On 17 September 2011 the NRO declassified the HEXAGON and GAMBIT satellite reconnaissance program. The first release of documents accompanied the formal announcement of the declassification. The second release focused on the HEXAGON program. This third release provides the public with a new collection of documents focused on GAMBIT Dual Mode.
Soon after the first launch of CORONA, the NRO began developing the first high resolution satellite program, codenamed GAMBIT. The system evolved into GAMBIT-3, which was first launched in 1966. With the approaching end of the CORONA program in 1972, the United States' ability to obtain imagery of large swaths of terrain was in danger. The replacement large area system, HEXAGON, began its acquisition phase in 1966. In the late 1960's, fears of possible delays to the HEXAGON program, challenged engineers and policy makers to come up with a potential replacement for CORONA's search capability. On Missions 4352 the NRO experimented with a concept of a slightly modified GAMBIT-3 vehicle which would enter a high altitude (300-350 mile perigee) orbit for the first ninety days, before going back to a more typical orbit with a 78 mile perigee for the remainder of its mission. This project was variously named HIGHERBOY, HIGHBOY, or Dual Mode. The NRO personnel and industry partners accepted the challenge from policymakers and worked within tight budget constraints since resources were already earmarked for two large systems. Ultimately, GAMBIT Dual Mode demonstrated the ability of the NRO and the Intelligence Community to develop a creative approach to resolve a critical intelligence collection problem. Dual Mode operations were successful, and the space vehicle functioned through the entire mission. This effort would have been hailed as an innovative success if it were not for the malfunctions that occurred with the film buckets and resultant loss or degradation of photoreconnaissance imagery.
Adobe® Reader® is needed to view Adobe PDF files. If you don't already have Adobe Reader installed, you may download the current version at www.adobe.com (opens in a new window).