Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The first "spy" satellite

It appears that the first spy satellite was a mixture of high tech optics with a low tech delivery system. A recent declassified secret cold war project reveals that the first satellites used to take pictures of the earth for the CIA had extremely high resolution cameras that could spot a backyard swimming pool decades before Google. The problem was that the special cameras still used film and they had to find a way to get the film back to earth from the satellite. What they came up with was very low tech. The film was "dropped" from the satellite through the earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean in a sort of floating bucket with a parachuted. It was then retrieved from the water by C-130 Air Force planes with grappling hooks. The news article below from AP provides some detailed background on the secret project and it's workers.


  1. Interesting....thanks for posting this...

  2. My question is: "How did they keep the film from melting from the heat as it passed through the Earth's atmosphere? I was thinking they might have developed some type of heat shield material that possibly went on to be used later on the space shuttles. It sure poses a difficult problem when you consider the engineering aspects back at that time!


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