Contact us



Welcome to CPH Theory Siteبه سایت نظریه سی پی اچ خوش آمدید



C reative



  CPH Theory is based  on  Generalized light velocity from energy  into mass.


CPH Theory in Journals



Ike’s gambit: The development and operations of the KH-7 and KH-8 spy satellites




Ike’s gambit: The development and operations of the KH-7 and KH-8 spy satellites



by Dwayne A. Day
Monday, January 5, 2009

KH-7 reconnaissance satellite image. (courtesy J. Richelson)

In 1995 the Central Intelligence Agency declassified the existence of the CORONA series of reconnaissance satellites, which had operated from 1960 until 1972. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had approved the satellite’s development in early 1958, was hailed by agency and military officials as a visionary who had approved a revolutionary intelligence collection system. But in 1960, after Gary Powers’ U-2 was shot down over the Soviet Union and high-resolution photography of Soviet targets ceased, Eisenhower approved a second reconnaissance satellite named GAMBIT that was equally revolutionary to the CORONA. GAMBIT produced very-high-resolution photographs of Soviet military installations until the last launch, in 1985. (Spy satellite names were almost always printed in all-caps in official documents.)

GAMBIT’s existence was supposed to be declassified in 1998. The bureaucratic paperwork was all signed and the last steps were being taken to release the information. However, something happened to prevent that. What is not exactly clear, although the Indian nuclear tests in May 1998, and evidence that the Indians may have deliberately hidden their actions from American reconnaissance, may have shifted the balance of the declassification argument in favor of those who opposed any discussion of American reconnaissance capabilities. In 2002, the US government released imagery taken by the first GAMBIT satellites, although it did not divulge any information about the spacecraft, refusing to even admit that the National Reconnaissance Office had launched them and in fact never even mentioning the name “GAMBIT.”

Eight years of a secretive Bush administration did not change the situation. However, now that a new President is about to take office, there is a possibility that secrecy rules may be loosened and the GAMBIT fully declassified. This was a Cold War system using technology that the National Reconnaissance Office officially declared obsolete over a decade ago. Hopefully, its contribution to American national security and international stability may now be told.

Despite the secrecy, significant details of GAMBIT’s history have already been revealed, both in documents and interviews conducted over the past several years. This two-part article is an abridged version of a series on American satellite reconnaissance that will probably appear in the British Interplanetary Society’s magazine Spaceflight later this year.

Secret satellite

The United States flew approximately two dozen U-2 aerial reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union between 1956 and 1960 when Francis Gary Powers was knocked out of the air by an SA-2 missile. The U-2 produced beautiful photographs of its targets, regularly achieving ground resolution of two feet (0.6 meters) or better. But when it was no longer able to fly over “denied territory”, the American intelligence community needed a replacement. President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved one in August 1960. It was named GAMBIT.

Now that a new President is about to take office, there is a possibility that secrecy rules may be loosened and the GAMBIT fully declassified. Hopefully, its contribution to American national security and international stability may now be told.

When the new satellite project was first under discussion in the senior levels of the US government in early 1960, presidential science advisory George Kistiakowsky expressed his concern over the military’s ability to operate a covert program. The CIA had developed the highly successful U-2 spyplane and was then developing the CORONA reconnaissance satellite. But according to one source, the CIA “had no interest” in expanding its role to include developing this new reconnaissance system.

Air Force Under Secretary Joseph Charyk strongly argued that the new program should be developed by the Air Force. He stated that he could prove that the Air Force could develop a covert satellite. In the summer of 1960 Charyk and Colonel John L. Martin, Jr. invented a new security strategy called “Raincoat” that would be used to shield the covert development program. Raincoat worked by classifying all military space programs. The plan was that with everything classified, it would be harder for outsiders to detect the presence of a new reconnaissance satellite project.

According to one source, at first this project was known only as “Program I”. Sometime soon after the project gained formal approval, it was given the secret code-name designation GAMBIT. The origins of the name are still classified, but the satellite was a gamble, for it involved new and revolutionary technology. Perhaps equally risky, the White House gave management authority for the project to the Air Force, which by summer 1960 was under considerable criticism for its management of the Samos reconnaissance program.

In contrast to the publicity surrounding its counterpart, the Samos E-6 search satellite that was started at the same time, the covert effort to build GAMBIT did not leak to the press during the next several years. Dozens of people had sat in on a National Security Council meeting that gave a stamp of approval to the E-6. Probably no more than a handful of people were present when Eisenhower approved GAMBIT. The results were readily apparent on the pages of national magazines like Aviation Week—often referred to as “Aviation Leak,” where GAMBIT never appeared.

A new type of intelligence

When CORONA was started in early 1958 its purpose had been to develop the best reconnaissance camera in the shortest possible period of time. Initially CORONA was described as an “interim” system until something better came along. But its photographs could only show large objects such as buildings and airfields. GAMBIT’s resolution would be much higher and its purpose was “technical intelligence”, which meant the gathering of technical data about its targets. For instance, it was one thing to spot a missile site on the ground in the Soviet Union. However, if a satellite could provide a high-resolution photograph of an ICBM silo under construction it would be possible to measure the thickness of its concrete walls and determine how close an American nuclear warhead would have to strike to breach those walls.

The value of high-resolution reconnaissance photos was not simply the detail that they showed, but how they contributed to an overall understanding of what was happening on the ground. High-resolution photos enhanced the value of low-resolution photos. For instance, high-resolution U-2 photographs could be used to identify objects that were only blobs in CORONA photos. Similarly, after the United States flew low-level reconnaissance missions over missile sites in Cuba during the 1962 missile crisis, photo-interpreters were able to look at CORONA photographs of similar missile sites in the Soviet Union and identify blurry objects, which the aircraft photos revealed to be things like trucks, trailers, or tool sheds.

GAMBIT was intended to replace the U-2’s technical intelligence capabilities. Technical intelligence required high resolution. In order for GAMBIT to achieve it, the satellite had to carry a large camera that achieved its power both through brute force and ingenuity.

The U-2 spy plane. The KH-7 GAMBIT was intended to replace the U-2 in the dangerous job of producing high-resolution photographs of the Soviet Union. (credit: NASA)

A powerful telescope in orbit

GAMBIT was started after Eastman Kodak Company of Rochester, New York suggested adapting a high-power camera system that the company had apparently originally proposed for another purpose, probably an aerial reconnaissance camera for use in an RB-57 spyplane. Kodak’s design for the GAMBIT camera was bold, almost radical. The company’s engineers combined a reflecting telescope design and a film exposure technique known as a strip camera to achieve very high resolution.

Reflecting telescopes had been around for hundreds of years, particularly in ground-based astronomy. Extremely large and heavy mirrors had been used for decades. For instance, a 100-inch (254-centimeter) mirror telescope entered operation on top of Mount Wilson in 1917. The famed Palomar Telescope in California, built in 1948, had a mirror diameter of 200 inches (508 centimeters).

Kodak’s design for the GAMBIT camera was bold, almost radical. The company’s engineers combined a reflecting telescope design and a film exposure technique known as a strip camera to achieve very high resolution.

The design that Kodak proposed for GAMBIT in early 1960 was a compound mirror, meaning that more than one mirror was used to focus the image on the film. A large curved “primary” mirror with a hole in its center—like a donut—was located at the base of the telescope and a smaller “secondary” mirror was fitted in front of it. Light would enter the aperture, bounce off the primary mirror, which would focus it on the secondary mirror, which would then bounce it back through the hole in the primary mirror through a long thin exposure slit, where it would strike a platform at the camera’s focal point known as a platen. The platen held the film in place during exposure.

Because the light was folded inside the telescope, it could be shorter than a similarly powerful telescope using conventional lenses to focus the light down a long tube. It would be wider than such a telescope, but another advantage was that only a few mirrors were required and they could be made lighter than the many thick and heavy glass lenses used in a conventional telescope system.

Compound mirror designs were popular for ground-based telescopes but rare in most other applications. The military has used them for some purposes, such as weapons sighting systems and sniper rifles. They briefly became popular among photographers during the 1950s as lightweight telephoto lenses that did not extend far out in front of the camera and therefore made the cameras easier to carry and store.

But engineering is always about compromises, and there was an obstacle to applying this design to satellites that Kodak’s designers had to overcome. Because the mirror arrangement was large and relatively thick, they could not point it straight out of the side of the spacecraft. Normally a solution would be to point it straight out of the nose of the spacecraft and point that down toward the Earth; this was the approach used by the unsuccessful Samos E-1 and E-2 film-readout satellites. However, the new camera used conventional film that had to be returned to Earth in a reentry vehicle mounted on the nose of the spacecraft. So what the camera designers did was to mount a third mirror, known as the image-reflecting mirror, in front of the other mirrors. This image-reflecting mirror looked out through a camera port in the side of the spacecraft down at the Earth. It reflected the vertical light from the Earth horizontally and onto the primary mirror, the same way a submarine periscope reflects horizontal light down a vertical tube.

This image-reflecting mirror had to tilt forward and back. This enabled it to reflect images at different angles, probably a total of 30 degrees difference, providing a stereo capability that allowed the photographic analysts to measure the size of ground objects.

Even though reflecting telescopes had existed for decades, adapting them for spaceflight presented many challenges. The primary technical challenge facing the designers was making the mirrors relatively lightweight. Ground-based telescope mirrors were made of polished glass and weighed tons. In fact, they were deliberately heavy in order to counteract the gravity that distorted their shape and to reduce vibration. Mirrors for satellites had to be much lighter and made of special materials. The details of how Kodak’s engineers made the GAMBIT mirrors lightweight remain classified. One person who was involved with the GAMBIT program remembered that Kodak used quartz for its mirrors, which was not the lightest material then in development for satellite use. Beryllium was ideal, but it was hazardous to work with.

The primary mirror on the GAMBIT camera had a 44-inch (112-centimeter) diameter that filled up much of the 60-inch (152-centimeter) diameter of the payload cylinder that housed it. Overall, the camera had a 77-inch (196-centimeter) focal length, the distance from the point where light enters the camera—the surface of the primary mirror—to the point where it was focused, the film platen. As with all long focal length precision optics, temperature had to be precisely controlled. A small temperature increase would cause the camera materials to expand or contract, moving the mirrors out of focus. Camera designers for other cameras controlled temperature in a number of ways, including careful selection of materials with known temperature response, passive thermal control of the spacecraft environment through the use of shades and reflective paints, and the addition of small heaters at key parts of the camera.

The GAMBIT camera was the first time that a spacecraft employed a reflecting mirror telescope to focus the light, which was undoubtedly challenging. But the design was also revolutionary for another reason, the clever way that the camera actually exposed the film.

Elegance in motion

Powerful reconnaissance cameras have never really operated in the way that conventional commercial cameras do. A 35-millimeter single lens reflex (SLR) camera like those used by professional photographers works by opening a shutter to simultaneously expose the entire area of a rectangular piece of film. In contrast, many of the early reconnaissance satellite cameras developed by the United States did not expose a rectangular frame, but rather a long thin slit, taking advantage of the fact that the image at the center of a lens is sharper than the image near the edges, and covering much more territory.

Kodak’s design for the GAMBIT camera was bold, almost radical. The company’s engineers combined a reflecting telescope design and a film exposure technique known as a strip camera to achieve very high resolution.

In the case of the CORONA, the camera itself rotated, and the aperture, a narrow slit, was swept over a stationary piece of film, producing a long thin image during a period of several seconds. The CORONA camera design, first conceived in the mid-1950s, was advanced for its day, but also awkward. The tube, or “cell,” carrying the camera lenses had to be rotated. The lenses were heavy and rotating the cell produced vibrations. One Lockheed technician remembered that testing the CORONA camera system on the ground prior to flight produced a tremendous amount of noise, a clackety-clack sound that led them to force all people without the required security clearance to leave the building so they would not suspect what the payload was.

For GAMBIT, Eastman Kodak’s engineers proposed an entirely different way to expose the film known as the strip exposure technique. Strip cameras had first been invented in the 1930s by camera and reconnaissance designer George Goddard. Goddard was in many ways the father of American aerial reconnaissance and significantly advanced reconnaissance technology during World War II.

Goddard had the idea of pulling the film through the camera at the same speed that the camera was moving and exposing it along a thin vertical slit. The result was that the camera exposed a long strip of film. He initially used it to photograph racehorses at the finish line, where the racehorses appeared sharp and crisp.

Goddard realized that his strip camera could be valuable for aerial reconnaissance, where the platform was constantly moving. Normally the moving platform produces a slightly blurred image because the image moves inside the camera while the film is being exposed. But Goddard determined that if he could move the film at the same speed as the image moved inside the camera, the movements would cancel each other out and there would be no blurring. He employed this for reconnaissance planes during World War II, where the biggest problem was getting the pilots to fly an exact speed when they turned on their cameras.

Compared to an airplane, a satellite was an ideal platform, because the satellite would travel at a constant rate of speed in its orbit. The primary problem would be precisely determining that rate of speed. The designers would not know exactly what orbit the rocket would place the satellite in, but once it was safely in orbit they could track it from the ground and adjust the camera so that it pulled the film past the exposure slit at a precise rate of speed.

The result was a camera that had fewer moving parts and less vibration than the CORONA. Pulling film through a powerful camera was a much more elegant solution than rotating a heavy lens cell past a long strip of film.

The GAMBIT camera used nine-inch-wide (23-centimeter-wide) film, over three times the width of the 70-millimeter film employed in the CORONA camera. Nine-inch film was a typical size for large-format aerial reconnaissance cameras. The film did not have sprockets on its edge and was pulled through the camera by tension from the takeup wheel. The camera only exposed about 8.5 inches of the film width, leaving thin strips on either side for recording camera data, such as the reconnaissance mission number, the date and time, and the frame. This data was projected onto the film by small diodes mounted inside the camera.

There is a basic rule of optics that the more powerful the magnification, the smaller the field of view. This inevitable tradeoff also applies to reconnaissance satellites. GAMBIT had a powerful camera that could only focus upon a small bit of territory on the ground. From a normal orbit of 90 nautical miles (167 kilometers), the camera would see a strip approximately 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) wide. However, the strip camera had one partial advantage, which was that it could expose new film as long as the shutter was open. So although the film imaged the ground 12 miles wide, there was virtually no limit to how long an image it could take. In practice, the KH-7 GAMBIT camera could take strips that were as short as 5 nautical miles and as long as 400 nautical miles (741 kilometers), although most strips were about twice as long as they were wide. The vast majority of ground targets could fit in such a strip.

There was one other limitation on how much the camera could photograph. Because the satellite used the same camera to take photos from different angles, if programmers wanted stereo photographs of a target they would have to turn on the camera, take a photo for a short strip, and then close the exposure slit, move the image reflecting mirror to its new position, and then open the slit again to expose a new piece of film. Other targets could be missed while the camera was doing all of this. In addition, starting and stopping the film meant that occasionally the image smeared a bit at the leading edge as the film accelerated from zero speed to the speed of the image through the camera. Operators could compensate for this by starting the camera before reaching the target, which wasted a small amount of film but ensured that the target would be sharp.

KH-7 reconnaissance satellite image. (courtesy J. Richelson)

Hawkeye’s spies in the sky

Eastman Kodak manufactured the GAMBIT camera at its secretive Hawkeye facility in Rochester, New York. Kodak manufactured and processed the high-quality film used in aerial and satellite reconnaissance cameras. The company also designed and built various reconnaissance cameras such as the Samos E-1, E-2, E-6, and GAMBIT. Kodak is not publicly known as a major defense contractor, and the company’s leadership prefers it that way. Even today Kodak’s former executives and employees remain tight-lipped about their role in developing some of the most powerful reconnaissance cameras ever built.

One young Air Force officer who traveled to view the GAMBIT camera manufacturing facility at the Hawkeye plant in the late 1960s remembered walking through a large cleanroom where dozens of women were assembling small commercial cameras. Because of the requirement for dust-free operations the women wore nothing under their white jumpsuits. The officer fondly remembered that the women occasionally flashed their bare chests at the Air Force visitors, which made the visit to cold Rochester worthwhile.

Hilliard Page, an executive at General Electric, the company responsible for the manufacture of the GAMBIT spacecraft and its reentry vehicle, remembered that dealing with the Kodak engineers was a lot different than dealing with the engineers at Itek, which manufactured the CORONA camera. Itek was a small, entrepreneurial firm that needed all the business it could get. Kodak was a massive, profitable corporation that did not really need the reconnaissance business. Its engineers were self-assured to the point of arrogance, and told Paige that everyone would do things their way or not do them at all.

Ellis Lapin, an engineer at The Aerospace Corporation who worked on GAMBIT from 1962 until 1966, remembered that his boss found Kodak difficult to deal with, but Lapin himself never experienced this. “In my own dealings with high level management and with the engineers at Kodak,” Lapin wrote, “I found the former deferential to a degree that surprised me and the latter cooperative and intent on doing a good job.”

Samos E-6 search satellite. The E-6 was intended to replace the CORONA and accompany the KH-7 GAMBIT; the E-6 would find the targets and the GAMBIT would photograph them close up. But the E-6 was unsuccessful. The camera for the E-6, like the camera for GAMBIT, was built by Eastman Kodak. (credit: NRO)


The bang-bang OCV

GAMBIT was started at the same time as the Air Force Samos E-6 search satellite that was intended to replace the CIA’s CORONA. In summer 1960 Air Force Undersecretary Joseph Charyk forbid Lockheed from competing to build the E-6 spacecraft in order to spread the work around and expand the industrial base for manufacturing reconnaissance satellites. At the time Lockheed already had a virtual monopoly on the manufacture of Air Force satellites. Air Force officials felt that the company was overbooked and were also unhappy with its performance on the CORONA program, which had suffered a string of failures. From Charyk’s viewpoint it made sense to broaden the satellite industrial base by giving contracts to other aerospace companies.

It is highly likely that Lockheed was also forbidden from competing to build the GAMBIT spacecraft. The same company that won the Samos E-6 spacecraft contract, General Electric, also won the contract to build the GAMBIT spacecraft. General Electric manufactured the Orbital Control Vehicle, or OCV, for the GAMBIT program. CORONA used Lockheed’s Agena upper stage to provide power and stability in orbit. GAMBIT would still require an Agena to reach orbit, but it would discard it and rely upon the OCV for highly precise pointing and overall stability.

It is highly likely that Lockheed was also forbidden from competing to build the GAMBIT spacecraft. The same company that won the Samos E-6 spacecraft contract, General Electric, also won the contract to build the GAMBIT spacecraft.

The OCV was a squat cylinder 60 inches in diameter, the same diameter as the Lockheed Agena upper stage that boosted it to orbit. It contained horizon sensors for accurately orienting the spacecraft, and a cold gas control system—sometimes called a “bang bang system” because it would fire bursts from its jets in quick pulses—to stabilize and point the spacecraft in its orbit. These systems were important because the camera’s field of view was so small that it might point in the wrong direction and miss its target. This was one of the driving factors behind Director of Central Intelligence John McCone’s support of the KH-6 LANYARD satellite. LANYARD was started a year after the GAMBIT, in December 1961. It utilized the camera system from the Samos E-5, which had suffered several spacecraft failures. The CIA had started LANYARD to serve as an interim system until GAMBIT became operational. But McCone also viewed the LANYARD as “insurance” in case GAMBIT experienced problems.

The primary factor that affected any reconnaissance spacecraft’s pointing capabilities was moving mass inside the vehicle. Any moving mass could cause the spacecraft to move in the opposite direction. The major source of movement in the spacecraft was the camera system, and there were several parts of the GAMBIT camera that moved. The image reflecting mirror pitched back and forth to provide stereo photographs by changing the angle that light entered the aperture. However, the biggest source of movement was the film spools: the supply spool in the rear of the spacecraft and the takeup spool in the nose that collected the exposed film. They would impart a pitching movement on the spacecraft as they started and stopped. GAMBIT’s designers reduced the effects of this by looping some of the unexposed film back and forth before it went to the platen. That way the film could be drawn through the camera without having to turn the heavy spools at the same time the camera was exposing film. But the Orbital Control Vehicle’s cold gas stabilization system had to quickly dampen any movement as a result of camera operation.

At some point early in the GAMBIT’s development program managers made an important decision concerning its reentry vehicle. They decided to use the same reentry vehicle developed by General Electric for the CORONA program. Publicly this was known as the Discoverer Satellite Recovery Vehicle, or SRV, after the Discoverer cover story developed for CORONA. Although the SRV was relatively small, it had the virtue of being proven.

This decision had drawbacks, however. The GAMBIT’s film was over three times as wide as CORONA’s, but had to be stuffed into the same amount of space. It is unknown if the limiting factor for how much film the GAMBIT could carry was weight or volume. Eventually the CORONA SRV would carry two spools of ultra-thin film each 16,000 feet (4,877 meters) long and weighing 160 pounds (73 kilograms) total. The GAMBIT SRV carried a maximum of only 3,000 feet (914 meters), roughly equivalent in weight to 9,000 feet (2,743 meters) of CORONA film, so the limiting factor was probably the volume of the wider film in the SRV rather than its weight.

Another limitation of the CORONA SRV was reentry accuracy. The vehicle did most of its slowing down in the upper atmosphere, following a shallow trajectory. As a result, its reentry “footprint” could be quite large, extending 30 nautical miles (56 kilometers) to either side of its ground track and up to 200 miles (370 kilometers) long. Because its footprint was so large, many more aircraft had to be spread out over a much larger area to retrieve it. In fact, at the time that program managers chose the conservative option of using the CORONA SRV, General Electric was already working on developing a larger and more accurate SRV for the Samos E-6 satellite to reduce this footprint. They were also exploring the possibility of developing a lifting body reentry vehicle that could land inside the United States carrying reconnaissance film.

Although the Discoverer SRV had limitations, the program managers eventually realized that they had made the right decision to use a proven design. CORONA capsules returned from orbit regularly, but other Air Force efforts to develop larger and more precise reentry vehicles failed miserably.

Technology transfer was not all one-way, however. GAMBIT’s designers developed a backup battery system called “Lifeboat” which insured de-orbit of the recovery vehicle in event of spacecraft power failure. Lifeboat was soon incorporated into the CORONA.

GAMBIT management

By September of 1961 the Secretary of Defense made several organizational changes to clarify the management of satellite reconnaissance projects. The Office of Missile and Satellite Systems was renamed the National Reconnaissance Office, or NRO. The Samos Program Office was renamed the Office of Special Projects, or OSP. The NRO was a secret agency and Joseph Charyk was named its first director. Within the NRO the Office of Special Projects’ secret designation was Program A. Program A was responsible for developing the GAMBIT and other satellites.

By March 1962 GAMBIT was taken over by Colonel William G. King, who was the most experienced Air Force officer in the satellite reconnaissance field. He had taken over the WS-117L reconnaissance satellite office in early 1956 and had served in that post until 1958 when he was transferred to run the trouble-plagued Snark cruise missile program.

As GAMBIT progressed it suffered schedule delays and cost overruns, but their nature, severity, and cause remain unknown.

In 1962 the NRO created the KH series of designations for certain reconnaissance satellites. KH stood for KEYHOLE, which was the existing code word for the security compartment covering satellite imagery. But the KH designation was only assigned to covert satellite programs, not to the pre-existing Samos camera systems that were already public. GAMBIT was assigned the designation KH-7.

GAMBIT also had another designation that was probably applied in late 1961. It was known as Air Force Program 206. This was an unclassified designation used in official paperwork, such as travel orders for Air Force personnel working on the project.

As GAMBIT progressed it suffered schedule delays and cost overruns, but their nature, severity, and cause remain unknown.

The first KH-7 GAMBIT reconnaissance satellite launch, July 1963. (Courtesy Jonathan McDowell)

The folding Atlas

By early 1963 the GAMBIT program was approaching its first launch, scheduled for the summer. But in May 1963 an Atlas-Agena D launch vehicle was on the pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base undergoing tests. Atop the Atlas was a non-operational payload simulating a GAMBIT satellite. As space historian Joel Powell recently wrote, this test ended in an embarrassing accident.

During fueling a bubble developed in the ground system pumping liquid oxygen into the Atlas, knocking a valve out of alignment. Ground crews then had to manually drain the liquid oxygen tank. But the Atlas received its structural strength from internal pressure. While the oxygen was being drained the vehicle collapsed, crumpling like an empty soda can and causing the Agena and its payload to fold over and hit the pad nose first. A surge of either fuel or residual liquid oxygen also damaged the launch tower, which had to be repaired before another Atlas could be launched.

The event was similar to an early failure in the CORONA program before the first launch, where a vehicle on the pad suffered a catastrophic failure. That event had been labeled “CORONA Zero,” and it had served as a wake-up call to the program’s managers about the importance of carefully checking all of the systems before the vehicle ever reached the pad. In the case of the crumpling Atlas in May 1963, although the Atlas was a total loss, the Agena and its payload were apparently only mockups, not flight hardware, and the program recovered quickly from the accident.

A conservative start

The first GAMBIT mission was launched on July 12, 1963. Its Atlas-Agena lifted off its launch pad at Vandenberg and headed south. The Atlas performed properly and when it burned out it fell away. The Agena’s Bell rocket engine then fired and pushed the payload into polar orbit, at 102 miles (189 kilometers) altitude. The mission was designated 4001.

An engineer at The Aerospace Corporation had recommended that, during GAMBIT’s first flights, the Orbital Control Vehicle should remain attached to the Agena throughout the flight. This was a confidence-building decision because the Agena was proven whereas the OCV was not. However, it meant that photographs could only be taken of targets directly below the vehicle. After the photographic phase of the mission was completed the reentry vehicle separated and came down over the ocean northwest of Hawaii, where it was caught in mid-air by a C-130 aircraft. Its film was then transported to Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York, where it was processed and copied and then sent to Washington for analysis.

After the reentry vehicle was jettisoned the engineering phase of the mission began. The OCV was separated from the Agena and put through a series of tests to determine its stability and other characteristics. Its performance during these tests is unknown, but it did not totally silence GAMBIT’s skeptics, particularly in the CIA.

On September 6, 1963 the Air Force launched the second GAMBIT spacecraft on mission 4002. Like its predecessor, this GAMBIT also kept the Agena attached throughout the photographic phase of the mission and then detached for engineering tests after the reentry capsule had returned to Earth. The mission also was successful.

Even after the second GAMBIT launch, Albert Wheelon, the CIA’s Director of Science and Technology, expressed skepticism about GAMBIT. “The major question mark in our minds at this point is that the uncertainties involved in establishing the location of a satellite in orbit, combined with the small swath width delivered by the G system, may make it extremely difficult for us to have adequate assurance of covering the targets for which high-resolution photography is required. It is possible, therefore, that neither G nor L[ANYARD] will meet our technical intelligence requirement, and that we may have to develop a system with greater swath width and less resolution than G but smaller swath width and greater resolution than L and [CORONA]. We may also find that we cannot achieve a useable system yielding GAMBIT’s ground resolution from satellite vehicles.”

The third GAMBIT mission, number 4003, was launched on October 25, 1963 and was also successful. The Agena again remained attached. The film was ejected after the photographic phase and the capsule recovered. The OCV was then put through various tests once the intelligence goals had been achieved.

GAMBIT operations and problems

GAMBIT mission 4004 was launched on December 18, and for the first time the OCV and its payload detached from the Agena to conduct the photographic phase of the mission. It was successful, and the capsule was recovered the next day.

Even after the second GAMBIT launch, Albert Wheelon, the CIA’s Director of Science and Technology, expressed skepticism about GAMBIT.

Four successful GAMBIT missions in a row proved that the Air Force could run a black satellite program that would work, and the GAMBIT was a powerful new intelligence tool. But CIA officials still complained. As John McMahon, an official in the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology, noted in a May 1964 memo, “In 1963 there were four GAMBIT launches. Total target coverage numbered only 15.” The CIA wanted to see GAMBIT’s intelligence return increase substantially, and fast.

By 1964 the KH-7 GAMBIT quickly shifted into high gear. After only four missions in the second half of 1963, the Air Force launched ten GAMBITs in 1964, but not without incident. In May 1964 mission 4008 suffered problems when its Agena lost roll control during the boost phase. The OCV also suffered system problems, but the mission was still able to return some imagery.

But late in the year the GAMBIT program suffered from major problems. In October 1964 a GAMBIT mission failed to achieve orbit when its Agena malfunctioned during launch. Two weeks later mission 4013 achieved orbit, but for unknown reasons returned no film. Ellis Lapin did not remember the specific cause of the problem, but thought that it might have been with the command system. “In those days we used wire-recorders for storing commands, and we did have problems with them. Tape recorders were not yet in vogue,” he explained.

The next mission, 4014, was launched in early December, but suffered a battery failure. “That failure was an explosion!” Lapin exclaimed. Something in the batteries had failed catastrophically and it required much effort to find the cause and fix it.

In January 1965 Brockway McMillan, the Director of National Reconnaissance, decided to delay plans to improve the launch readiness of GAMBIT until after its reliability problems had been solved. Mission 4019, launched in June 1965, and mission 4020, launched in July 1965, both apparently failed to return imagery. Similarly, mission 4023 returned few images and 4034, launched in November 1966, returned no imagery. Many years later retired General Electric executive Hill Paige remembered that after the program had experienced a string of successful missions it suddenly suffered a number of malfunctions—possibly the slew of failures in 1964 and 1965. Paige explained that this had ultimately been traced to a change in the launch pad tower at Vandenberg Air Force Base. An additional structure had been added to the top of the tower and this had reflected acoustic energy back on the vehicle during launch, shaking loose components in the spacecraft.

Despite the problems, the KH-7 GAMBIT was dramatically improving the quality of American intelligence collection. But intelligence officials wanted better results, and they would get them with a major upgrade of the spacecraft and camera system.

Source: http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1279/1





1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10  Newest articles














General Science Journal

World Science Database

Hadronic Journal

National Research Council Canada

Journal of Nuclear and Particle Physics

Scientific Journal of Pure and Applied Science

Sub quantum space and interactions from photon to fermions and bosons

Interesting articles

English Articles

Faster Than Light 

Light that travels…faster than light!

Before the Big Bang

Structure of Charge Particles

Move Structure of Photon

Structure of Charge Particles

Faster Than Light 

Light that travels…faster than light!

Before the Big Bang

Structure of Charge Particles

Move Structure of Photon

Structure of Charge Particles

Zero Point Energy and the Dirac Equation [PDF]

Speed of Light and CPH Theory [PDF]

Color Charge/Color Magnet and CPH [PDF]

Sub-Quantum Chromodynamics [PDF]

Effective Nuclear Charge [PDF]

Maxwell's Equations in a Gravitational Field [PDF]

 Realization Hawking - End of Physics by CPH [PDF]

Questions and Answers on CPH Theory [PDF]

Opinions on CPH Theory [PDF]

Analysis of CPH Theory

Definition, Principle and Explanation of CPH Theory [PDF]

Experimental Foundation of CPH Theory [PDF]

Logical Foundation of CPH Theory [PDF]

A New Mechanism of Higgs Bosons in Producing Charge Particles [PDF]

CPH Theory and Newton's Second Law [PDF]

CPH Theory and Special Relativity [PDF]

Properties of CPH [PDF]

Time Function and Work Energy Theorem [PDF]

Time Function and Absolute Black Hole [PDF] 

Thermodynamic Laws, Entropy and CPH Theory [PDF]

Vocabulary of CPH Theory [PDF] 

Quantum Electrodynamics and CPH Theory [PDF] 

Summary of Physics Concepts [PDF]

Unification and CPH Theory [PDF] 

Strong Interaction and CPH Theory [PDF]


Since 1962 I doubted on Newton's laws. I did not accept the infinitive speed and I found un-vivid the laws of gravity and time.

I learned the Einstein's Relativity, thus I found some answers for my questions. But, I had another doubt of Infinitive Mass-Energy. And I wanted to know why light has stable speed?




free hit counters

Copyright © 2013 CPH Theory

Last modified 12/22/2013