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KH-8 Gambit-3 (Block 2)

KH-8 26 [USAF]

KH-8 or Gambit-3 was the second generation of Gambit high resolution reconnaissance satellites. The KH-8 Block 2 were the second iteration of this design, introducing a second reentry vehicle.

KH-8 had the same basic layout as the KH-8 (Block 1) series. The forward part was joint via a roll joint with the Agena-D. The major subsystems of the satellite included a photographic-payload section (PPS), a satellite-control section (SCS), and the booster vehicle. The payload section contained a camera module and two satellite recovery-vehicle (SRV). The control section included the command system, the orbit-adjust module, an attitude-control subsystem, a back-up stabilization system (BUSS), and the power supply.

The next 14 satellites of the KH-8 Block 2 series (KH-8 23 to 36) featured two SRVs.

The camera system was strip camera coupled to an optical system a focal length of 4.46 m. In the optical system the ground image is reflected by a steerable flat mirror to a 1.21 m diameter stationary concave primary mirror. The primary mirror reflects the light through an opening in the flat mirror and through a Ross corrector. At perigeum, the main camera imaged a 6.3 km wide ground swath on a 223.8 mm wide moving portion of film through a small slit aperture. The ground resolution was as small as 0.1 m or better, near the theoretical physical e resolution limit imposed by atmospheric turbulence.

The Astro-Position Terrain Camera (APTC) contained three cameras: a 75 mm focal length terrain frame camera, and two 90 mm focal length stellar cameras. The terrain frame camera takes exposures of Earth in direction of the vehicle roll position for attitude determination. The stellar cameras observed in 180 opposite directions and took images of star fields.

This series introduced the improved Titan-3(23)B Agena-D launch vehicle. The last five used the stretched Titan-3(24)B Agena-D version.

On KH-8 25, the recovery of the second SRV failed. KH-8 27 suffered a failure of the command system and the second SRV was not recovered. KH-8 35 was lost due to a pneumatic regulator failure during ascent.

The KH-8 Block-2 satellites were succeeded by the improved KH-8 Block 3 satellites featuring a new high performance roll joint.

Nation: USA
Type / Application: Reconnaissance, photo (film return type)
Operator: USAF
Equipment: ?
Configuration: Agena-D, 2 SRVs
Propulsion: Bell 8096, SPS
Power: Batteries
Lifetime: 14 to 27 days
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
KH-8 23 (Gambit-3 4323, OPS 7807) 1969-074A 23.08.1969 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 24 (Gambit-3 4324, OPS 8455) 1969-095A 24.10.1969 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 25 (Gambit-3 4325, OPS 6531) 1970-002A 14.01.1970 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 26 (Gambit-3 4326, OPS 2863) 1970-031A 15.04.1970 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 27 (Gambit-3 4327, OPS 6820) 1970-048A 25.06.1970 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 28 (Gambit-3 4328, OPS 7874) 1970-061A 18.08.1970 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 29 (Gambit-3 4329, OPS 7568) 1970-090A 23.10.1970 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 30 (Gambit-3 4330, OPS 7776) 1971-005A 21.01.1971 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 31 (Gambit-3 4331, OPS 7899) 1971-033A 22.04.1971 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(23)B Agena-D
KH-8 32 (Gambit-3 4332, OPS 8607) 1971-070A 12.08.1971 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(24)B Agena-D
KH-8 33 (Gambit-3 4333, OPS 7616) 1971-092A 23.10.1971 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(24)B Agena-D
KH-8 34 (Gambit-3 4334, OPS 1678) 1972-016A 17.03.1972 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(24)B Agena-D
KH-8 35 (Gambit-3 4335, OPS 6574) 1972-F03 20.05.1972 Va SLC-4W F Titan-3(24)B Agena-D
KH-8 36 (Gambit-3 4336, OPS 8888) 1972-068A 01.09.1972 Va SLC-4W Titan-3(24)B Agena-D