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KH-1
Part of WS-117 Family
Discoverer 1
Discoverer 1
Credit: Manufacturer Image
American military surveillance satellite. First US film reconnaissance satellite, and first polar orbiting satellite. Reconnaissance, photo (film return type) satellite built by Lockheed for USAF, USA. Launched 1959 - 1960.

AKA: Corona. Status: Operational 1959. First Launch: 1959-01-21. Last Launch: 1960-09-13. Number: 22 . Gross mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb).

Carried one 'C' type camera, with a focal length of 61 cm and a ground resolution of 12 m.


More at: KH-1.

Family: Military surveillance sat, Surveillance, Surveillance orbit. Country: USA. Engines: Star 12. Launch Vehicles: Thor, Delta, Thor Agena A. Launch Sites: Vandenberg, Vandenberg SLC1W, Vandenberg SLC1E. Agency: DARPA, Lockheed. Bibliography: 126, 2, 279, 6, 4797, 4798, 4850, 4853, 4854, 5023, 6616, 12713, 12714, 12715.
Photo Gallery

Discoverer 2Discoverer 2
Credit: Manufacturer Image


KH-1 CoronaKH-1 Corona
Credit: Manufacturer Image



1958 February 14 - . Launch Vehicle: Thor.
  • The Secretary of the Air Force forwarded to the Secretary of Defense, recommendations on space priorities. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, KH-1.

    These recommendations "should be undertaken promptly by the Air Force. " Other than the first project, converting Thor into an intercontinental range weapon by adding a second stage, the recommendations concerned the following space proposals: (1) develop and orbit a satellite equipped with a small television transmitter to furnish weather information. A Thor plus a second stage could accomplish the first orbital launch by September 1958.: (2) Develop a recoverable satellite equipped to carry a variety of payloads which might be ejected from orbit by decelerating devices. This project would also use a Thor booster with an added Vanguard second stage which could be launched by July 1958. (3) A Thor-Hustler (later called Agena) second stage to launch a 300 pound scientific satellite by October 1958., (4) As previously recommended, the Air Force was prepared to launch a moon rocket by using a Thor plus two Vanguard upper stages. Said the secretary: "In addition to the scientific data that can be obtained from such a flight, the United States could make a major international psychological gain by beating the Russians to the moon. I urge that this Air Force approach be used. " (Memo, SAF J. H. Douglas to the SOD, 14 Feb 58, subj: Thor and WS 117L Program.)


1958 February 26 - .
  • Air Force headquarters affirmed its strong support to demonstrate at the earliest possible date a capability to launch a satellite and to follow as soon thereafter as practicable with a moon impact. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, KH-1.

    "Until such time as the Department of Defense approved early satellite launchings in support of 117L, and launch of a moon impact payload, the research command was directed to "take all actions necessary to be in position to accomplish both projects at the earliest time feasible." The command was further advised to design the first satellite as simply as possible and consider it a "warm up for subsequent more sophisticated vehicles. " Simplicity and an early launch date were considered more important than demonstrating a capability to recover payloads or otherwise demonstrate an advanced state of competence.. (Msg, AFCVC 56978, Hq USAF to ARDC, 26 Feb 58.)


1958 March 3 - . Launch Vehicle: Thor.
  • The Secretary of Defense approved acceleration of the 117L military satellite system, including test vehicles launched with the Thor booster--a series of orbital experiments that were also considered - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, KH-1. The ballistic missile division was instructed to submit a complete development plan and fiscal estimate by 15 March 1958 for "review and approval.".

1958 March 5 - . LV Family: Thor, Atlas. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A, Atlas Agena A.
  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense, in the first significant forward step to accelerate development of a space capability, reiterated the space role of the Air Force. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, KH-1, WS-117.

    In addition to its missile programs the Air Force was responsible for the 117L system and "... has a recognized long term development responsibility for manned space flight capability with the primary objective of accomplishing satellite flight as soon as technology permits." Furthermore, the Air Force was told it was to carry forward and accelerate the Atlas 117L project "under the highest national priority in order to attain an initial operational capability in the earliest possible date," But the proposed interim system using a Thor booster combined with a second stage and recoverable capsule "should not be pursued. " The Department of Defense did agree that a Thor booster with a suitable second stage "may be the most promptly and readily available device for experimental flights with laboratory animals" and development of such hardware including a system for recovery of animals was authorized. (Msg 03-014, Cmdr ARDC, to Cmdr AFBMD, 5 Mar 58.)


1958 March 19 - .
  • Fiscal 1959 budget requirements for the Air Force man-in-space program was to meet its mid-1960 operational date. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, KH-1.

    Air Force Undersecretary, M. A. Maclntyre, submitted to the Advanced Research Projects Agency Fiscal 1959 budget requirements if the Air Force man in space program was to meet its mid-1960 operational date: Budget Category, Amount (millions): P-100 Aircraft and Missiles: $82.0; P-200 Support: $11.5; P-300 Construction: $ 2.5; P-600 Research and Development: $37.0; Total: $133.0 If this amount was not fully funded the following projects could be progressively undertaken, but the first manned capsule launch would be delayed to some future date: (1) Development of small animal carrying capsules for use in the 117L program starting November 1958 $16 million. (2) Construction of launch pad assembly buildings and instrumentation modifications $5 million. (3) Design of man size capsule, second stage booster; development, procurement, test of support test vehicles $30 million. (4) Fabrication of a small number of capsules, second stages and boosters $15 million. (5) Design, development, test and procurement of capsules, second stages, boosters and support test vehicles leading to the earliest possible manned space flight $67 million. (Memo, Undersecretary of the Air Force, M. A. Maclntyre, to Dir, ARPA, 19 Mar 58, subj: Air Force Man-In-Space Program.)


1958 May 9 - .
  • Data on bio-medical aspects of man in space were to be provided through experiments planned in the 117L program. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, KH-1.

    Design, development, and fabrication of five animal containers, and associated environmental control and telemetry equipment was planned under a fiscal 1959 117L budget item of $1.3 million. In addition, $4.7 million was allocated for specialized checkout equipment, recovery devices, beacons, and necessary recovery operations for bio-medical specimens. (Ltr, Lt Gen S. E. Anderson, Cmdr, ARDC, to Cmdr, AFBMD, 22 May 58, subj: Support of Bioastronautics Program; Chronological Space Hist, 1958.)


1958 June 24 - . Launch Vehicle: Thor, Atlas.
  • Secretary of the Air Force authorized an increase in missile production. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, , KH-1.

    Inasmuch as availability of basic booster units threatened to limit selection of the most desirable space programs, the Secretary of the Air Force authorized an increase in missile production as follows: four more Thor boosters, delivery to begin in December 1958 at a rate of one a month; four more Atlas boosters, delivery to begin in May 1959 at a rate of one a month; and $8 million budgeted to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for procurement of four additional Lockheed 117L vehicles, delivery to begin January 1959 at a rate of one a month. (Memo, SAF to C/S USAF, 24 Jun 58, no subject.)


1958 September 1 - . Launch Vehicle: Thor.
  • The future of the proposed Air Force space program was uncertain due to the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. - . Spacecraft: Man-In-Space-Soonest, Mercury, Lunex, , KH-1.

    It appeared probable that final over-all space program would be adopted until the large area of overlapping jurisdiction between the two agencies was sorted out. In addition, the Department of Defense was required to transfer some $117 million in fiscal 1959 funds to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of which $58.8 million was Air Force money. Thus it appeared that of the various proposed programs already within National Aeronautics and Space Administration's legitimate area of interest it might well take over the man in space program primarily because it had the money to undertake its development. In respect to the lunar probe program, the Air Force had to wait for further direction before proceeding further. The large booster (one million pound thrust) authorized for Air Force development was transferred to the civilian. space agency. The Air Force would continue development of the 117L system under the over-all direction of the Advanced Research Projects Agency. (Memo, Col C. R. Roderick, Committee Liaison Div, Ofc of Legislative Liaison, to Asst Dir, Legislative Liaison, Sep 58, no subj.)


1959 January 21 - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A. FAILURE: Launch vehicle failure.. Failed Stage: U.
  • Thor Agena test - . Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. COSPAR: F590121A. First flight test of Thor-Agena for KH program..

1959 February 28 - . 21:49 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 1 - . Payload: KH-1 prototype / Agena A 1022. Mass: 618 kg (1,362 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-03-03 . USAF Sat Cat: 13 . COSPAR: 1959-Beta-1. Apogee: 968 km (601 mi). Perigee: 163 km (101 mi). Inclination: 89.7000 deg. Period: 96.00 min.

    In the first use of a Thor as a space booster, the world's first polar orbiting satellite, Discoverer I, was launched by a Thor/Agena (Thor 163) booster combination from Vandenberg AFB. The mission was also the first successful flight test of Lockheed's Agena A upper stage vehicle designed for orbiting U.S. satellite systems. First polar orbiting satellite; KH-1 prototype; did not carry camera or film capsule.


1959 April 13 - . 21:18 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 2 - . Payload: KH-1 prototype / Agena A 1022. Mass: 743 kg (1,638 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-04-26 . USAF Sat Cat: 14 . COSPAR: 1959-Gamma-1. Apogee: 346 km (214 mi). Perigee: 239 km (148 mi). Inclination: 89.9000 deg. Period: 90.40 min.

    An Air Force Thor/Agena A booster vehicle lifted Discoverer II into orbit from Vandenberg AFB. Discoverer II became the world's first satellite to be stabilized in orbit in all three axes, to be maneuvered on command from earth, to separate a reentry vehicle on command, and to send its reentry vehicle back to earth. The capsule ejector system malfunctioned, causing the capsule to impact near Spitsbergen on 14 April rather than near Hawaii as planned. KH-1 prototype; tested capsule recovery techniques; did not carry camera; capsule recovery failed. Because of a timing error, the US believed that the capsule landed somewhere on the island of Spitsbergen, north of Norway, instead of landing in the recovery zone near Hawaii. The capsule was never found; and CIA officials suspect it may have been snatched by the Soviets. The search for this capsule formed the basis of the book and film 'Ice Station Zebra'.

    In the winter of 1960/1961, a US Discovery spy satellite capsule was found by loggers near Kalinin, 200 km north of Moscow. The loggers cracked it open with an axe. Sergei Khrushchev believed this to be the Discoverer 2 capsule. What was left was examined by Soviet engineers but didnít reveal much information - it was a polished aluminium sphere, 30 cm in diameter, gilded on the exterior. Some said it was found as early as the winter of 1959.


1959 June 3 - . 20:09 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A. FAILURE: No telemetry after Agena ignition.. Failed Stage: U.
  • Discoverer 3 - . Payload: KH-1 prototype / Agena A 1018. Mass: 753 kg (1,660 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-06-03 . KH-1 prototype; did not carry camera; film capsule recovery failed..
  • SRV - . Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1.

1959 June 25 - . 22:47 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A. FAILURE: Insufficient stage 2 velocity.. Failed Stage: U.
  • Discoverer 4 - . Payload: KH-1 9001. Mass: 743 kg (1,638 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-06-25 . COSPAR: F590625A. KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance. Failed to achieve orbit..
  • SRV 102 - . Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. COSPAR: F590625B.

1959 August 13 - . 19:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 5 - . Payload: KH-1 9002 / Agena A 1029. Mass: 781 kg (1,721 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-09-28 . USAF Sat Cat: 18 . COSPAR: 1959-Epsilon-1. Apogee: 731 km (454 mi). Perigee: 214 km (132 mi). Inclination: 79.9000 deg. Period: 94.10 min. KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance; film capsule boosted into higher orbit, decayed 2/11/61. Mission failed. Power supply failure. No recovery..
  • Discoverer 5 Capsule - . Payload: KH-1 9002 Capsule. Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1961-02-11 . USAF Sat Cat: 26 . COSPAR: 1959-Epsilon-2. Apogee: 1,700 km (1,000 mi). Perigee: 218 km (135 mi). Inclination: 78.9000 deg. Period: 104.30 min. KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance; film capsule boosted into higher orbit, decayed 2/11/61. Mission failed. Power supply failure. No recovery..

1959 August 19 - . 19:24 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 6 - . Payload: KH-1 9003 / Agena A 1028. Mass: 783 kg (1,726 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-10-20 . USAF Sat Cat: 19 . COSPAR: 1959-Zeta-1. Apogee: 846 km (525 mi). Perigee: 207 km (128 mi). Inclination: 83.9000 deg. Period: 95.10 min. KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance; film capsule recovery failed. Mission failed. Retro rockets malfunctioned negating recovery..

1959 November 7 - . 20:28 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 7 - . Payload: KH-1 9004 / Agena A 1051. Mass: 794 kg (1,750 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: DARPA. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1959-11-26 . USAF Sat Cat: 24 . COSPAR: 1959-Kappa-1. Apogee: 820 km (500 mi). Perigee: 158 km (98 mi). Inclination: 81.6000 deg. Period: 94.40 min. KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance; satellite tumbled; film capsule not recovered. Mission failed. Failed to achieve orbit..

1959 November 20 - . 19:25 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 8 - . Payload: KH-1 9005 / Agena A 1050. Mass: 795 kg (1,752 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-03-08 . USAF Sat Cat: 25 . COSPAR: 1959-Lambda-1. Apogee: 1,661 km (1,032 mi). Perigee: 186 km (115 mi). Inclination: 80.5000 deg. Period: 103.50 min. KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance; film capsule recovery failed. Mission failed. Eccentric orbit negating recovery..

1960 February 4 - . 18:51 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A. FAILURE: Failure. Failed Stage: U.
  • Discoverer 9 - . Payload: KH-1 9006. Mass: 765 kg (1,686 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-02-04 . KH-1; 1st generation low resolution photo surveillance. Mission failed..
  • SRV 113 - . Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1.

1960 February 19 - . 20:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A. FAILURE: Failure. Failed Stage: U.
  • Discoverer 10 - . Payload: KH-1 9007. Mass: 765 kg (1,686 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-02-19 . KH-1; Mission failed..
  • SRV 110 - . Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1.

1960 April 15 - . 20:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 11 - . Payload: KH-1 9008 / Agena A 1055. Mass: 790 kg (1,740 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-04-26 . USAF Sat Cat: 32 . COSPAR: 1960-Delta-1. Apogee: 603 km (374 mi). Perigee: 166 km (103 mi). Inclination: 80.4000 deg. Period: 92.20 min. KH-1; film capsule recovery failed. Mission failed. Attitude control system malfunctioned..

1960 June 29 - . 22:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A. FAILURE: Failure. Failed Stage: U.
  • Discoverer 12 - . Payload: KH-1 prototype. Mass: 790 kg (1,740 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-06-29 . KH-1 prototype; designed to test capsule recovery system; did not carry camera..
  • SRV - . Mass: 779 kg (1,717 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1.

1960 August 10 - . 20:37 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 13 - . Payload: KH-1 prototype / Agena A 1057. Mass: 850 kg (1,870 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-11-14 . USAF Sat Cat: 48 . COSPAR: 1960-Theta-1. Apogee: 683 km (424 mi). Perigee: 258 km (160 mi). Inclination: 82.8000 deg. Period: 94.00 min.

    A Thor/Agena A launched from Vandenberg AFB placed Discoverer XIII in orbit. On 11 August, the data capsule was ejected during the 17th pass and recovered Pacific Ocean near Hawaii by a Navy helicopter that was part of the 6593d Test Squadron's task force. Although the planned mid-air recovery was not made, the return of Discoverer XIII1s data capsule marked the first successful recovery of a man-made object ejected from an orbiting satellite. KH-1 prototype; designed to test capsule recovery system; did not carry camera; capsule successfully recovered from ocean.


1960 August 18 - . 19:57 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1W. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 14 - . Payload: KH-1 9009 / Agena A 1056. Mass: 850 kg (1,870 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-09-16 . USAF Sat Cat: 54 . COSPAR: 1960-Kappa-1. Apogee: 803 km (498 mi). Perigee: 177 km (109 mi). Inclination: 79.6000 deg. Period: 94.40 min. Discoverer XIV was launched from Vandenberg AFB aboard a Thor/Agena A booster.' KH-1; film capsule recovered 1.2 days later; 1st successful photosurveillance mission. First successful mission. Cameras operated satisfactorily..

1960 September 13 - . 22:14 GMT - . Launch Site: Vandenberg. Launch Complex: Vandenberg SLC1E. LV Family: Thor. Launch Vehicle: Thor Agena A.
  • Discoverer 15 - . Payload: KH-1 9010 / Agena A 1058. Mass: 863 kg (1,902 lb). Nation: USA. Agency: USAF. Class: Surveillance. Type: Military surveillance satellite. Spacecraft Bus: WS-117. Spacecraft: KH-1. Decay Date: 1960-10-18 . USAF Sat Cat: 57 . COSPAR: 1960-Mu-1. Apogee: 755 km (469 mi). Perigee: 200 km (120 mi). Inclination: 80.9000 deg. Period: 94.10 min. KH-1; film capsule lost at sea. Mission failed. Attained orbit successfully. Capsule sank prior to retrieval..


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