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By © Charles P. Vick 2007 All Rights Reserved



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.

USAF Photo Last Titan-4B carrying the Advanced Crysyal-5 RECSAT spacecraft


Air Brushed Titan-4 Advanced Crystal Launch

ADVANCED CRYSTAL / IKON - Often called ADVANCED CRYSTAL or more recent third, fourth and fifth generations called IKON. In fact “KH-11 KENNON” no longer exists and was replaced by the nuclear war, laser, and battle hardened ADVANCED CRYSTAL imaging spacecraft now the more recent third and fourth generations called IKON. It is believed that KH-12 is in fact not the designation that is used by the National Reconnaissance Office for this satellite, which may be designated the KH-11B or the Improved/KH-11. As with other intelligence satellites, this satellite also has a Byeman code name (such as Kennan or Lacrosse), but this Byeman code name has not been publicly compromised. To avoid confusion over nomenclature, however, this satellite will be referred to here as the IMPROVED CRYSTAL or ADVANCED CRYSTAL. Weighing in at an estimated 28,800-29,000 lbs for Titan-4A and 32,660-36,250-39,200 lbs for the Titan-4B at orbital insertion of the Advanced Crystal spacecraft which is about 43 feet long and is 13.25 feet in diameter or about the size of a city bus. Titan-4A capacity to polar orbit out of VAFB is 29,600-31,100 lbs but Titan-4B is capable of 36,700-38,800 lbs.

Sixth Spacecraft being Prepared

The sixth modified ADVANCED CRYSTAL / IKON is known to be under construction at Lockheed Martin to bridge the gap between it and the Future Imagery Architecture photo imaging spacecraft. Boeing lost the FIA photo imagining spacecraft to Lockheed Martin because of program delays and cost overruns creating considerable delay in that program. This and several other kinds of existing spacecraft are being built to bridge the FIA gap because of scheduling development issues that have already occurred. This sixth Modified Advance Crystal is expected as early as 2006 but has slipped to the 2007-2008 time period.

Post FIA Follow-on RECSAT

Follow-on Advanced Crystal Spacecraft Family

By Charles P. Vick 2005-7 All Rights Reserved


Follow-on Advanced Crystal of Lockheed Martin Today we have the updated modified follow-on Advanced Crystal of Lockheed Martin that has replaced FIA when it was contracted to renew production in 2005. I suspect that Lockheed Martin probably is actually reworking some aspects of the Boeing design with their design substitutions especially in the optics problem plagued areas. I strongly suspect that Lockheed Martin has had to adapt some of the Boeing external design details for stealth but otherwise has steered away from that efforts internal details except where the NRO's design office dictated otherwise. NRO is in fact the lead design office for all national security spacecraft design specification while the companies and subcontractors merely act as the final design dedicated factories. Lockheed Martin may have decided to keep the Advanced Crystal derivation Bus-1 modified along with the shorter off set telescope barrel used by Misty derived from the Advanced Crystal design. Alternatively they could have used the one developed by Boeing as a sub contract which is unlikely. The "S" like shaped solar arrays is probable Lockheed from the Boeing project efforts on the X-37 program or from the Orbital Express program. This has presented two alternative solar array radiator designs besides the existing Lockheed Advanced Crystal proven curved body solar array design vendor as seen in the Lockheed solar array vendor document (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Solar Arrays - Fact sheets 10-85) and from both the President G. W. Bush (Senior) NARA Presidential Library Crystal RECSAT model display. These curved faceted solar arrays are made of battle hardened Gallium Arsenate and are designed to be folded and wrapped around the telescope barrel during launch. In the final analysis the systems that were successfully designed by Boeing have probable been cannibalized right down to the hardware design and personnel by Lockheed Martin in order to cut development time and cost down under the leadership of NRO. I suspect that the IMINT satellite technology was somewhat absorbed by Lockheed Martin at Boeing's expense which as it has turned out has been very fortunate for the FIA follow-on replacement program.

On the other hand I suspect that Lockheed Martin has minimized the design modifications to the Follow-on Advanced Crystal design to cut both time and development cost while reopening the existing production line. Lockheed Martin lost the Advanced Crystal "Misty" program in June 2007 also because the stealth technology was not worth what it cost for what it was acquiring and the existing world strategic threats outmoded its usefulness. There were however real advances from the Misty program that probably have already been incorporated into the Follow-on Advanced Crystal design. The funds that would have been used for construction of the next exceptionally expensive Misty spacecraft were apparently redirected to renewed production of the existing Advanced Crystal spacecraft with modest improvements to update its capability. The spacecraft is expected to be perhaps somewhat multi sided design for stealth purposes as well as being about the size of the Original Misty spacecraft length wise with odd shaped solar arrays approaching a shorter tractor trailer eighteen wheeler size. This was due to the optical physics and nuclear, laser, ASAT, stealth, thermal control and general spacecraft battle hardening requirements.

What concerns this analyst the most is the utter confusion that has grown out there on what has gone on in the evolution of the imagery program to where we are today? This appears to follow the following systems developments legacy:

1. Advanced Crystal (so called KH-12) evolved from the original KH-11 technology into an entirely new design

2. 8X EIS etc. this is the larger unfolding telescope design concept heavier high earth orbit or GSO design concept still evolving for battle field overview some technology of which was added to Misty. 3. Misty stealth advanced crystal derivations Block-1 with Block-II cancelled early in 2007

4. FIA as originally conceived design which was also the misty stealth follow-on that was supposed to be dramatically smaller than the Advanced Crystal or Misty designs that was taken from Boeing and cancelled during September 2005. It was supposed to be deployed as a constellation of relatively small spacecraft.

5. The original Lockheed-Martin FIA competitive design to Boeings FIA design concept and the present larger compromise more conservative design being worked today by Lockheed Martin. That is the Follow-on Advanced Crystal design modified to the Misty design size. Its production is not expected to be limited to just a series of gap in imagery coverage spacecraft as it is now considered a part of the overall IMINT mix that also includes the BASIC commercial based imaging conceptual program spacecraft still being developed and considered.

6. Once BASIC is fully fielded and perfected in the next five to seven years it is expected to fully take over the IMINT tasking requirements.


1. Philip Taubman, In Death of Spy Satellite Program, Lofty Plans and Unrealistic Bids, The New York Times, November 11, 2007, p. 1, 20, & 21.

2. , Future Imagery Architecture [FIA]

The ADVANCED Keyhole - IMPROVED CRYSTAL spacecraft description

The ADVANCED IMPROVED CRYSTAL can be imagined as a Hubble Space Telescope, with a large rocket engine attached to provide maneuverability. Similar to the Space Telescope, the IMPROVED CRYSTAL is 13.25 feet in diameter, and with addition of its maneuvering support module, is over 43 feet long (compared to the 42 feet Space Telescope with its 10 foot diameter telescope barrel). Contractors on the IMPROVED CRYSTAL include Lockheed, TRW, Litton, Orbital Systems, and Perkins –Elmer Corporation or Kodak. The dry weight (minus fuel) of the IMPROVED CRYSTAL is about 21,000- 22,500 lbs, close to the total weight of perhaps 28,800-29,000 lbs, including fuel, of the KH-11 mass that is estimated between 24,500-25,800-27,500 lbs. The total weight of the IMPROVED CRYSTAL has grown significantly, from the original KH-11-13,289 lbs, dry to the current estimated less than 21,000 lbs dry. It launch mass may be on the order of 29,600-31,100 for Titan-4A to polar orbit and 36,700-38,800 lbs to polar orbit for Titan-4B. The additional fuel-carrying capacity accounts for most of the increase, and the IMPROVED CRYSTAL now can carry up to 11,660 lbs of fuel prior to orbital insertion placing the Advanced Crystal in the 28,800-29,600 lbs for Titan-4A and 32,660-36,700 lbs for the Titan-4B. The primary difference between the 24,500-25,800-27,500 lbs KH-11 and the heavier ADVANCED CRYSTAL is that the additional amount of maneuvering propellant carried on the IMPROVED CRYSTAL. This additional propellant which has gone from 7,379 lbs to 11,660 lbs that can be used to prolong the operating life of the IMPROVED CRYSTAL, to maneuver to improve coverage of areas on the Earth of particular interest, and to maneuver to evade Soviet anti-satellite interceptors. It also apparently uses two of its six propellant tanks to complete orbital insertion. Although the IMPROVED ADVANCED CRYSTAL was originally designed to be place into orbit (and perhaps serviced and refueled in orbit) by the Shuttle, the Titan 4A and Titan-4B has until recently been the primary launch vehicle for the IMPROVED CRYSTAL which will now be launched by the Delta-4 heavy EELV. The bus-1 carries several standard Lockheed sun, earth and horizon sensor in addition to side payload bays. The Bus-1 sits inside the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) for launch that is 16.67 feet in diameter and is about 26 feet long.

The two curved body hugging solar arrays consist of three segments each measuring 96.7 x 79.1 inches and are attached to a deploying boom mechanism that allows the panels to be rotated in one plane to track the sun. Lockheed is the curved solar array vendor as seen in the Lockheed solar array vendor document (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Solar Arrays – Fact sheets 10-85) and from both the (Ref. President G. W. Bush (Senior) NARA Presidential Library Crystal RECSAT model display.) The Solar arrays are made of battle hardened Gallium Arsenate. Lockheed Martin is the lead systems integrator under the NRO’s lead design bureau specifications configuration control requirements.

The off set telescope is a Lockheed, Perkin-Elmer Corporation design verses the suggest imagery telescope optics designer used on the KH-11 KENNON, and Hubble telescope design heritage. The Advanced Crystal uses a smaller flat black colored louver photo shutter front imaging window.

There are the usual Navigation, orientation, horizon and sun sensors of Lockheed utilized that can be seen in Lockheed Vendor documents (Ref. Lockheed Missile & Space Company Fact Sheet, Earth/Horizon Sensors1-90, & Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp. Space News advertisement).

The optical sensors on the IMPROVED CRYSTAL are similar to that of the KH-11. These electronic CCD Charged Coupling Device electro optical imaging electronics cameras provide real-time transmission of images to ground stations via Milstar relay satellites. The IMPROVED CRYSTAL sensors operate in visible and near infrared light, as well as thermal infrared to detect heat sources. These sensors probably incorporate low-light-level image intensifiers to provide night-time images. The KH-12's have an infrared capability superior to that of the IMPROVED CRYSTAL, with the advantage in infrared primarily for camouflage detection, for looking at buried structures, for looking at differential thermal inertia in the target area, for trying to determine which factories are operating and which factories are not. In addition, it carries the Improved Crystal Metric System (ICMS) to provide imagery with reseau crosses to aid in terrain mapping.

The IMPROVED CRYSTAL’s sophisticated electronics provides sharper images than the KH-11, comparable in quality to the best of the film return satellites, with a resolution approaching ten centimeters. The primary mirror, on the ADVANCED CRYSTAL is about 115-124 inches in diameter. The orbital axis positioning of the spacecraft with the rear BUS-1 pointed approximately 15-30 degrees from the vertical enabling the KH-12 to take pictures at very high slant angles of obliquity, imaging objects hundreds of kilometers away from its flight path.

The satellite is believed to be hardened against nuclear effects and laser weapons. It has some ability to operate without ground control, the CCD’s are composed of gallium arsenide instead of silicon, and the lenses are coated to be laser resistant. Future versions may carry Satellite On-Board Attack Warning System (SOARS), with sensors to detect attack by microwaves, lasers and projectiles, warning ground control to enact countermeasures.

KH-12 /1 ( USA 86) was launched on 28 November 1992 by a Titan-4 from Vandenberg. Perigee 198 km. Apogee: 207 km. Inclination: 62.0 deg

KH-12 /2 was launched on 05 December 1995 by a Titan-4 from Vandenberg.

KH-12 /3 ( USA 129) was launched on 20 December 1996 by a Titan-4 from Vandenberg. Perigee: 153 km. Apogee: 949 km. Inclination: 97.9 deg

KH-12 /4 was launched on 05 October 2001 by a Titan-4 from Vandenberg.

KH-12 /5 was launched on 19 October 2005 by a Titan-4 from Vandenberg.

A KH-11's primary mission duration as the time it spends in its standard orbital plane. Several KH-11s have remained in orbit for an extended mission after their replacements have been launched, but all have been allowed to drift out of the standard plane. Only USA 6 has achieved a total life significantly greater than that of USA 116, which is now in its extended mission. Only USA 33 has achieved a primary mission significantly greater than that of USA 129, which remains in its primary mission.

USA 6 introduced the approx 270 km x 1000 km orbit that has been the standard (more or less) ever since. Earlier KH-11s had the same perigee, but their apogee was about 500 km. The higher apogee reduces drag, thus conserving propellant, one of the factors that affect a spacecraft's useful life.

Ted Molczan notes that, for reasons unknown, there has been a trend among the KH-11s in the eastern orbital plane (most recently, USA 116 and USA 161) to move to a higher perigee. Typically, the eastern KH-11s began their life with about a 270 km perigee, but raised this to around 340 km later in life, perhaps to conserve propellant. Interestingly, the newest KH-11, USA 161, raised is perigee to 411 km less than three months after it was launched. USA 116, the satellite it replaced, eventually followed suit. As a result, both satellites experience about one tenth the drag experienced by USA 129, the sole western plane satellite, which remains in the 270 km perigee orbit.

Ted Molczan notes that use of the 411 km perigee was pioneered by USA 86, but only after its primary mission ended and it had been replaced by USA 116. Presumably, successful operation of USA 86 with a 411 km perigee paved the way for USA 116 and USA 161 to adopt it. Presumably, the 411 km perigee was adopted to conserve propellant, perhaps as a hedge against delays in either the FIA or Delta IV-H programs.

Presumably USA 129 remained in the 270 km perigee orbit because to provide a means to obtain the maximum possible resolution. Perhaps there is another KH-11 in the inventory to replace it. Keyholes are in low-drag orbits and very rarely maneuver, so their lives are limited by their hardware systems.

Overall, the U.S. LEO IMINT constellation appears reasonably robust, but two of the three KH-11s are old. If a replacement exists for USA 129, then a two satellite KH-11 constellation may be maintainable for about 5 years +/- several years.

Mission Duration
Name Int'l Des SSN Primary Total Plane***  
KH-11** and successor satellites    
USA 6 1984-122A 15423 3.93 9.94 west  
USA 27 1987-090A 18441 4.63 4.63 east  
USA 33 1988-099A 19625 7.52 7.52 west replaced USA 6
USA 86 1992-083A 22251 3.02 7.52 east replaced USA 27
USA 116 1995-066A 23728 5.84 7.33* east replaced USA 86
USA 129 1996-072A 24680 6.28 6.28* west replaced USA 33
USA 161 2001-044A 26934 1.49 1.49* east replaced USA 116
USA 2005-044A . . west replaced USA 129

years +/- several years.

* in orbit on 2003 Apr 02; total mission duration as of that date.

** "KH-11" is used here generically to denote all U.S. electro-optical IMINT sats in sun-synchronous orbits. More than likely, USA 86 was the first of a new version. Some observers prefer to call them KH-12.

*** The KH-11s operate in two standard planes. The western plane takes advantage of morning shadows; the eastern plane takes advantage of afternoon shadows. 

This first Generation Advanced Crystal was designed for Shuttle launch utilizing a Bus-1 class service module design. The advanced Crystal was never flown on STS Shuttle. On top of the Bus-1 sits its stacked instruments and offset telescope with a nose lid that utilizes a flat black painted louver photo window and not a Hubble telescope type flip back nose lid like used on the original KH-11 KENNON spacecraft. The bus was developed by Lockheed. (Ref. AW&ST, April 12, 1993 p. 25), (Ref. NASA Space Station Redesign Team Final; Report), (Ref. Boeing Historian Office provided unclassified Lockheed, Missile & Space Company Inc, document “Bus-1 Implementation Concept for Space Station Alpha”, and Nov. 25, 1993, (Ref. President G. H. W. Bush NARA Presidential Library, Crystal RECSAT model display). Its second generation was designed for launch on the Titan-4A, 4B, and now the EELV, through the use of the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) barrel bucket because the already existing spacecraft utilizes shuttle hardware built into it before the post Challenger disaster. Titan-4B is known to utilizing the standard 50 foot shroud with the Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) for the Modified Advanced Crystal. (Ref. Ed Eubanks and John Gibb, Lockheed Missile & Space Company, Inc, Sunnyvale, California, The Development of a Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle Interface For an STS Deployable Payload [N90-22086] NASA).

Initially it was thought that the Interim Control Module (ICM) a derivative Titan Launch Dispenser (TLD) bus planned for the ISS was initially developed as the Bus for the IMPROVED CRYSTAL, and would have aided in maintaining ISS schedules. The ICM would have provided reboost and attitude control for the ISS during assembly phase 2A-7A The ICM would be deployed from the Space Shuttle and mated with the ISS at the Russian Node (called the FGB). The ICM provides at least one year of propellant operation with a goal of three years of operation. Ultimately a t no time in the past has the ADVANCED CRYSTAL spacecraft used the ICM Interim Control Module as a spacecraft Bus propulsion module. Ref. (NASA Space Station Redesign Team Final; Report), p. 48, 49, 50.

Launch Vehicle Cost

Titan-4A Launch cost ($100-$150, million, ($250-$300 million (Ref. NYT-19 April 1984, p. 27D), old estimate mid 1990’s), $350 - $450 million per booster-satellite (FAA - (Ref. AIAA, International Reference Guide To Space Launch Systems 1999, p. 449)), IUS stage for the DSP satellite $432 million verses Centaur stage for the SIGINT satellites $433 million combination each for Titan-4A, 4B. (Ref. AIAA, International Reference Guide To Space Launch Systems, 1999, p. 450) About $1.3 billion for booster and spacecraft (Ref. AW&ST, Oct. 15, 2001, p. 45. & Oct. 8, 2001, p. 68) (and $361 – million for Titan-3B booster with no upper stage (Ref. AW&ST, May 31, 1999, pp. 34-35.) for the Advanced Crystal launch and Lacrosse/Onyx radar satellites (Ref. AW&ST, May 31, 1999, pp. 34-35.). Lacross-5 launched on the last Titan-4B from CCAFS, cost $411 million plus (Ref. April 7, 2005 launched 04-29-05 ). The final launch of a Titan-4 on October 19, 2005 from the West coast VAFB used a version of the 76 foot shroud that commonly used the 26 foot long Titan Payload Adapter (TPA) barrel bucket for Bus-1 while the actual shroud is 50 feet long. The shroud is described as a “modified version” which indicates it is a Modified Advanced Crystal or Misty fairing.

The USAF has indicated that the Boeing Delta-4 heavy falls slightly short of the required payload performance for the NRO payload that is apparently the new heavy Misty-3 spacecraft that is expected to be launch between 2008 and 2010. This may also apply to the Delta-4 Payload Adapter (D4PA) for the next Advanced Crystal being readied. The expected cost of the up-rating of the Delta-4 heavy booster to meet the payload to orbit performance requirements modifications is estimated at around about $200 million if it was adopted.(Ref. the Rand corp. National Security Space Launch Report, 2006, as of August 2005) The Titan-4B was used at its maximum payload capacity for the launches of Misty-2 and Delta-4 greatly exceeds the payload capacity of the Titan-4B so the mass of the Misty-3 spacecraft must indeed be quite a bit heavier than previous generation of Misty but that is dependent on the actual intended launch site CCAFS or VAFB. That is because CCAFS launch site would require quite a performance hit due to the flight path requirements to meet Misty’s orbital insertion requirements keeping the payload in a similar mass relationship to the two previous Misty spacecraft verses a launch from VAFB. If this spacecraft has been designed to use a James Webb derivation type telescope then perhaps it will be launched from the VAFB but in all probability it will be launched from CCAFS indicating it is the standard design with some updates. Ultimately the new added cost involved here may be related to the development of a TPA for the Delta-4 heavy Payload Adapter and shroud revisions for the Advanced Crystal and the Follow-on Advanced Crystal “Misty” payloads.

Advanced Crystal Cost

According to Aviation Week & Space Technology the Advanced Crystal spacecraft a follow-on to the KH-11 KENNON cost $750 million - $1 Billion dollars each (Ref. AW&ST Jan. 6, 1997, pp. 24-25). One billion Dollars plus cost for the modified Advanced Crystal and the Titan-4B launch of $361-$411 million would equal a total of about $1,461,000,000.00 - $1,511,000,000.00 total cost estimate.


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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