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Proceedings Paper

History of the formerly top secret KH-9 Hexagon spy satellite
Author(s): Phil Pressel
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Paper Abstract

This paper is about the development, design, fabrication and use of the KH-9 Hexagon spy in the sky satellite camera system that was finally declassified by the National Reconnaissance Office on September 17, 2011 twenty five years after the program ended. It was the last film based reconnaissance camera and was known by experts in the field as “the most complicated system ever put up in orbit.” It provided important intelligence for the United States government and was the reason that President Nixon was able to sign the SALT treaty, and when President Reagan said “Trust but Verify” it provided the means of verification. Each satellite weighed 30,000 pounds and carried two cameras thereby permitting photographs of the entire landmass of the earth to be taken in stereo. Each camera carried up to 30 miles of film for a total of 60 miles of film. Ultra-complex mechanisms controlled the structurally “wimpy” film that traveled at speeds up to 204 inches per second at the focal plane and was perfectly synchronized to the optical image.

Paper Details

Date Published: 5 December 2014
PDF: 6 pages
Proc. SPIE 9197, An Optical Believe It or Not: Key Lessons Learned III, 91970D (5 December 2014); doi: 10.1117/12.2066927
Show Author Affiliations
Phil Pressel, Quartus Engineering Inc. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 9197:
An Optical Believe It or Not: Key Lessons Learned III
Mark A. Kahan, Editor(s)

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