Author Topic: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite  (Read 218735 times)

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #180 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.

Online Herb Schaltegger

Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #181 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.
Ad astra per aspirin ...

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #182 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.
« Last Edit: 12/27/2011 07:00 pm by Blackstar »

Offline rguser

  • Member
  • Posts: 39
  • Liked: 19
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #183 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.

Online jcm

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3060
  • Jonathan McDowell
  • Somerville, Massachusetts, USA
    • Jonathan's Space Report
  • Liked: 604
  • Likes Given: 445
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #184 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
« Last Edit: 10/02/2012 03:58 am by jcm »
-----------------------------

Jonathan McDowell
http://planet4589.org

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #185 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.

Offline Targeteer

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3938
  • near hangar 18
  • Liked: 1033
  • Likes Given: 504
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #186 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? 
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #187 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.

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #188 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]

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #189 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.
« Last Edit: 10/03/2012 02:37 am by Blackstar »

Offline kevin-rf

  • Elite Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8657
  • Overlooking the path Mary's little Lamb took..
  • Liked: 1125
  • Likes Given: 245
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #190 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
If you're happy and you know it,
It's your med's!

Offline Targeteer

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3938
  • near hangar 18
  • Liked: 1033
  • Likes Given: 504
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #191 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... ???
« Last Edit: 10/03/2012 03:20 am by Targeteer »
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Star One

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 10208
  • UK
  • Liked: 2029
  • Likes Given: 208
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #192 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?

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #193 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.

Offline Targeteer

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3938
  • near hangar 18
  • Liked: 1033
  • Likes Given: 504
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #194 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.
Best quote heard during an inspection, "I was unaware that I was the only one who was aware."

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #195 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.

Offline rguser

  • Member
  • Posts: 39
  • Liked: 19
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #196 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.

Offline rguser

  • Member
  • Posts: 39
  • Liked: 19
  • Likes Given: 0
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #197 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.
« Last Edit: 10/04/2012 09:46 am by rguser »

Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #198 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.


Offline Blackstar

  • Veteran
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 11645
  • Liked: 3193
  • Likes Given: 1
Re: KH-9 HEXAGON Reconnaissance Satellite
« Reply #199 on: 10/04/2012 04:57 pm »
One other possibility--agent communications (i.e. James Bond sends a message up to an orbiting satellite).

Tags: