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KH-7 Gambit-1

KH-7 [NRO]

The Program 206 satellite, carrying the KH-7 (Keyhole 7) camera system (codenamed Gambit-1), was the first successful high resolution space reconnaissance program. It was managed by NRO's Program A, the USAF-led segment of the National Reconnaissance Program managed from Los Angeles AFB in El Segundo, California.

The satellite was a US Air Force system with long focal length cameras providing sufficiently high resolution to identify and measure the properties of targets such as missiles and aircraft, in contrast to the lower resolution CORONA system which was only able to locate such targets. Its success caused the cancellation of the troubled KH-6 Lanyard program after only three launches.

The main spacecraft was a 3-axis-stabilized satellite which separated from the Agena-D and contained the payload, camera system and reentry vehicle (SRV). It was known as the OCV (Orbital Control Vehicle). It The OCV was made by General Electric's King of Prussia plant, and the RV by GE's West Philadelphia plant. Program 206 used SRV developed for CORONA. The OCV body was a long cylinder, 1.52 meters in diameter and about 5.0 meters long, ending in a conical adapter connecting it to the SRV. The SRV was a 0.8 m long, 0.7 m diameter rounded cone with a mass of about 160 kg containing a Thiokol Star 12 retrorocket, with a mass of 33 kg full and 10 kg empty. The OCV was launched into a low altitude sun-synchronous orbit on an Atlas Agena-D rocket.

The primary mirror on the KH-7 camera had a 112 cm diameter, close to the limit accomodable in the 152 cm diameter of the payload cylinder that housed it. It had a 196 cm focal length and a precission temperature control. These cameras used the strip exposure technique, pulling the film through the camera at the same speed that the camera was moving and exposing it along a thin vertical slitresulting in a long strip of film. From a normal orbit of 167 kilometer, the camera had a swath width of 22 km, with the length of the strip could be up to 741 km. It achieved a typical ground-resolution of 0.61 m to 0.91 m.

Reportedly the early flights had stabilization problems and the Agena was left attached to provide back-up attitude control. Published orbital data implies that the GAMBIT spacecraft generally operated separately from the Agena in orbit. Only on the early flights the Agena didn't separate until after SRV recovery, allowing tests of the OCV stabilization system without risking the imaging mission.

The first KH-7 was destroyed in a pre-launch accident, when the Atlas booster collapsed. Thirty-eight KH-7s had been launched, with two failing to reach orbit and three others failing to return imagery. Several missions carried small "Subsatellite Ferret" satellites or other small payloads on the Agena-D stages into orbit.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Reconnaissance, photo (film return type)
Operator: USAF
Contractors: General Electric (OPV, SRV), Eastman Kodak (PPS)
Equipment: ?
Configuration: OCV, 1 SRV
Propulsion: Star 12 retro motor
Power: Batteries
Lifetime: up to 9 days
Mass:
Orbit:
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
KH-7 (Gambit-1) - destroyed Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D destroyed in pre-launch accident
KH-7 1 (Gambit-1 4001, OPS 1467) 1963-028A 12.07.1963 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 2 (Gambit-1 4002, OPS 1947) 1963-036A 06.09.1963 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 3 (Gambit-1 4003, OPS 2196) 1963-041A 25.10.1963 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 4 (Gambit-1 4004, OPS 2372) 1963-051A 18.12.1963 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 5 (Gambit-1 4005, OPS 2423) 1964-009A 25.02.1964 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 6 (Gambit-1 4006, OPS 3435) 1964-012A 11.03.1964 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 7 (Gambit-1 4007, OPS 3743) 1964-020A 23.04.1964 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 8 (Gambit-1 4008, OPS 3592) 1964-024A 19.05.1964 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D
KH-7 9 (Gambit-1 4009, OPS 3684) 1964-036A 06.07.1964 Va LC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D with Noah's Ark
KH-7 10 (Gambit-1 4010, OPS 3802) 1964-045A 14.08.1964 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Hitchhiker 2
KH-7 11 (Gambit-1 4011, OPS 4262) 1964-058A 23.09.1964 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 12 (Gambit-1 4012, OPS 4036) 1964-F11 07.10.1964 Va PALC-2-4 F Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Pundit 3
KH-7 13 (Gambit-1 4013, OPS 4384) 1964-068A 23.10.1964 Va PALC-2-3 Atlas-LV3 Agena-D with Step Thirteen/Plymouth Rock 3
KH-7 14 (Gambit-1 4014, OPS 4439) 1964-079A 04.12.1964 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 15 (Gambit-1 4015, OPS 4703) 1965-005A 23.01.1965 Va PALC-2-3 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 16 (Gambit-1 4016, OPS 4920) 1965-019A 12.03.1965 Va PALC-2-3 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 17 (Gambit-1 4017, OPS 4983) 1965-031A 28.04.1965 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Pundit 4
KH-7 18 (Gambit-1 4018, OPS 5236) 1965-041A 27.05.1965 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 19 (Gambit-1 4019, OPS 5501) 1965-050B 25.06.1965 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Fanion 1/Tripos 1
KH-7 20 (Gambit-1 4020, OPS 5810) 1965-F07 12.07.1965 Va PALC-2-4 F Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 21 (Gambit-1 4021, OPS 5698) 1965-062A 03.08.1965 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Magnum
KH-7 22 (Gambit-1 4022, OPS 7208) 1965-076A 30.09.1965 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 23 (Gambit-1 4023, OPS 6232) 1965-090B 08.11.1965 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Auroral (OPS 8293)
KH-7 24 (Gambit-1 4024, OPS 7253) 1966-002A 19.01.1966 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with OPS 3179
KH-7 25 (Gambit-1 4025, OPS 1184) 1966-012A 15.02.1966 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Bluebell 2C, Bluebell 2S
KH-7 26 (Gambit-1 4026, OPS 0879) 1966-022A 18.03.1966 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with NRL-PL 137
KH-7 27 (Gambit-1 4027, OPS 0910) 1966-032A 19.04.1966 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 28 (Gambit-1 4028, OPS 1950) 1966-039A 14.05.1966 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Leige/Plicat
KH-7 29 (Gambit-1 4029, OPS 1577) 1966-048A 03.06.1966 Va PALC-2-4 Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with OPS 1856
KH-7 30 (Gambit-1 4030, OPS 1850) 1966-062A 12.07.1966 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 31 (Gambit-1 4031, OPS 1832) 1966-074A 16.08.1966 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Sampan 1/Sousea 1
KH-7 32 (Gambit-1 4032, OPS 1686) 1966-083A 16.09.1966 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with Fanion 2/Tripos 2
KH-7 33 (Gambit-1 4033, OPS 2055) 1966-090A 12.10.1966 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with SGLS 1
KH-7 34 (Gambit-1 4034, OPS 2070) 1966-098A 02.11.1966 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with OPS 5424
KH-7 35 (Gambit-1 4035, OPS 1890) 1966-109A 05.12.1966 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 36 (Gambit-1 4036, OPS 4399) 1967-007A 02.02.1967 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D
KH-7 37 (Gambit-1 4037, OPS 4321) 1967-050A 22.05.1967 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D with LOGACS
KH-7 38 (Gambit-1 4038, OPS 4360) 1967-055A 04.06.1967 Va SLC-4E Atlas-SLV3 Agena-D

References: