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KH-9 Hexagon

KH-9 without MCS [NRO]

KH-9 with MCS [NRO]

KH-9 (Keyhole-9), also known as Hexagon or inofficially as "Big Bird", was a large reconnaissance satellite to replace the earlier KH-4B Corona satellites. In contrast to earlier models, it was not based on the Agena stage, but on a new maneuverable bus called SCS (Satellite Control Section). It featured four return capsules for a much increased lifetime. The McDonnell Douglas manufactured Mk.8 return capsules were of a similar type as in the earlier Corona satellites and were designed to deorbit a film capsule from space with mid-air recovery of the returning capsule by a specially equipped aircraft.

The camera system was built by Perkin-Elmer and consisted of two large panoramic cameras for area surveillance.

12 of the 20 satellites featured also a mapping Camera System (MCS) mounted on the forward end with an own smaller Mk.5 return capsule. It was present on missions KH-9 5 to KH-9 16.

The lifetime of the satellites increased from 40 days in the beginning to up to 275 days during the final missions.

Secondary Payloads

Some satellites carried secondary payloads mounted on the satellite:

  • KH-9 12 carried the STP S75-1 payload
  • KH-9 14 carried the STP S76-1 (NAVPAC 01) payload and the STP S77-2 (S3-4) payload
  • KH-9 17 carried the STP S81-1 (SEEP) payload
  • KH-9 19 carried the STP S85-1 (HVP-III) payload
  • KH-9 20 carried the STP S86-1 (RADC 801), GPSPAC 3 and RDBS payloads
Nation: USA
Type / Application: Reconnaissance, photo
Operator: USAF
Contractors: Lockheed (prime); Perkin-Elmer (cameras)
Equipment: ?
Configuration: SCS, 4 Mk.8 SRVs, 1 Mk.5 SRV (MCS versions only)
Propulsion: ?
Power: 2 deployable solar arrays, batteries
Lifetime: 40 - 275 days
Mass: 11400 kg
Orbit:
Satellite COSPAR Date LS Launch Vehicle Remarks
KH-9 1 (Hexagon 1, OPS 8709) 1971-056A 15.06.1971 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D
KH-9 2 (Hexagon 2, OPS 1737) 1972-002A 20.01.1972 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4424
KH-9 3 (Hexagon 3, OPS 7293) 1972-052A 07.07.1972 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4425
KH-9 4 (Hexagon 4, OPS 8314) 1972-079A 10.10.1972 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-801 4
KH-9 5 (Hexagon 5, OPS 8410) 1973-014A 09.03.1973 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D
KH-9 6 (Hexagon 6, OPS 8261) 1973-046A 13.07.1973 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D
KH-9 7 (Hexagon 7, OPS 6630) 1973-088A 10.11.1973 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4426, P-801 5
KH-9 8 (Hexagon 8, OPS 6245) 1974-020A 10.04.1974 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4428, IRCB
KH-9 9 (Hexagon 9, OPS 7122) 1974-085A 29.10.1974 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4429, S3 1
KH-9 10 (Hexagon 10, OPS 6381) 1975-051A 08.06.1975 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-226 1
KH-9 11 (Hexagon 11, OPS 5547) 1975-114A 04.12.1975 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with S3 2
KH-9 12 (Hexagon 12, OPS 4699) 1976-065A 08.17.1976 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4430, S3 3
KH-9 13 (Hexagon 13, OPS 4800) 1977-056A 27.06.1977 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D
KH-9 14 (Hexagon 14, OPS 0460) 1978-029A 16.03.1978 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4432
KH-9 15 (Hexagon 15, OPS 3854) 1979-025A 16.03.1979 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4431
KH-9 16 (Hexagon 16, OPS 3123) 1980-052A 18.06.1980 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-801 6
KH-9 17 (Hexagon 17, OPS 5642) 1982-041A 11.05.1982 Va SLC-4E Titan-3D with P-11 4433
KH-9 18 (Hexagon 18, OPS 0721) 1983-060A 20.06.1983 Va SLC-4E Titan-34D with P-801 7
KH-9 19 (Hexagon 19, USA 2) 1984-065A 25.06.1984 Va SLC-4E Titan-34D with P-11 4434
KH-9 20 (Hexagon 20) 1986-F03 18.04.1986 Va SLC-4E F Titan-34D with Pearl Ruby