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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How did the first CIA spy satellites work


The end of World War II brought only a temporary relaxation of tension on the planet, and even then only for about a year. The famous 1946 speech delivered by Winston Churchill in the American Fulton meant that a new round of confrontation had begun, which after a while was called the Cold War. And the former allies of the anti-Hitler coalition, becoming mortal enemies, launched a frantic arms race.
But the Cold War could not be limited only to the production of its own weapons, it was necessary to find out the potential enemy. It was not easy for the Soviet Union to collect data about the United States, because its potential adversary was overseas. But the Americans ’task didn’t look better either - there were no good maps of the Soviet Union in nature, German military aerial photography reached only the Urals, and interrogations of captured Germans helped little.
At first, the Americans conducted active air reconnaissance, and this gave good results. Their reconnaissance aircraft flew over the territory of the USSR with virtually no interference. However, technological progress did not stand still, both powers were very interested in spacecraft. Each of the states claimed that he was interested exclusively in peaceful purposes, but it was almost impossible to deceive an opponent.

In 1955, the U.S. Air Force officially ordered the development of a satellite that could provide surveillance with reconnaissance targets for specially selected sections of the earth’s surface located on the territory of a potential enemy, specifically the USSR and China. This was the start of the Corona project, which was called Discoverer (discoverer) within the framework of secrecy.
On February 28, 1959, the first spacecraft was launched as part of this program. The first 3 launches were experimental; reconnaissance photo equipment was installed on satellite 4. At first, the satellite’s orbit was at an altitude of 160 km, then it was reduced to 120 km. Itek developed special cameras, initially 5 feet long, which were then expanded to 9 feet.

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