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Corona Satellite

 
Corona Satellites

The Corona satellite is the first reconnaissance satellite in the world. The Corona series of satellite was developed by the USA during the cold war. The project was approved by President Dwight David Eisenhower in February 1958. The USA used these satellites for the surveillance of the USSR and China. It was also used for mapping imagery. In addition to being the first reconnaissance satellite, it was also,

  • 1st mid-air recovery of a vehicle returning from space
  • 1st mapping of earth from space
  • 1st stereo-optical data from space
  • 1st multiple reentry vehicles from space
  • 1st reconnaissance program to fly 100 missions

corona

Fig. Corona Satellite

After eight failures in photo reconnaissance, the first successful mission occurred on 18th August 1960 when the first CORONA image of an intelligence target was obtained. There were 144 satellites launched out of which only 102 satellites returned useful imagery. The satellite was launched using the THOR booster and the AGENA spacecraft as the upper stage. The ground station was called as Black Telemetry and it was used for tracking and command purpose.

 

The series of satellite belonging to Corona family (KH-1, KH-2 , KH-3, KH-4, KH-4A, and KH-4B) were launched between 28 February 1958 and 25 May 1972. The corona series of satellites operated for nearly 12 years. It took over 800,000 images from space and over 2.1 million feet of film (Eastman Kodak film) in 39,000 cans. The most part of satellite modules were designed by Lockheed space systems and controlled by CIA .The corona delivered resolutions of six to 10 feet.

 

corona_launch

Fig. Launch

 

corona_recovery

Fig. Recovery

 

Satellite

Duration

Details

KH-1

25th June 1959 to

13th September 1960

A HYAC camera with Tessar f/5 lens and 24” (61 cm) focal length was used. The film used was an acetate film, which was 3 mm thick. However, it was later replaced with Eastman Kodak for subsequent satellites. The achieved resolution was 40 ft. The amount of film used was 3,548 ft. The mission lasted for 1 day. It had one successful mission. The altitude varied from 192 to 817 km.

 

KH-2

26th October 1960 to

23rd October 1961

The amount of film used was 17,949 ft. The ground resolution was improved to 25 ft. It used single panoramic camera and a single return vehicle. The mission lasted for 2-3 days. It had 3 successful missions. The altitude varied from 254 to 704 km.

 

KH-3

13th August 1961 to

13th January 1962

Petzval form of lens was used from this satellite onwards. It used single panoramic camera and a single return vehicle. It produced 24,676 ft of film. The mission lasted for 1-4 days. It had 5 successful missions. The altitude varied from 217 to 232 km.

 

 

KH-4

27th February 1962 to

24th March 1964

It used two panoramic cameras. This acquired 239,299 ft of film. The resolution varied from 10 to 25 ft. The mission lasted for 6-7 days. It had 20 successful missions. The altitude varied from 211 to 415 km.

 

KH-4A

24th August 1963 to

22nd September 1969

It used two panoramic cameras. This acquired 1,293,025 ft of film. The resolution was improved to 9 ft.. The mission lasted for 4-15days. It had 49 successful missions. The altitude was 180 km.

 

 

KH-4B

15th September 1967

to 25th May 1972

It used two panoramic cameras. This acquired 505,970 ft of film. The ground resolution was improved to 6 ft. The mission lasted for 19 days. It had 16 successful missions. The altitude was 150 km.

The KH, KeyHole, stands for the camera systems carried on the satellite. The images taken by these satellites were declassified on 22nd February 1995 as per present Clinton’s order.

 

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