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KH-8A, & KH-8B, GAMBIT

RECONNAISSANCE IMAGING SPACERAFT

By © Charles P. Vick 2007 All Rights Reserved

05-24-07

Disclaimer

The opinions and evaluations stated here in are only the author’s and cannot be construed to reflect those of any Government agency, company, institute or association. It is based on public information, circumstantial evidence, informed speculation, and declassified U.S. intelligence community documents, official US government documents and histories, oral histories, interviews and engineering analysis. As with all data regarding the intelligence programs of the US intelligence community, this analysis is subject to revision--and represents a work in progress.

KH-8 GAMBIT

Titan-IIIB Agena-D earlier launches, UASF

KH-8A & 8B, GAMBIT Launches, (AFP- 110, AFP-1700 )

Spacecraft LV Date Life Apogee Perigee incl.
1. GAMBIT-31 T-3B Agena-D July 29, 1966 7.0 155 98 94.12
2. GAMBIT 34 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 28, 1966 9.1 184 94 93.98
3. GAMBIT 38 T-3B Agena-D Dec. 14, 1966 9.0 229 86 109.56
4. GAMBIT 40 T-3B Agena-D Feb. 24, 1967 10.2 257 84 106.98
5. GAMBIT 41 T-3B Agena-D April 26, 1967 Failure      
6. GAMBIT 44 T-3B Agena-D June 20, 1967 10.2 202 79 111.40
7. GAMBIT 45 T-3B Agena-D Aug. 16, 1967 13 278 88 111.88
8. GAMBIT 46 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 19, 1967 10.2 249 76 106.10
9. GAMBIT 47 T-3B Agena-D Oct. 25, 1967 9.0 266 84 111.57
10. GAMBIT 48 T-3B Agena-D Dec. 5, 1967 11.2 267 85 109.55
11. GAMBIT 49 T-3B Agena-D Jan. 18, 1968 17.1 250 86 111.53
12. GAMBIT 50 T-3B Agena-D Mar. 13, 1968 11.0 252 79 99.87
13. GAMBIT 51 T-3B Agena-D Apr. 17, 1968 12.0 272 88 111.49
14. GAMBIT 52 T-3B Agena-D June 5, 1968 12.2 283 76 110.52
15. GAMBIT 53 T-3B Agena-D Aug. 6, 1968 9.0 245 88 110.00
16. GAMBIT 54 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 10, 1968 15.0 250 78 106.06
17. GAMBIT 55 T-3B Agena-D Nov. 6, 1968 14.0 242 81 106.00
18. GAMBIT 56 T-3B Agena-D Dec. 4, 1968 8.0 456 84 106.24
19. GAMBIT 57 T-3B Agena-D Jan. 22, 1969 12.0 675 88 106.12
20. GAMBIT 58 T-3B Agena-D Mar. 4, 1969 14.0 286 83 92.00
21. GAMBIT 59 T-3B Agena-D April 15, 1969 15.0 254 84 108.75
22. GAMBIT 60 T-3B Agena-D June 3, 1969 11.2 257 85 110.00
23. GAMBIT 61 T-3B Agena-D Aug. 22, 1969 16.0 115 84 107.99
24. GAMBIT 62 T-3B Agena-D Oct. 24, 1969 15.0 459 84 108.04
25. GAMBIT 63 T-3B Agena-D Jan. 14, 1970 18.0 237 83 109.60
26. GAMBIT 64 T-3B Agena-D April 15, 1970 21.0 253 81 110.96
27. GAMBIT 65 T-3B Agena-D June 25, 1970 11.0 244 79 108.87
28. GAMBIT 66 T-3B Agena-D Aug. 18, 1970 16.0 275 94 110.95
29. GAMBIT 67 T-3B Agena-D Oct. 23, 1970 19.0 246 84 111.06
30. GAMBIT 68 T-3B Agena-D Jan. 21, 1971 19.0 259 86 110.86
31. GAMBIT 69 T-3B Agena-D April 22, 1971 21.0 249 82 110.93
32. GAMBIT 70 T-3B Agena-D Aug. 12, 1971 22.0 263 85 111.00
33. GAMBIT 71 T-3B Agena-D Oct. 23, 1971 25.0 285 83 110.94
34. GAMBIT 72 T-3B Agena-D Mar. 16, 1972 25.0 254 81 110.98
35. GAMBIT 73 T-3B Agena-D May 20, 1972 Failure      
36. GAMBIT 74 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 1, 1972 29.0 236 87 110.50
37. GAMBIT 75 T-3B Agena-D Dec. 21, 1972 33.0 247 82 110.44
38. GAMBIT 76 T-3B Agena-D May 16, 1973 28.0 247 86 110.51
39. GAMBIT 77 T-3B Agena-D June 26, 1973 Failure      
40. GAMBIT 78 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 27, 1973 32.0 239 81 110.48
41. GAMBIT 79 T-3B Agena-D Feb. 13, 1974 32.0 244 83 110.44
42. GAMBIT 80 T-3B Agena-D June 6, 1974 47.0 244 84 110.49
43. GAMBIT 81 T-3B Agena-D Aug. 14, 1974 46.0 249 84 110.51
44. GAMBIT 82 T-3B Agena-D April 18, 1975 48.0 249 83 110.54
45. GAMBIT 83 T-3B Agena-D Oct. 9, 1975 52.0 221 78 96.41
46. GAMBIT 84 T-3B Agena-D Mar. 22, 1976 57.0 215 78 96.40
47, GAMBIT 85 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 15, 1976 51.0 205 84 96.39
48. GAMBIT 86 T-3B Agena-D Mar. 13, 1977 74.0 216 77 96.40
49. GAMBIT 87 T-3B Agena-D Sept. 23, 1977 76.0 218 78 96.49
50. GAMBIT 88 T-3B Agena-D May 28, 1979 90.0 177 81 96.41
51. GAMBIT 89 T-3B Agena-D Feb. 28, 1981 112.0 208 86 96.38
52. GAMBIT 90 T-3B Agena-D April 15, 1983 128.0 184 89 96.52
53. GAMBIT 91 T-3B Agena-D April 17, 1984 118.0 193 79 96.40

KH-8 GAMBITSpacecraft Description

Program (AFP-110, AFP-1700)

KH-8/GAMBIT was launched by the Titan-IIIB Agena-D also called Titan-23B and Titan-24B some 53 times with only three failures losses between July 1966 and April 1984. While in orbit it operated on an average inclination of 104.2 degrees with an average perigee of 83.6 miles that dipped down into the upper areas of the atmosphere over the target area’s and then climbed out to an average apogee of 254.3 miles. The KH-8A and KH-8B GAMBIT spacecraft evolved from the CORONA foundation series with the KH-7, GAMBIT which introduced the first high resolution spacecraft attempt and subsequent provided the foundation for the very high resolution highly successful KH-8 Gambit spacecraft. KH-8 provided the best highest resolution imagery spacecraft system the US has operated in the entire history of its Lockheed/NRO film based imaging spacecraft series.

Two different versions of the KH-8 spacecraft were apparently developed through the evolution of the series. The First KH-8A in the series featured one and then later two General Electric (GE) high resolution film return capsules while the second KH-8B in the series featured three in excess of 2,000 pounds GE film return capsules. This and better spacecraft management procedures allow the spacecraft life to be considerably extended with the addition of two solar arrays through the latter part of the series. The Standard black and silver striped 20.86 feet long with a five foot maximum diameter not including its solar arrays Agena-D orbital insertion bus stage was utilized by the spacecraft and remain attached to the vehicle to reentry. It was in some versions as much as approximately 46.5 feet long with a mass of about 6,615 -8,200 pounds. KH-8 featured two ten panel solar arrays on longer duration missions and carried 12 DMU solid motors for orbital maintenance. The spacecraft carried the usual array Lockheed of sun, earth, and horizon sensors. There is no indication that it carried any sub-satellites.

KH-8 GAMBIT Optical System

It’s Kodak advanced lens drive scanning Optical Bar camera system with its forward rotating primary mirror and folding optics created images on large format 9 inch wide film. The improved KH-8 camera was the full development of the KH-7s camera potential not otherwise possible with the original KH-7 camera due to launch vehicle payload mass constraints. This produced images with greater detail with a resolution down to between 18 and 6 inches. The multi-position primary mirror had an approximate swath of 140 degrees giving it a fairly good slant angle imagery capability. That is the objects that were of that size of 6 – 18 inches or above on a side could readily be identified from the imagery. The camera was actually smaller in diameter as it was mounted with in the five foot 60 inch diameter external airframe with an inner diameter close to 45 inches.

KH-8 GAMBIT Optics

Spacecraft, Designation, Resolution.* Known Average Orbital Perigee (Kilometers) Swath “Footprint” (Kilometers) Half Swath Base Length (Kilometers) Off Nadir Maximum View Angle (Degrees) Elevation From Target to Satellite (Degrees) Range to Target from Satellite (Kilometers)
CORONA KH-4B Low Resolution 170.3931* Minimum 17.7888 x 268.6850* 134.3425* 35 x 2 =70 total swath* 55* 216.9832* (220 limit)
HEXAGON KH-9 A & B Low Resolution Mapping Camera 162.3481* 162.3481* 562.3738 x 37.2330 Same film as KH-7 & KH-8 259.42 x 129.71 381.1869 30 x 2=60 total swath 30 324.6962 (325 limit)
GAMBIT Block-I KH-7 High Resolution Spot Imaging 148.3820* 148.3820* 741.2 x 22.2360* 18.53 x 22.23 & 9.265 x 22.2360* 370.60* ~70 x 2 =140+/-2 total swath Off nadir angle kept between 0-35 20 +/-2 399.2012 (400 limit)
GAMBIT Block-II KH-8 High Resolution Spot Imaging 134.5124* 134.5124* 739.0113 x 20.1576 16.7980 x 20.1576 or 16.6770 x 20.3830 369.5056 ~70 x 2 =140+/-2 total swath Off nadir angle kept between 0-35 20 +/-2 393.2276 (395 limit)

1. CORONA KH-4B swath was a 70 degree cross span with a maximum of 35 degrees off Nadir angle with a 5 degree width. This provided an imaging area with a minimum of 17.79 km. wide and 268.69 km. long.

2. The average KH-7 GAMBIT Block-I altitude was 148.3820 km is known to have used a maximum of a 140 degrees swath providing a known 741.2 km by 22.2360 km imaging area potential. (3) The average KH-7 altitude yields a 22.2360 x 370.60 km half swath imaging area using trigonometry.

3. When the highly refined KH-8 GAMBIT Block-II imaging system was introduced it provided the best imagery that was to come out of the GAMBIT film-based imaging systems over the KH-7 / GAMBIT Block-I system. While the average KH-8 altitude was 134.5124 km yields a swath imaging area of 739.14 x 20.1579 km. using trigonometry and assuming the same limits of 20 degrees and above elevation minimum view from the target area or 70 degrees off nadir angle from the spacecraft for a 140 degrees total swath potential.

4. The KH-9 imaging capability had known limits of 30 degrees elevation from the target or 60 degrees off nadir angle which yields a 120 degrees swath potential imaging area capability. The KH-9 imaging system apparently used the same KH-7, 8 film used in the CORONA format. The wider frames provided for higher resolution Hexagon images.

Apparent Off Nadir Angle Study
Off Nadir Angle for 140 km re 6371, re6511
Phi + Elevation + Nadir = 90 degrees
Degrees. Degrees Degrees
3 21.1 66.0 = 90 degrees
4 15.3 70.7 = 90 degrees
5 11.5 73.5 = 90 degrees
KH-7 140.00 km 69.58/20.42= 90 degrees
KH-7 148.3820 km 68.51/21.49= 90 degrees
KH-8 134.5124 km 70.00/20.00= 90 degrees
KH-8 134.5124 km 70.43/19.57= 90 degrees

 

KH-8 Optical Imaging Camera

Design of the KH-8 GAMBIT Spacecraft

References:

1. McDowell, Jonathan, US Reconnaissance Satellite Programs, Part-1, Quest, Summer 1995 pp. 22-33

2. SSB Satellite Support Bus, Lockheed Missile & Space Company pp. 1-20

3. Commercial Titan-III Users Manuel

4. Bus-1 Implementation Concept for Space Station Alpha, Lockheed Missile & Space Company, Inc., Nov. 25, 1993.,ppp1-4, 17-31, 64.

5. Day, Dwayne Allen, Sensitivity About Gambit And Hexagon Imagery Declassification, History of the Gambit and Hexagon Programs, The Recon Report September 20, 2000, FPSpace, Aug. 30, 2000.

6. Quick Facts about the KH-7 and KH-9 Mapping Imagery

7. Declassified MOL and Gemini – B design details & Declassified MOL Baseline Configuration studies

8. Day, Dwayne A., A Failed Phoenix: The KH-6 LANYARD Reconnaissance Satellite, Spaceflight, Vol. 39, May 1997, pp. 170-174.

9. KH-6 Camera System declassified NPIC document February 1963.

10. Day, Dwayne A, Pushing Iron Spaceflight, Vol. 46, July 2004, pp. 289-293.




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