Author Topic: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites  (Read 125456 times)

Offline hoku

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #60 on: 12/22/2010 01:18 am »
Now this is a really interesting chart.  Note that under the satellites category, there are four projects that are deleted.  They have operational dates (top to bottom) of 1966, 1968, 1967, and 1969.

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

So what are the other two?

This might be somewhat off-topic, but how does GOPSS (Geodetic Optical Photographic Satellite System study from 1966) fit into the overall picture? Could this have been the project expected to be operational by 1967? The study started as an ARGON follow-up around 1963, with the "Final Report" with the feasibility study in 1966 - see
http://nro.gov/foia/CAL-Records.html
(Docs "4 E 0006" to "4 E 0010")

My apologies in case GOPSS should already have been covered in another thread.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #61 on: 12/22/2010 01:30 am »
1-This might be somewhat off-topic, but how does GOPSS (Geodetic Optical Photographic Satellite System study from 1966) fit into the overall picture? Could this have been the project expected to be operational by 1967? The study started as an ARGON follow-up around 1963, with the "Final Report" with the feasibility study in 1966 - see

SNIP

2-My apologies in case GOPSS should already have been covered in another thread.

2-Not off topic.  Dunno many other threads on spysats here.

1-Thanks for the tip that they finally put this stuff online.  In the latter 1990s I photocopied tons of this stuff at their reading room.

This program didn't go anywhere.  I don't totally remember the specifics, but I think this was a proposal that was largely overtaken by the development of the DISIC mapping camera on the KH-4B, which was probably also incorporated into the KH-8 and maybe the later KH-7.

It is possible--I'll have to look over this closely and think about it a bit--that this camera later ended up as the mapping camera on the KH-9.

There was a mapping camera on the 9.  I don't know if that was built by the main camera manufacturer, Perkin-Elmer, or by somebody else.  The other obvious choices were Fairchild and Itek (I don't know of Kodak making mapping cameras).

I believe that the Large Format Camera that later flew on a single shuttle flight was an extra KH-9 mapping camera.  That was an Itek camera and I vaguely remember somebody telling me that it was "left over" from another program.  The KH-9 was an obvious choice.

Maybe this GOPSS camera became the KH-9 mapping camera and then eventually NASA's LFT.  Anybody with more info on that latter program, please let me know.

I'll have to think about it.

Offline dbaker

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #62 on: 12/22/2010 05:03 pm »
The bar was in the officer’s club on an airbase in England, probably RAF Mildenhall.  He was an American officer, apparently in England to attend the annual Farnborough air show, one of the largest air shows in the world.  While tipping back a few beers, the officer hears a couple of other officers—it is unknown if they were American or British—discussing an object that a farmer had found on land near where one of the officers lived off-base.

Alconbury - from where a lot of operational recon took place.

Offline hoku

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #63 on: 12/23/2010 07:32 pm »
1-This might be somewhat off-topic, but how does GOPSS (Geodetic Optical Photographic Satellite System study from 1966) fit into the overall picture?
SNIP

This program didn't go anywhere.  I don't totally remember the specifics, but I think this was a proposal that was largely overtaken by the development of the DISIC mapping camera on the KH-4B, which was probably also incorporated into the KH-8 and maybe the later KH-7.

<snip>

Maybe this GOPSS camera became the KH-9 mapping camera and then eventually NASA's LFT.  Anybody with more info on that latter program, please let me know.

I'll have to think about it.

Thanks for your insights. I found a paragraph in Perry's History Vol I (page 135), where he states that the dedicated mapping satellite was favored by the Army Mapping Service, who didn't want to yield control to NRO, and that the project (code named "Vault/Tomas") later "disappeared" (i.e. "killed", not going "black", I presume).  Perry also confirms that the stellar-indexing camera DISIC gave CORONA a mapping capability "somewhat superior" to ARGON.

Btw., the CIA FOIA version of "A History of Satellite Reconnaissance Vol I - CORONA" is somewhat less redacted than the NRO version - a comparison shows that in the NRO version, e.g., all occurrences of "National Reconnaissance Office" are blacked out - go figure  :D

http://www.foia.cia.gov/docs/DOC_0000940279/DOC_0000940279.pdf

http://www.nro.gov/foia/HOSR/History_of_Satellite_Reconnaissance_VOL_I-CORONA.pdf

Offline Jester

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #64 on: 12/23/2010 10:14 pm »
Thanks for that CIA link, i'm kind of keeping a log of Perry's History on this thread.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=20232.0

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #65 on: 02/27/2011 01:47 am »
Thanks for your insights. I found a paragraph in Perry's History Vol I (page 135), where he states that the dedicated mapping satellite was favored by the Army Mapping Service, who didn't want to yield control to NRO, and that the project (code named "Vault/Tomas") later "disappeared" (i.e. "killed", not going "black", I presume).  Perry also confirms that the stellar-indexing camera DISIC gave CORONA a mapping capability "somewhat superior" to ARGON.

It would be possible for a researcher to trace the history of mapping cameras/satellites through the 1960s.  I think that John Cloud wrote something about the use of the mapping imagery some years back (he currently works for USGS or NOAA, I think).  In addition to the dedicated ARGON mapping satellite, there was also a Samos mapping satellite.  I think it was the E-4.  They built several of them, but never launched them.  Probably crushed them and melted them down. 

ARGON started as an Army proposal originally called SALAAM, then renamed VEDAS.  I wasn't aware of the names VAULT/TOMAS.  And there was also apparently another proposal that floated around for a system with four cameras.  A schematic of this appeared in Scientific American in the 1970s and must have really cheesed off the NRO.  I don't think I have good information on that one other than the drawing.

Offline Star One

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #66 on: 04/19/2020 03:25 pm »
Via The Secret Projects forum:

Corona: America’s First Satellite Program (A CIA History Staff publication)

https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA499635

Alternative link:

https://evergreen.loyola.edu/khula/www/strategic-intelligence/intel/corona.pdf

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #67 on: 04/20/2020 01:10 pm »
The CORONA declassification in 1995 was pushed by CIA, apparently against NRO opposition. I don't know why CIA wanted to do it, but there was an attitude in the Clinton administration that with the Cold War over, the government needed to be more open about its activities. CIA also needed something positive they could talk about, and CORONA was a great success. The existence of the NRO was officially revealed in 1992, although without any details (I think that the initial release never mentioned "satellites" and it took them several years before they would even admit that their satellites were launched on rockets.) Still, this was a major deal to declassify an early satellite program.

That publication was produced by CIA and it was a very good one to accompany the declassification of CORONA. They gave them out at the symposium that was held for the declassification. (I grabbed a full box of them and then sent copies to friends of mine.) It contains a good overview of documents about the spacecraft and the imagery it produced. It even has a report about using color film in later CORONA missions.

That said, it had some limitations. The history article it contains is not very good, but what I heard was that the CIA technically "owned" that article, so they could release it without NRO objecting to it (NRO could only review it for security). We now know that there are a LOT of CORONA histories. There was a multi-volume CIA set that has great info but is really long. Then there's Perry's history, which has some other info. And then there was "The CORONA Story" produced in the 1980s, which is probably the best shorter version of the history (although longer than the one in this book). About a year or so later NRO declassified a technical briefing on CORONA that had more details on the spacecraft. There are now hundreds of thousands of pages available on CORONA. It's exhaustive. But this book remains a good first introduction to it.
« Last Edit: 04/20/2020 02:16 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Star One

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The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #68 on: 04/20/2020 02:27 pm »
I found The Corona Story included on my Amazon Prime video subscription, at least in the UK. It gives the running time of 57 minutes and a production year of 2017. Is it the same film you are talking about as you are talking about it being made in the eighties?
« Last Edit: 04/20/2020 02:28 pm by Star One »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #69 on: 04/20/2020 08:15 pm »
I'm referring to a book called "The CORONA Story."

I'm not familiar with what your are referring to on Amazon Prime.

UPDATE: I just looked. The video on Amazon Prime is a documentary produced by the CIA. There are similar ones for GAMBIT and HEXAGON, although those have deletions (mostly imagery was deleted). All of the documentaries are very good. It's too bad the CORONA one was not restored. It includes a couple of guys out at SLC-2 talking about the Discoverer 1 launch, saying that although it was reported to be in orbit, they later concluded it probably crashed in Antarctica. One guy says that the launch team at Vandenberg never thought it reached orbit. I interviewed Frank Buzard about that and got the story. I've written about that.

« Last Edit: 04/20/2020 08:39 pm by Blackstar »

Offline Star One

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The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #70 on: 04/21/2020 10:43 am »
I'm referring to a book called "The CORONA Story."

I'm not familiar with what your are referring to on Amazon Prime.

UPDATE: I just looked. The video on Amazon Prime is a documentary produced by the CIA. There are similar ones for GAMBIT and HEXAGON, although those have deletions (mostly imagery was deleted). All of the documentaries are very good. It's too bad the CORONA one was not restored. It includes a couple of guys out at SLC-2 talking about the Discoverer 1 launch, saying that although it was reported to be in orbit, they later concluded it probably crashed in Antarctica. One guy says that the launch team at Vandenberg never thought it reached orbit. I interviewed Frank Buzard about that and got the story. I've written about that.
Would the documentaries on the other programs have the same kind of name as when I found the film above it didn’t suggest any related content nor could I find anything by searching for Hexagon or Gambit.
« Last Edit: 04/21/2020 10:45 am by Star One »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #71 on: 04/21/2020 01:33 pm »
They are on the internet. Links have been posted on this site. You could search for them.

Offline Star One

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The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #72 on: 04/21/2020 03:23 pm »
Guessing this is the Hexagon one as posted on the NRO You Tube Channel:



And this is the Gambit one on the same channel:

« Last Edit: 04/21/2020 03:25 pm by Star One »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #73 on: 04/22/2020 01:41 pm »
NRO produced a video of a talk about the A-12 OXCART. That video included some reconnaissance images that I am positive came from the GAMBIT movie. The GAMBIT movie has some deleted sections, and NRO must have approved declassifying them and including them in the A-12 video, because the A-12 did not fly over the Soviet launch site at Baikonur. I used these images in an article a year ago.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #74 on: 05/05/2020 11:57 pm »
I could not find a dedicated CORONA reconnaissance satellite thread, so I'll drop this here. Something I wrote in 2012 about a proposed upgrade to CORONA by Fairchild Camera and Instrument Company.

Offline Star One

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #75 on: 08/21/2020 07:19 pm »
Scott Manley on the Corona program:


Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #76 on: 03/01/2021 10:36 pm »
This is from a 1977 Kodak briefing report on the GAMBIT satellite.

I'm trying to figure out the other spacecraft in this image. Several are GAMBIT, possibly showing the thermal control section around one part of the spacecraft. The one at upper right is probably also a GAMBIT.

A couple of images show Lunar Orbiter. One possibly shows a Samos.

But others are a mystery to me. They do not have to all be military systems. They could be cameras for Earth orbiting satellites for NASA. But they have to be Kodak, because it was a Kodak report.

The one on the upper left may be the forebody section to a GAMBIT. But what about the one at lower left? Looks like a mockup, probably for something that never flew.

Offline Targeteer

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #77 on: 04/18/2021 07:21 am »
National Reconnaissance Office 14h  Facebook

#OTD #NROat60 #AboveandBeyond On this day in 1984, NRO used a Titan IIIB to launch the last Gambit-3, Mission #54, which operated for over 116 days. To learn more about the Gambit-3 system, check out this video from appoximately 5:00-7:00 minute marks:
In recognition of NRO's 60th Anniversary, we are taking a look back at the people and technology that shaped our founding and overhead reconnaissance mission. Thanks to our heritage, NRO today has an unrivaled constellation of advanced overhead reconnaissance systems to support the nation's defense and homeland security needs 24/7, 365.

« Last Edit: 04/18/2021 07:22 am by Targeteer »
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Blackstar

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #78 on: 05/05/2021 04:39 pm »
National Reconnaissance Office 14h  Facebook

#OTD #NROat60 #AboveandBeyond On this day in 1984, NRO used a Titan IIIB to launch the last Gambit-3, Mission #54, which operated for over 116 days.

They should have been explicit noting that this was the last GAMBIT mission and the last operational US reconnaissance mission to use film (a HEXAGON blew up in April 1986).

I'm going to be doing more research and writing on GAMBIT in the coming year. I already have a very detailed and lengthy article about the GAMBIT Dual Mode mission that I should publish soon. Dual Mode was a capability to fly GAMBIT in both a high orbit and a low orbit, so that it could take area search images and then close-look (high-resolution) images. It started in the early 1970s, apparently as an effort to put the GAMBIT out of range of Soviet ASAT weapons, but was later proposed as an alternative to HEXAGON. Although the capability was around for over a decade, only one mission was flown, and it was not entirely successful. It was a bad decision to fly this mission, and I cannot figure out exactly why they did it. GAMBIT's unique capability was very high resolution images, and Dual Mode negated that for half the mission, so it was wasting an asset--like building a Formula One racecar and then using it to commute to work.

I'm also working on an article that will cover the final years of GAMBIT, essentially the last block of satellites. My theme for that is that this represented the ultimate capabilities of film return technology before its retirement.


Offline kevin-rf

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Re: The KH-7 and KH-8 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellites
« Reply #79 on: 05/06/2021 02:55 pm »
Can't wait!
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

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