Corona Pioneers

The CORONA Pioneers were honored during ceremonies at CIA Headquarters and the NASM in May 1995. These remarks are drawn from those ceremonies. To read individual descriptions, click on the drop down arrows next to each name.

Program Managers

The two program managers were honored posthumously for their tireless efforts in overseeing the design, creation, production, delivery, and performance of the product. Without the vision and oversight of these two gentlemen, the program would not have succeeded.

Program Office

The program office served as CORONA's nerve center, coordinating the activities of the CIA, Air Force, and industry contractors under the tightest security. The program office honorees exhibited that non-stop "can do" attitude that helped make the program a success.

Program Staff

The talents exhibited by these early pioneers of the program staff ranged from writing contracts for an effort never before envisioned and convincing the contractor they could meet the deadline, to melding together a team of experts from different industrial cultures into a team that was unstoppable.

Launch Base

The Launch Base at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was the poor cousin to the other US Space launch facilities under the civilian programs. Operating under the burden of secrecy, the launch team was not only responsible for sending CORONA through the atmosphere, but supporting a cover story mission that did not exist, in essence doubling the work load.


Once a CORONA spacecraft reached its destination, a team of operations personnel controlled its activities, directing its photo operations, altitude control, and de-orbit of the capsules back to Earth. While less visible than other program elements, their mission was equally dramatic.

Recovery Group

All the activity of designing, building, and launching the CORONA spacecraft was dependent on one metal hook for mission success, for if the film buckets were not recovered, there would be no photography to evaluate. As it set so many other trends, CORONA was the first object ever recovered from space, on the unlikely Number 13 mission. The Recovery Group was responsible for creating this miracle, a combination of technology, luck, and dogged perseverance.


The Lockheed team created the upper stage vehicle that took CORONA into space. Lockheed also served as the integrator for the entire effort. The dedication and the drive for excellence that each member of the team, from the highest levels of the corporation down to the engineers, made the CORONA program a success.


The talents of Itek Corporation brought about the design of the spaceborne camera which revolutionized photoreconnaissance. Their design excellence and knowledge of panoramic cameras systems allowed the CORONA program to become the success we herald today.

Eastman Kodak

Eastman Kodak is honored for developing the leading edge technology in film which allowed the cameras to operate in the unique environment of space without the film sticking or cracking.

General Electric

General Electric designed and manufactured the recovery capsule. Affectionately called the "bucket" by later members of the program, this recovery capsule was the first system to be successfully returned and recovered from space. This technology provided solutions for manned space flight programs that would follow.