AKA: Ikon;KH-11B;KH-12. Status: Operational 1992. Gross mass: 18,000 kg (39,000 lb). Unfuelled mass: 11,000 kg (24,000 lb).
Instruments included a large telescope with visual and near infrared wavelength CCD sensors and the ICMS mapping system.
The satellite succeeded the KH-11. Public attribution of the KH-12 designation to the satellite was believed to be incorrect. The basic optical package may have been similar to the KH-11, but with improved avionics and a great deal more maneuvering propellant. The satellite was believed to include signals intelligence payloads, and had wider spectral band sensitivity, perhaps 'real time' television capability, and other improvements compared to the KH-11. Meant to be shuttle-launched, after the USAF abandoned its shuttle plans it was lightened and modified for Titan 4 launch. Data transmitted via SDS military relay satellites.
The ICM propulsion bus, developed by NRL for a 'classified program', proposed as a tug for the International Space Station, was believed to have been based on the Improved Crystal's propulsion module.
See KH-11 17 (Crystal 17, USA 290, NROL 71) ?. National Reconnaissance Office satellite believed to be the first of a new series of imaging spy satellites, probably derived from the Improved CRYSTAL design that in turn descended from the 1970s KENNEN spacecraft which carried the KH-11 camera system.