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KH-3 Corona

KH-3 5 [USAF]

KH-3 6 [USAF]

The KH-3 (Keyhole-3) was third version in the Corona-program to build an optical reconnaissance satellite. These satellites were all launched under the name Discoverer.

The KH-3 payload consisted of the further improved C''' (Corona triple-prime) single panoramic camera and a single General Electric return vehicle (SRV, Satellite Return Vehicle). The C'''-camera was built by Itek Corporation and with a f/3.5 aperture and 61 cm focal length had a ground resolution of 7.5 m.

The satellite was based on the Agena-B upper stage, which provided attitude control in orbit. The film return capsule carried its own small solid-fuel retro motor to deorbit at the end of the mission with mid-air recovery of the returning capsule by a specially equipped aircraft.

The last mission of this series, KH-3 6, was modified and used a forward structure similar to the later KH-4 series with the KH-3 camera.

Six KH-3 satellites were launched, of which four resulted in a successful return of film. One mission failed to orbit. KH-3 5 deployed the small OSCAR 1 ammateur satellite.

Secondary Payloads

Some satellites carried secondary payloads mounted on the satellite:

  • Discoverer 29 (KH-3 1) carried the Texas Pint (Aftrack 12) ELINT payload, the Vela Hotel Package 1 and a GRD Package (Module 103?)
  • Discoverer 30 (KH-3 2) carried the Topsoc 1 (Aftrack 13) ELINT payload and a GRD Package (Horizon Sensor Experiment)
  • Discoverer 31 (KH-3 3) carried the Topsoc 2 (Aftrack 14) ELINT payload, the Vela Hotel Package 2 and a GRD Package (Module 105?)
  • Discoverer 32 (KH-3 4) carried the Topsoc 3 (Aftrack 15) ELINT payload, Research Payload Kit No. 3B (Module 106?) and a TR-17 type SECOR transponder
  • Discoverer 36 (KH-3 5) carried the Grape Juice 1 (Aftrack 17) COMINT payload, the Vela Hotel Package 4, the GRD Package (Module 108?) and a TR-17 type SECOR transponder
  • Discoverer 37 (KH-3 6) carried the Taki (3) (Aftrack 19) ELINT payload and the LPARL Aurora 1962a (Module 109?) payload
Nation: USA
Type / Application: Reconnaissance, photo (film return type)
Operator: CIA
Contractors: Lockheed
Equipment: C'''-Camera
Configuration: Agena-B, 1 SRV
Propulsion: Bell 8081, Star-12 retro motor
Power: Batteries
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
KH-3 1 (Corona 29, Mission 9023, Discoverer 29, Texas Pint) 1961 ψ 30.08.1961 Va 75-3-4 Thor-DM21 Agena-B
KH-3 2 (Corona 30, Mission 9022, Discoverer 30, Topsoc 1) 1961 ω 1 12.09.1961 Va 75-3-5 Thor-DM21 Agena-B
KH-3 3 (Corona 31, Mission 9024, Discoverer 31, Topsoc 2) 1961 αβ 17.09.1961 Va 75-1-1 Thor-DM21 Agena-B
KH-3 4 (Corona 32, Mission 9025, Discoverer 32, Topsoc 3) 1961 αγ 1 13.10.1961 Va 75-3-4 Thor-DM21 Agena-B
KH-3 5 (Corona 36, Mission 9029, Discoverer 36, Grape Juice 1) 1961 ακ 1 12.12.1961 Va 75-3-4 Thor-DM21 Agena-B with OSCAR 1
KH-3 6 (Corona 37, Mission 9030, Discoverer 37, Taki (3)) 1962-F01 13.01.1962 Va 75-3-4 F Thor-DM21 Agena-B