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CIA Corona Project (1st Spy Satellites): "A Point in Time" 1995 CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)

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Published on 22 Jan 2021 / In News and Politics

"This film concerns the Corona program that produced the world's first photo-reconnaissance (spy) satellites. The film was produced by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and premiered at the "Piercing the Curtain" conference in May of 1995. The film provides an in-depth examination about how and why the Corona program was created, as well as a detailed technological account of how the satellite was built, and its specific operations and capabilities. The film includes footage of Richard Helms, who was the director of the CIA from 1966-1973, as he addressed a press conference about the Corona mission." Although this film was produced in 1995, most of the interviews within it were filmed in the 1970s.

Originally a public domain film from the US National Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).

Wikipedia license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

The Corona program was a series of American strategic reconnaissance satellites produced and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology with substantial assistance from the U.S. Air Force. The Corona satellites were used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union (USSR), the People's Republic of China, and other areas beginning in June 1959 and ending in May 1972...

The Corona satellites used 31,500 feet (9,600 meters) of special 70 millimeter film with 24 inch (60 centimeter) focal length cameras. Initially orbiting at altitudes from 165 to 460 kilometers above the surface of the Earth, the cameras could resolve images on the ground down to 7.5 meters in diameter. The two KH-4 systems improved this resolution to 2.75 meters and 1.8 meters respectively, because they operated at lower orbital altitudes...

The first dozen or more Corona satellites and their launches were cloaked with disinformation as being part of a space technology development program called the Discoverer program. The first test launches for the Corona/Discoverer were carried out early in 1959. The capsule of Discoverer 2 might have been recovered by the Soviets, after landing on Spitsbergen Island. The first Corona launch containing a camera was carried out in June 1959 with the cover name Discoverer 4. This was a 750 kilogram satellite launched by a Thor-Agena rocket.

The plan for the Corona program was for its satellites to return canisters of exposed film to the Earth in re-entry capsules, called by the slang term "film buckets", which were to be recovered in mid-air by specially-equipped U.S. Air Force planes during their parachute descent. (The buckets were designed to float on the water for a short period of time for possible recovery by U.S. Navy ships, and then to sink if the recovery failed, via a water-dissolvable plug made of salt at the base of the capsule. This was for secrecy purposes.)

The return capsule of the Discoverer 13 mission, which launched August 10, 1960, was successfully recovered the next day.[6] This was the first time that any object had been recovered successfully from orbit. After the mission of Discoverer 14, launch on August 18, 1960, its film bucket was successfully retrieved two days later by a C-119 Flying Boxcar transport plane. This was the first successful return of photographic film from orbit. In comparison, Sputnik 5 was launched into orbit on August 19, 1960, one day after the launch of Discoverer 14. Sputnik 5 was a biosatellite that took into orbit the two Soviet space dogs, Belka and Strelka, and then safely returned them to the Earth ...

The last launch under the Discoverer cover name was Discoverer 38 on 26 February 1962. Its bucket was successfully recovered in midair during the 65th orbit (the 13th recovery of a bucket; the ninth one in midair). Following this last use of the Discoverer name, the remaining launches of Corona satellites were entirely top secret. The last Corona launch was on 1972-05-25. The project was abandoned after a Soviet Navy submarine was detected waiting beneath a Corona mid-air retrieval zone in the Pacific Ocean...

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