1991, so its imagery would not have been provided to GW1 commanders. It would have been reserved to the Strategic Air Command.


I think you are onto something. But I think the answer may be a bit different. Maybe they redefined the requirement for search. So during the HEXAGON era the search requirement was to cover the entire Soviet landmass every X number of days at Y resolution. Maybe they came up with a different definition that did not require covering the entire landmass, but some percentage of certain targets every X number of days at Y resolution. And maybe that could have left big swaths of territory not covered regularly, but at a much lower regularity, because they expected that there was nothing in those areas.

What may have happened is that the US military got itself into Operation Desert Shield/Storm and concluded that this definition of search was just not useful to them. They needed near complete coverage of a large area in a very short period of time because they were looking for an army in a desert, and they weren't getting that coverage. It wasn't like the Soviet landmass requirement that was based upon mostly fixed targets, not moving tanks.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Arch Admiral on 02/16/2017 07:24 am
Remember that much of the USSR was roadless tundra or desert where no military installation could be built without massive preliminary construction. These areas don't have to be checked very often.

Even in populated areas, Soviet roads were mostly dirt (or mud in spring and fall). Every military installation needed its own rail spur, and had to be located close to an existing Tsarist mainline railroad. The only major new railroad built during the Space Age was the Baikal-Amur Mainline which duplicated the Trans-Siberian Line at a safer distance from the Chinese border. This reality was recognized in the U-2 era where overflights were routed along known railroads.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 02/16/2017 07:09 pm
Remember that much of the USSR was roadless tundra or desert where no military installation could be built without massive preliminary construction. These areas don't have to be checked very often.

That was actually taken into account into the specification for the Hexagon: if I recall correctly, it had to do yearly coverage of the whole USSR, and quarterly coverage of built-up areas close to the main communication axis.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/23/2017 05:13 pm
Remember that much of the USSR was roadless tundra or desert where no military installation could be built without massive preliminary construction. These areas don't have to be checked very often.

That was actually taken into account into the specification for the Hexagon: if I recall correctly, it had to do yearly coverage of the whole USSR, and quarterly coverage of built-up areas close to the main communication axis.

Forgot to respond to this last week.

I have a document somewhere from the mid-1960s that lists the coverage requirements for CORONA. I think they designated target areas by certain numbers, and then there was a requirement of coverage of those different numbers that varied. So higher priority targets got higher coverage. This was a direct outgrowth of the initial U-2 coverage strategy for the USSR. If I remember correctly, U-2 targeting had two basic parts. The first was to go immediately to the known high priority targets, like Baikonur. The second was to follow the rail lines, based upon the assumption that any ICBM sites would be located near railways. When the satellites were flying, the targeting lists had that same general approach--if there was a rail line, they had to photograph it more often than the vast areas of nothing in the Soviet Union.

But I suspect that this got more and more complex as the systems improved. Imaging targets were established by the Committee on Imagery Exploitation, or COMIREX. I have seen declassified meeting minutes from COMIREX into the 1970s. But I have not seen any basic publication or "standards manual" or anything like that from COMIREX. You'd think that they would have established some basic imagery requirements policies, not simply set up requirements for each new mission. And once the KH-11 KENNEN was flying and they were no longer film-limited, they would have revised the requirements a lot.

In fact, there's a lot of stuff about the operations of the satellites over this time (1960s into the 1980s) that we still don't know. A lot has been declassified, but nobody has really put it all together. I know a guy who had the job of turning the requirements into specific commands for the spacecraft for a little while. He said that it involved taking the requirements, then pulling out paper maps and figuring out grid coordinates, then figuring out the overhead path of the satellite and putting in pointing commands and camera commands (on/off) that was all entered into computers and then sent up to the satellites during their flights over a ground station. Lots of work.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: rguser on 02/26/2017 05:14 am
Remember that much of the USSR was roadless tundra or desert where no military installation could be built without massive preliminary construction. These areas don't have to be checked very often.

That was actually taken into account into the specification for the Hexagon: if I recall correctly, it had to do yearly coverage of the whole USSR, and quarterly coverage of built-up areas close to the main communication axis.

In fact, there's a lot of stuff about the operations of the satellites over this time (1960s into the 1980s) that we still don't know. A lot has been declassified, but nobody has really put it all together. I know a guy who had the job of turning the requirements into specific commands for the spacecraft for a little while. He said that it involved taking the requirements, then pulling out paper maps and figuring out grid coordinates, then figuring out the overhead path of the satellite and putting in pointing commands and camera commands (on/off) that was all entered into computers and then sent up to the satellites during their flights over a ground station. Lots of work.

Not only was determining the camera tasking commands a lot of work for many years but even the relatively simple task of allocating satellite up-link and down-link communication time for the various satellites on orbit was very manually intensive and complex.  During a tour of the Blue Cube in Sunnyvale, that I was part of, our tour group was shown an example of how satellite controllers used strips of paper with different colors representing the different satellites and the length of each strip being the amount of time allocated for communicating with each satellite while they were in range of an RTS and the satellite dishes of the Blue Cube.  We were not told when they converted to having computers determine the allocations but I got the feeling that they had to endure using the colored paper strips for at least a couple of decades.  Controllers were happy when computers were used to allocate the length of time for communicating with each satellite while in range.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 03/17/2017 05:00 am
From the NRO Facebook page.  Cool pic.

March 16, 1978 – The National Reconnaissance Office launched Hexagon 14, Mission #1214 from 30th Space Wing (Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.) aboard the Titan IIID pictured. Hexagon's primary panoramic camera ensured photography of all of the world's inhabited regions. Between June 1971 and April 1986, a total of 20 Hexagon mission were flown for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the Intelligence Community, including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In its early days, Hexagon was the largest satellite the NRO boosted into orbit, prompting a local California newspaper reporter covering the first Hexagon launch to nickname the then unacknowledged spacecraft, "Big Bird." #ThrowbackThursday

Read more about the Hexagon program: http://www.nro.gov/foia/declass/GAMBHEX.html
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 04/27/2017 06:10 pm
Surely enough the lineage of Key Holes was long split between high-resolution (Gambit, Dorian) and broad mapping (Corona and Hexagon).
I always felt that the KH-11 more belonged to the high-resolution camp and thus that the KH-9 capability was never fully replaced. Looks like they regretted it in GW1.

Which begs an interesting question: was there a KH-9 successor project somewhere between 1971 and 1985 ?

Both Corona and Hexagon produced enormous volumes of photos. One can wonder if KH-11 -era digital memory storage could have handled such volume.
I wonder what is harder from a storage point of view: small number of very high resolution pictures OR a boatload of medium resolution pictures ?
To answer one of Archibald's question: some replacement for Hexagon as the "national broad-area-search system" was to be ready by 1985 according to NRO's 1981 planning, as stated in F13-0119_NRP_Use_of_Space_Shuttle.pdf - see http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33631.0 (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=33631.0)
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/27/2017 06:30 pm
Dare I suggest Lacrosse?

It first launched in 1988. With the Challenger accident delays, it could very well have been the intended 1985 system.

The loss of the KH-9's broad search capability without a suitable replacement has always puzzled me.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 04/27/2017 07:37 pm
Dare I suggest Lacrosse?

It first launched in 1988. With the Challenger accident delays, it could very well have been the intended 1985 system.


No.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/27/2017 09:04 pm
Dare I suggest Lacrosse?

It first launched in 1988. With the Challenger accident delays, it could very well have been the intended 1985 system.


No.

So what was it? Was the search capability picked up by the KH-11, by other means like some form of SIGINT, or just not needed?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 04/28/2017 07:43 am
Dare I suggest Lacrosse?

It first launched in 1988. With the Challenger accident delays, it could very well have been the intended 1985 system.


No.

So what was it? Was the search capability picked up by the KH-11, by other means like some form of SIGINT, or just not needed?
Some believe it was placed elsewhere but I suspect Blackstar may say it was not needed with the KH-11.

The one thing it certainly wasn't and that was Lacrosse.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/28/2017 02:57 pm
The one thing it certainly wasn't and that was Lacrosse.
Sorry to derail the thread, but seems some people are very adamant that LACROSSE could not fill the KH-9 role.
I am a little curious as to why.

Too narrow a field of view?
Active scanning is not stealthy enough?
Doesn't show everything that optical imaging can?
Not enough power/bandwidth to cover everything needed?
Not high enough resolution?

Just curious.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 04/28/2017 03:04 pm
The one thing it certainly wasn't and that was Lacrosse.
Sorry to derail the thread, but seems some people are very adamant that LACROSSE could not fill the KH-9 role.
I am a little curious as to why.

Too narrow a field of view?
Active scanning is not stealthy enough?
Doesn't show everything that optical imaging can?
Not enough power/bandwidth to cover everything needed?
Not high enough resolution?

Just curious.

Further to my comments above some believe that this function was fulfilled by still classified air systems. I can't say I am very believing of this myself.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 04/28/2017 07:14 pm
The one thing it certainly wasn't and that was Lacrosse.
Sorry to derail the thread, but seems some people are very adamant that LACROSSE could not fill the KH-9 role.
I am a little curious as to why.

Too narrow a field of view?
Active scanning is not stealthy enough?
Doesn't show everything that optical imaging can?
Not enough power/bandwidth to cover everything needed?
Not high enough resolution?

Just curious.

Yes.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 04/28/2017 07:17 pm
The one thing it certainly wasn't and that was Lacrosse.
Sorry to derail the thread, but seems some people are very adamant that LACROSSE could not fill the KH-9 role.
I am a little curious as to why.

Too narrow a field of view?
Active scanning is not stealthy enough?
Doesn't show everything that optical imaging can?
Not enough power/bandwidth to cover everything needed?
Not high enough resolution?

Just curious.

Yes.

I wonder if any of these were solved in the FIA-Radar solution.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 04/28/2017 10:00 pm
According to a newly-declassified document I have, they "solved" the wide-area search requirement by increasing the bandwidth for the KH-11 system (that includes the SDS relay satellites). Now if that really satisfied the requirement, or they changed the requirement and it was different than before, I don't know. But that's what I got.

All this reminds me that I should write part 2 of my "Black Ops and the Shuttle" series and address WASP and ZEUS in greater detail.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 04/28/2017 11:16 pm
According to a newly-declassified document I have, they "solved" the wide-area search requirement by increasing the bandwidth for the KH-11 system (that includes the SDS relay satellites). Now if that really satisfied the requirement, or they changed the requirement and it was different than before, I don't know. But that's what I got.

All this reminds me that I should write part 2 of my "Black Ops and the Shuttle" series and address WASP and ZEUS in greater detail.

Is the bandwidth requirements why they need to have some Quasar satellites in Molynia orbits so that there is total global coverage.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 04/29/2017 01:15 am
Is the bandwidth requirements why they need to have some Quasar satellites in Molynia orbits so that there is total global coverage.

They needed them in those orbits from the start.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/29/2017 02:08 am
According to a newly-declassified document I have, they "solved" the wide-area search requirement by increasing the bandwidth for the KH-11 system (that includes the SDS relay satellites).
In 1985, or post the first Gulf War? Those are two different things...

Quote
Now if that really satisfied the requirement, or they changed the requirement and it was different than before, I don't know. But that's what I got.
Considering Powell's post Gulf War quip of 'Looking Through a Soda Straw', completely missing India's nuclear testing break out, and what ever post Gulf War KH-11 8x was I would argue they didn't meet the need. If it met the requirement is a different question.  That said, the KH-9 returned a ton of data. Maybe they thought it was more imagery than the need... a government agency saying they have to much data, kinda of a stretch.

Quote
All this reminds me that I should write part 2 of my "Black Ops and the Shuttle" series and address WASP and ZEUS in greater detail.
yes
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 04/29/2017 01:55 pm
The one thing it certainly wasn't and that was Lacrosse.
Sorry to derail the thread, but seems some people are very adamant that LACROSSE could not fill the KH-9 role.
I am a little curious as to why.

Too narrow a field of view?
Active scanning is not stealthy enough?
Doesn't show everything that optical imaging can?
Not enough power/bandwidth to cover everything needed?
Not high enough resolution?

Just curious.

Yes.

I read somewhere that Lacrosse was aimed at following Soviet mobile missile launchers. If that's true, it probably had a wide swath to find the targets, but a moderate resolution when using that search mode. A radar image with 1m resolution is probably enough to detect the launchers when you know what your are looking for, but compared to the 60cm-resolution optical images of the Hexagon, it might not be enough for retrospective analysis of unknown facilities, or to detect unusual construction. Radar images are much harder to interpret than optical ones.

On the other hand, even with a narrow field of view, the combined capability of the KH-11 constellation, added up over one year, could come close to the coverage provided by a KH-9 flight. I think it did the math some time ago, I'll look for it.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/30/2017 02:15 am
Don't forget, the missile launcher is much larger than say a car or random rock, and should have a much stronger radar return. The point being, the radar "image" doesn't have to be the highest resolution if the launcher has some unique radar characteristics. It doesn't even need to resolve the a launcher, especially if they have previously mapped the general area, and it's radar return just sticks out like a sore thumb.

That said, the German TIRA made and released some very high resolution images of the failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe a few years back. It proves it is within the realm to be able to produce high resolution radar images.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gosnold on 04/30/2017 08:02 am
I found one article by Dwayne Day with resolution figures for Lacrosse:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/790/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/790/1)
Radar love: the tortured history of American space radar programs
Quote
The satellite’s average radar resolution was reported to be about one meter, probably in the standard “pushbroom” mode where the radar essentially looks straight down and takes a continuous image, like a push broom being pushed across a floor. However, synthetic aperture radars have a mode called “spotlighting” whereby they spend several seconds taking repeated images of the same small area to improve resolution. By taking images for up to 17 seconds, Onyx reportedly could obtain a resolution of about 0.3 meters for a small area.

It support my explanation above: with 1m resolution in radar in wide-swath mode, Lacrosse is worse than Hexagon for wide-area intelligence search. The article dates back to 2007 though, so maybe new information has come to light.

Don't forget, the missile launcher is much larger than say a car or random rock, and should have a much stronger radar return. The point being, the radar "image" doesn't have to be the highest resolution if the launcher has some unique radar characteristics. It doesn't even need to resolve the a launcher, especially if they have previously mapped the general area, and it's radar return just sticks out like a sore thumb.

That said, the German TIRA made and released some very high resolution images of the failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe a few years back. It proves it is within the realm to be able to produce high resolution radar images.

Yes, though as explained above, a radar sat usually has a low-resolution mode with a wide swath and a high-resolution mode with a small swath.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 04/30/2017 07:37 pm
I found one article by Dwayne Day with resolution figures for Lacrosse:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/790/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/790/1)
Radar love: the tortured history of American space radar programs
Quote
The satellite’s average radar resolution was reported to be about one meter, probably in the standard “pushbroom” mode where the radar essentially looks straight down and takes a continuous image, like a push broom being pushed across a floor. However, synthetic aperture radars have a mode called “spotlighting” whereby they spend several seconds taking repeated images of the same small area to improve resolution. By taking images for up to 17 seconds, Onyx reportedly could obtain a resolution of about 0.3 meters for a small area.

It support my explanation above: with 1m resolution in radar in wide-swath mode, Lacrosse is worse than Hexagon for wide-area intelligence search. The article dates back to 2007 though, so maybe new information has come to light.

Don't forget, the missile launcher is much larger than say a car or random rock, and should have a much stronger radar return. The point being, the radar "image" doesn't have to be the highest resolution if the launcher has some unique radar characteristics. It doesn't even need to resolve the a launcher, especially if they have previously mapped the general area, and it's radar return just sticks out like a sore thumb.

That said, the German TIRA made and released some very high resolution images of the failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe a few years back. It proves it is within the realm to be able to produce high resolution radar images.

Yes, though as explained above, a radar sat usually has a low-resolution mode with a wide swath and a high-resolution mode with a small swath.

You should keep in mind that it's known the antenna designs of the Onyx satellites altered across the programs life as they appear to have been constructed in two blocks, I suspect this reflected changes in their capabilities. Also in these two blocks Onyx 5 had a completely different antenna design to those before it. This was established when images of them in orbit were put online.

http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/onyx.htm

Quote
It appears that Lacrosse 5 has a planar radar antenna, unlike the dish antennas of earlier Lacrosses, notes satellite watcher, Allen Thomson, who recently posted the Russian paper.

https://www.leonarddavid.com/revealing-look-at-once-secret-spysat/
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/30/2017 08:01 pm
You should keep in mind that it's known the antenna designs of the Onyx satellites altered across the programs life as they appear to have been constructed in two blocks, I suspect this reflected changes in their capabilities. Also in these two blocks Onyx 5 had a completely different antenna design to those before it. This was established when images of them in orbit were put online.
And don't forget, a third design (fourth if USA-193 is included) for the current generation (TOPAZ). The current generation is now built by Boeing. They whole class has evolved significantly since 1988.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 04/30/2017 08:06 pm
You should keep in mind that it's known the antenna designs of the Onyx satellites altered across the programs life as they appear to have been constructed in two blocks, I suspect this reflected changes in their capabilities. Also in these two blocks Onyx 5 had a completely different antenna design to those before it. This was established when images of them in orbit were put online.
And don't forget, a third design (fourth if USA-193 is included) for the current generation (TOPAZ). The current generation is now built by Boeing. They whole class has evolved significantly since 1988.

It's interesting that Onyx 5 debuted a completely different design seemingly as a one off, even before it was revealed people suspected this because of its famous disappearing trick from visual observers on the ground.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 03:19 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today. Curious in that I thought they had farmed this particular mission out to the commercial sector. Why do something yourself when you can get the private sector to do it for you and buy in the product?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/01/2017 03:30 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today. Curious in that I thought they had farmed this particular mission out to the commercial sector.

Maybe they thought it was better to buy one off the shelf compared to constantly paying Digital Globe, etal... Also, less chance of another snowden leaking a list of what images the NRO paid to acquire.

That said, 50ish degrees is interesting when synced up with the sun correctly. In some areas, each day allows for two good nadir daylight passes, with multiple slant passes.  Just saying... if done right, it would be good for multiple passes, multiple times a day over the Mid East or North Korea.
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 03:37 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today. Curious in that I thought they had farmed this particular mission out to the commercial sector.

Maybe they thought it was better to buy one off the shelf compared to constantly paying Digital Globe, etal... Also, less chance of another snowden leaking a list of what images the NRO paid to acquire.

That said, 50ish degrees is interesting when synced up with the sun correctly. In some areas, each day allows for two good nadir daylight passes, with multiple slant passes.  Just saying... if done right, it would be good for multiple passes, multiple times a day over the Mid East or North Korea.

I wonder if there's any relation as well to the KH-11 fleet currently allegedly being understrength. According to speculation I've read they normally keep two in each relevant orbital plane, but at the moment they've only got three altogether on orbit (two on west and one on east). When they last replenished the fleet they only put one in each orbital plane.

This is the latest on the KH-11s.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/usa-186-recovered.html?m=1
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Jim on 05/01/2017 04:21 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today.

I wouldn't say that
Title: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 04:23 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today.

I wouldn't say that

As posited above I suppose if they had a particular country (i.e. North Korea) they wanted to keep more of an eye on.

Just waiting for the threats to shoot it down....
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/01/2017 05:52 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today.

I wouldn't say that

As posited above I suppose if they had a particular country (i.e. North Korea) they wanted to keep more of an eye on.

Just waiting for the threats to shoot it down....
A 51 degree orbit provides pretty good cover for most of the hot spots in the world today... The only major hotspot areas not well covered will be the Crimea and Eastern Europe.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 06:36 pm
A bit OT but I find it curious that the NRO appear to have launched a tactical reconnaissance satellite today.

I wouldn't say that

As posited above I suppose if they had a particular country (i.e. North Korea) they wanted to keep more of an eye on.

Just waiting for the threats to shoot it down....
A 51 degree orbit provides pretty good cover for most of the hot spots in the world today... The only major hotspot areas not well covered will be the Crimea and Eastern Europe.

Do you expect any further similar payloads to be launched or would you think this is a one off for now?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 05/11/2017 09:48 pm
Phil Pressel, who designed the KH-9 HEXAGON camera system, now has a blog:

https://www.hexagonkh9.com/blog/2017/4/3/what-was-hexagon-kh-9

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Kansan52 on 05/11/2017 10:02 pm
Great blog!
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Targeteer on 05/11/2017 10:13 pm
Another great shot of a Hexagon launch.  Not sure if it's been previously released.

https://www.facebook.com/NationalReconnaissanceOffice/photos/a.1544403572457698.1073741828.1442712095960180/1977229739175077/?type=3&theater

On May 11, 1982, the National Reconnaissance Office successfully launched Hexagon 17, Mission #1217, from 30th Space Wing (Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.), aboard a Titan III-D booster (pictured). Mission #1217 was the first Hexagon satellite to operate for over 200 days (208 total), surpassing the previous record of 161 days by more than 25%.

Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 05/14/2017 03:49 pm
Phil Pressel, who designed the KH-9 HEXAGON camera system, now has a blog:

https://www.hexagonkh9.com/blog/2017/4/3/what-was-hexagon-kh-9

Thanks for the link. Already a fair bit of info on there and all nicely presented.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 08/08/2017 10:10 pm
This book is a printing of one of the NRO's declassified HEXAGON histories. I've lost track, but I think there are four declassified HEXAGON histories:

-The HEXAGON Story
-Perry's volume on HEXAGON (which only goes to 1973)
-the mapping camera history (which has some good material)
-this other one

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1521084874/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Normally I'm not a fan of people reprinting stuff that is already free and in the public domain (years ago somebody took a whole bunch of essays that I wrote for a government website and slapped their own name on them), but this actually appears to be a worthwhile effort. They re-typeset the original. I have not read it to see how good the optical reading of the original was (i.e. are there a lot of typos?), and I note that the title of one of their other publications, "Defense's Nuclear Agency," indicates that they're sloppy. But it is a decent printing job. The images in the book are all taken from the photocopy, so the quality is not great. That said, it is a decent print job, and if you would rather read this history from a book instead of a computer screen or a stack of copy paper, then this is what you should do. For $15, it's a good deal.

As for the history itself, my friend Phil Pressel (who was one of the key designers of the HEXAGON's camera system and has written a book about that) thinks that this is a very good history.

The publisher has a bunch of other NRO titles. You can download pdfs of them for free if you know where to find them.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 08/09/2017 08:15 am
It also ships to the UK sometimes these self print books don't ship outside the US.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 01/15/2019 11:17 pm
Quarterly (4Q18) NRO FOIA release is out http://www.nro.gov/Freedom-of-Information-Act-FOIA/Declassified-Records/Other-Public-Releases/FOIA-For-All-Releases/ (http://www.nro.gov/Freedom-of-Information-Act-FOIA/Declassified-Records/Other-Public-Releases/FOIA-For-All-Releases/).

It includes documents on CORN, the “Controlled Range Network”, which was managed by Data Corporation (later Mead Technology Laboratories), in Dayton, OH. Purpose of CORN was to provide a “(…) capability to support development and evaluation of photographic, infrared and radar reconnaissance systems.”

The two main optical(?) calibration displays were tribar resolution targets and (at least one) circular/annular mensuration target (located near Dugway, UT, and visible at 40.106895, -112.985521 on google maps images). The tribar arrays were designed to probe ground resolution distances (GRD) from 16 feet down to 1.1 inch (Table A-1 in http://www.nro.gov/Portals/65/documents/foia/declass/ForAll/123118/F-2018-00002_C05106617.pdf (http://www.nro.gov/Portals/65/documents/foia/declass/ForAll/123118/F-2018-00002_C05106617.pdf) ).

Unlike the CORONA calibration targets https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_Satellite_Calibration_Targets (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_Satellite_Calibration_Targets) , tribar targets were mobile, and were only set-up temporarily, mostly in the south-west (e.g. near Tucson, ...). CORN was operational at least from the late 1960s to the early/mid 1980s. It was used for calibration of GAMBIT, HEXAGON, and a classified other program (KENNEN?). At some point in the late 1970s/early 1980s an upgrade for a “special CCD target” was studied.

One Hexagon tribar image (mission 1205, Op 313, F026, Forward camera) shows maybe the first twelve tribars resolved (image reproduction in the released document is quite poor), which would correspond to a GRD of around 34 inches (3 ft).
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 01/16/2019 12:41 am
Apologies if this is the wrong place to post, but I think it is germane...

ISTR years ago, perhaps in the 80s, noticing a descending size tribar pattern, on some kind of pavement, near a corner of Wright Field at Wright-Patterson AFB--maybe it was the southwest corner.

I don't recall the circumstance--it could have been from the elevation of one of the roads that circumscribe WPAFB.  Or, it could have been from a Boy Scout hike on a path around and through the less-developed areas of WPAFB, like Huffman Prairie.  Or it could have been from the air on approach to Dayton International Airport.

Does anyone have an idea of what this was for?  I know that a lot of research was done and is done there.

I note the reference to CORN immediately up-thread.  Mead was also a Dayton company.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/16/2019 12:52 am
Apologies if this is the wrong place to post, but I think it is germane...

ISTR years ago, perhaps in the 80s, noticing a descending size tribar pattern, on some kind of pavement, near a corner of Wright Field at Wright-Patterson AFB--maybe it was the southwest corner.

Other airbases had them. They were usually for aircraft at the bases.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/16/2019 12:53 am
One Hexagon tribar image (mission 1205, Op 313, F026, Forward camera) shows maybe the first twelve tribars resolved (image reproduction in the released document is quite poor), which would correspond to a GRD of around 34 inches (3 ft).

NRO won't admit to better, but H did much better in some circumstances. You'd be shocked.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/19/2019 05:04 am
I am sorry but I posted this message to the old Hexagon post so I reposted to the current post.

The NRO has just released 100 new (a few are rereleased) documents related to the Hexagon program.  The link to the new documents are under the "What's New" link on the NRO web page.

I am looking forward to reviewing them in the next few days.

Oh damn, there goes my free time for the next week...

edit: well, Dwayne will enjoy these, lots of stuff about the war between USAF and CIA. Not much on the flight details that I'm more interested in, although doc 100 has the failure report for Hexagon 20, which also includes a mildly interesting program summary, with no new revelations


I beg to differ...

The planned mission was apparently going to be 540 days--300 primary and 240 solo (something is then blacked out) pages 31-32.  That would have been the longest mission by far--probably because of the earlier Titan 34D/KH-11 failure.  By solo I assume they mean with no RVs--what capability did the Hexagon have WITHOUT any RVs left? 


Doing some research way past my bedtime and came across this post.

I think I now know what that 240 solo day mission was.

Question: is there an illustration of the S3 (solid state sensor) camera system in any of the HEXAGON documents or histories? I vaguely remember seeing one, but it's not in either "The Hexagon Story" or the CIA history.


Note that NRO has moved around the document collections. You can find most of them here:

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

The second group of HEXAGON documents is here:

http://www.nro.gov/Freedom-of-Information-Act-FOIA/Declassified-Records/Special-Collections/HEXAGON-Records/



Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 01/30/2019 11:12 pm
..
Question: is there an illustration of the S3 (solid state sensor) camera system in any of the HEXAGON documents or histories? I vaguely remember seeing one, but it's not in either "The Hexagon Story" or the CIA history.
...
Birth of Air Force Satellite Reconnaissance: Facts, Recollections and Reflections by Swan, Swan, and Larned has a description:
"The most unique and enduring hardware change was the incorporation of two Solid-state Stellar Sensors (S3) in lieu of the ITEK mapping camera module, also starting on V-17. Each S3 camera consisted of six linear CCD arrays mounted on a common sapphire substrate with known (precisely measured) spacing between arrays/elements and registration to the central optical axis. The two S3 cameras were fixed to either side of the Two-Camera Assembly box frame and pointed up, out and back from the normal flight direction. (...) The data (...) was recorded (...) on the tape recorders and sent down during normal Tracking Station contacts...."

Location of the star sensors is indicated in the Satellite Vehicle Configuration in "The HEXAGON Story", though I don't recall seeing any detailed drawing/image of S3.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 01/31/2019 12:45 am
I got this. There's also a schematic of the S3 in Phil Pressel's book. And I've been talking to some people. Let's just say that there's a story...
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: hoku on 02/05/2019 09:19 pm
I got this. There's also a schematic of the S3 in Phil Pressel's book. And I've been talking to some people. Let's just say that there's a story...
Nice teaser - looking forward to the next "storytime"! Reading between the lines (and redactions) in the Hexagon mission reports, S3 might have observed more than "just" stars...

A History of the HEXAGON Program by Richard J. Chester shows a close-up of the catadioptric optical design of S3, and also mentions Victor Abraham's involvement - see page 72 in the PDF at https://www.nro.gov/Freedom-of-Information-Act-FOIA/Declassified-Records/Special-Collections/GAMBIT-and-Hexagon-Programs/
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/10/2019 07:53 pm
I’ve included this article for sake of completeness as it talks about how this kind of imagery fitted in with that provided by aircraft and satellites.

Quote
High-resolution photoreconnaissance satellites became operational several years later.  GAMBIT-1, launched 38 times from 1963-1967, eventually achieved a best resolution of two feet.  The follow-on GAMBIT-3 flew 54 missions from 1966-1984.  Its maximum resolution remains classified, except for the fact that it was initially greater than two feet and apparently improved to better than one foot. HEXAGON, which flew 19 missions from 1971-1984, had a best resolution of two feet.[5]  The resolution obtained by KENNEN, the first digital return system initially launched in 1976, remains classified.   

Although the high-resolution imagery from the U-2 and satellites satisfied many technical intelligence requirements, it rarely captured certain critical targets. These included intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and shorter-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles.  Even before their deployment in silos beginning in the mid-1960s, these vehicles were stored in buildings at their launch complexes.  Submarines carried their ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in tubes and their cruise missiles in protective housings.  Silos housed anti-ballistic missiles (ABMs).  The U-2 and, later, satellites, frequently photographed aircraft on runways and aprons.  However, they could not capture the underside, engine inlets, and certain other important features.  Similarly, these overhead platforms were limited in some respects in photographing armor, artillery, mobile radars, and other ground force equipment.

https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/intelligence-russia-programs/2018-12-17/communist-parades-intelligence-target-cold-war
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Blackstar on 02/18/2019 07:05 pm
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3662/1

Above Top Secret: the last flight of the Big Bird

by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, February 18, 2019

By the early 1980s, the HEXAGON reconnaissance satellite program was scheduled to end. Only a few more of the heavy, schoolbus-sized spacecraft were under construction. Efforts by senior Air Force officials within the Los Angeles office of the highly classified National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to either build more spacecraft, or use the Space Shuttle to recover and relaunch one or more of the last satellites, had been rejected as impractical or too expensive. The NRO leadership in Washington instead chose to stretch out the remaining launches, keeping the satellites in orbit longer and taking more images. The HEXAGON had a powerful dual camera system also known as the KH-9 and capable of imaging almost the entire Soviet landmass in a single mission. Because of that, the 20th and last HEXAGON spacecraft, scheduled for launch in spring 1986, became very important to many members of the intelligence community.

But what has not been known until now is that the last HEXAGON spacecraft acquired an additional top secret sensor and intelligence mission in addition to its primary job of taking medium resolution photography of vast amounts of territory. The spacecraft was also supposed to fly twice as long as any previous HEXAGON mission. On April 26, 1986, the last HEXAGON spacecraft—which was euphemistically referred to as “the big bird” by launch crews—lifted off atop a Titan 34D at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

And then the rocket blew up.




Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/18/2019 10:19 pm
Excellent and informative article. Thanks.

I see KENNEN gets plenty of mentions but I suppose the declassification of the early days of that program is still somewhere in the government labyrinth.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 02/19/2019 10:35 am
Can't remember my source (Blackstar?), but I've a note that there were a couple more classified payloads on Hexagon 20 called Onyx and LORRI 2.
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: Star One on 02/19/2019 03:16 pm
Can't remember my source (Blackstar?), but I've a note that there were a couple more classified payloads on Hexagon 20 called Onyx and LORRI 2.

Do you mean attached payloads or sub-satellites?
Title: Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
Post by: gwiz on 02/19/2019 04:35 pm
No information on that.