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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.

KH-5, ARGON Launches,

Spacecraft LV Date Life Apogee Perigeel Incl.
1. ARGON/C-20 Thor Agena-B Feb 17, 1961 4      
2. ARGON/C-23 Thor Agena-B April 8, 1961 2      
3. ARGON/C-24 Thor Agena-B June 8, 1961 Launch Failure      
4. ARGON/C-27 Thor Agena-B July 21, 1961 Launch Failure      
5. ARGON/C-41 Thor Agena-B May 15, 1962 4      
6. ARGON/C-50 Thor Agena-B Sept. 1, 1962 4      
7. .ARGON/C-53 Thor Agena-B Oct. 9. 1962 4      
8. ARGON/C-63 Thor Agena-D April 26, 1963 Launch Failure      
9. ARGON/C-70 Thor Agena-D Aug. 21, 1963 3      
10. ARGON/C-72 Thor Agena-D Oct. 29, 1963 4 191 171 89.90
11. ARGON/C-80 Thor Agena-D June 13. 1964 6      
12. ARGON/C-84 Thor Agena-D Aug. 21, 1964 1      

KH Designator KH-5
System Corona
Successful Mission Numbers 9034A,
Period of Operations February 1961 - August 1964
Amount of Film (ft) 22,503
No. of Primary Camera Frames 38,578

ARGON KH-5 Spacecraft Description

ARGON, KH-5 used the organizational frameworks of CORONA to support a mapping system. The KH-5 imaging spacecraft was five feet or 60 inches in diameter and about 25 feet long using both the Agena-B and later the 20.86 foot long Agena-D rocket stage. Presumably it carried solar arrays in addition to the standard Lockheed earth, horizon and sun sensors. The film scan system may have had its data returned by a retrievable capsule. The spacecraft were placed in to a 65 or 82 degree orbit with an average perigee of 119.93 miles and an average apogee of 260.99 miles by the Thor Agena-B and later by the Thrust Augmented Thor Agena-D booster. A total of 12 missions were flown with three launch failure losses between May 1962 and August 1964.

KH-5, ARGONS Optical Camera System

The KH-5 ARGON carried a single framing film scan camera package. This is very similar to that used on the later US, NASA unmanned Lunar Orbiter imaging reconnaissance spacecraft. It had a low resolution on a side of only 460 feet for mapping purposes.


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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