“An inherent limitation of film-return reconnaissance systems was that it took a long time for their pictures to reach the interpreters in Washington. This was a result of many factors, including the transportation time for getting the returned film from the Pacific Ocean far west of Hawaii a third of the way around the world to Kodak’s processing center in Rochester, New York……”
NASA SAMOS KODAK
A project that—-began over forty five years ago and lasted fourteen years.
A project that—-did not allow you to do any work at home.
A project that—-survived twelve failures prior to “getting-it-right”.
A project that—-required teamwork but no motivation.
A project that—-provided vital information for the “well being” of all mankind.
A project that—-was kept secret for forty five years after its first success.
Speaker Bio Don H. Schoessler worked at Eastman Kodak Company for 37 years until his retirement in 1986. After nearly a decade in the Kodacolor Division he moved to the Government Systems Division as a Senior Development Engineer. In 1995 the National Reconnaissance Office honored him with the Conora Pioneer Award and this year he received the Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering.
CORONA is the name for the first operational space photo reconnaissance satellite.
President Dwight David Eisenhower approved the project in Febuary 1958. The project was conceived to take pictures in space of the Soviet Bloc countries and de-orbit the photographic film for processing and exploitation.
President Clinton signed an Executive Order on 22 February 1995, directing the declassification of intelligence imagery acquired by the first generation of U.S. photo-reconnaissance satellites; the systems code-named CORONA, ARGON and LANYARD. The order provides for the declassification of more than 860,000 images of the Earth’s surface, collected between 1960 and 1972.
CORONA spacecraft were built from 1959-72 by Lockheed Space Systems under Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Air Force contracts spanning 145 launches that provided intelligence the government has called “virtually immeasurable.”
CORONA’s payload was a vertical-looking, reciprocating, 70-degree panoramic camera developed by Itek that exposed Eastman Kodak film by scanning at right angles to the line of flight. Resolution in early flight years was in the range of 35 to 40 feet. By 1972, CORONA delivered resolutions of six to 10 feet, routinely. In the 1970s, flights could remain on orbit for 19 days, provide accurate attitude, position, and mapping information, and return coverage of 8,400,000 nm2 per mission.
The historic contributions of Edward Miller and James Plummer to satellite technology, and to the security of the United States, have earned them an honored place among engineering’s greatest practitioners. Both worked on the top-secret Corona Project (1959 to 1972). Miller received his bachelor’s degree from the university in 1950 in mechanical engineering, and Plummer received his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Maryland in 1953.
The Corona Project created the field of satellite surveillance, providing vital photographic information that permitted the United States to gauge the nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War and pursue more effective foreign policies. The contributions of Miller and Plummer to the Corona Project lay in accomplishing the first successful recovery of a man-made object from earth orbit.
The Lockheed Corporation took the lead on Corona. Plummer was Corona program manager for Lockheed’s missiles and space division and served as the overall systems engineer for Corona. He and a few other Lockheed engineers came up with the initial design of the satellite, which they were tasked with completing and launching within eleven months. Plummer was responsible for the development of payload applications, communications and the power supply for the satellite. Among the many technical aspects of the satellite Plummer’s team tackled were the ascent guidance and on-orbit stabilization systems. The National Reconnaissance Office has credited Plummer as the one person responsible for the success of the Corona Project.
Major subcontractors also engaged in the project, including General Electric (GE) for the recovery capsule, Itek Corporation for the camera, and Eastman Kodak Company for the film development.
Miller’s responsibilities as GE’s project engineer and program manager included the design, manufacture, deployment, operation, and retrieval of Corona’s satellite recovery vehicle. The design had to withstand many known and unknown difficulties: hostile loads during launch, acoustic noise during exit from the atmosphere, vacuum and low temperatures in orbit, and high temperatures and vibrations during re-entry. His previous work on experimental reentry vehicles and an intercontinental ballistic missile launch vehicle for the U.S. Air Force proved vital to the Corona Project.
Their efforts culminated in the first successful recovery of a man-made object from space—Discoverer 13 in 1960. A complex system of heat shields, radio communications, retrorockets, cold gas spin jets and parachutes allowed the capsule to safely jettison itself back through the atmosphere and into the Pacific Ocean, where it was retrieved. Discoverer 14, launched later that year, also was successfully recovered—this time in mid-air—and provided the first photography recorded from space, including pictures of Mya Schmidta Air Field, a Soviet base located near Alaska that the United States had never photographed before.
Miller was designated a Pioneer of Space Technology in 1985 by the Central Intelligence Agency and was honored in 1995 for his role as a Corona Pioneer. He also received the Army Distinguished Civilian Service Decoration for his work as Assistant Secretary of the Army (1975-77). Research led by Miller during that time resulted in such advanced weapons systems as the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, the Abrams M1 Tank, and the Patriot High Altitude Air Defense System.
Plummer went on to serve as under secretary of the U.S. Air Force, chairman of the National Research Council’s Space Applications Board, vice president of Lockheed Corporation, and chairman of The Aerospace Corporation. He was designated as a Space and Missile Pioneer by the U.S. Air Force in 1989 and was also honored as a Corona Pioneer in 1995. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
In early 2005, Miller and Plummer received the Charles Stark Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering—one of the world’s preeminent engineering awards—for their pioneering work in the Corona project
Richard Leghorn was Chief of Intelligence and Reconnaissance Systems Development at the Pentagon. Dick was a true visionary in the field of airborne and space reconnaissance developments, including origination of the “Open Skies” concept. As a consultant to the USAF Scientific Advisory Board and to the Special Assistant to the President for Disarmament Affairs, he was principal contributor to the early CORONA camera development. In late 1957, Dick was a co-founder and the first President of Itek Corporation.
Walter Levison was the camera designer and Assistant Director of Boston University. Walt was project manager for the balloon reconnaissance cameras and designer of the HYAC panoramic camera system. During his assignment as General Manager of Itek’s Defense Systems Division, Walt was the principal proponent of the proposal that CORONA employ a high resolution 24-inch focal length Petzval lens in a panoramic camera to be used on a stable body space vehicle.
Francis J. (Frank) Madden was Itek’s Chief Engineer for development of the HYAC panoramic camera, and subsequently was responsible for all engineering development of the CORONA camera system through most of its evolutions. As Chief Engineer, Frank was responsible for the physical design, development, manufacturing, and operation of the early system and later assumed the role of CORONA camera project manager. His signal contributions included the unique “starwheel” mechanism to time the movement of the complex optical system and elimination of the static “corona” which was present in the early imagery.
John Wolfe was Itek’s first Program Manager on the CORONA camera development effort because of his extensive experience on the panoramic cameras for the balloon reconnaissance programs. John retained this responsibility for a number of years, providing guidance for subsequent program success.
Edgar Green was the Program Manager for the Kodak interface with the government and camera manufacturers during the critical program implementation years. Ed’s drive and initiative enabled the development of the technical film solutions required to meet the program requirements for physical and photographic performance.
James Alkofer was instrumental in investigating and characterizing the unique technical challenges for high altitude reconnaissance films. He helped develop and define the film sensitometric and spatial performance requirements for the program and assisted the government in monitoring operational system performance.
Donald Schoessler was the liaison with the Kodak film manufacturing division, providing the interface necessary for communicating the program’s film requirements and directing development of films to these unique requirements. These efforts provided excellent film products; developed, manufactured, and packaged to meet the precise requirements of the film transport and camera imaging systems.
Richard Stowe provided management and technical guidance for the development, integration, and quality assurance of Kodak ground handling equipment, for films and chemistries used to government facilities, and for processing and duplication of the program films.
MORE BACKGROUND ON KODAK CORONA
Corona Codename “Discovered.”
http://nro.gov/foia/SAMOS to the Moon.pdf
http://www.rit.edu/~w-secy/fellows/papers/pdfs/The Corona Program.pdf
History of Satellite Reconnaissance Volume I