CORONA Fact Sheet

Historical Imagery Declassification Fact Sheet

CORONA Programs Declassified
  • KH-1 through KH-3 (CORONA): Flew 1960-1962. Collected both intelligence and mapping imagery.
  • KH-4, 4a, 4b (MURAL): Flew 1961-1972. Evolved to include two film return buckets and serve as the mainstay of the CORONA program.
  • KH-5 (ARGON): Flew 1961-1964. First launch preceded the final KH-3 and first KH-4 flights, but experienced developmental problems. Only five of its twelve launches successfully returned film.
  • KH-6 (LANYARD): Flew 1963. Successful in 2 of its 3 launches, LANYARD used a complicated roll joint to aim its camera instead of maneuvering the Agena vehicle that carried it.
  • Soviets orbit first satellite, SPUTNIK, 14 October 1957
  • President Eisenhower endorsed program February 1958
  • Powers shot down in U-2 on 1 May 1960.
Significant Dates
28 February 1959 #1 CORONA test launch attempt by USAF and CIA
22 June 1960 GRAB, an Electronic Intelligence Satellite launched by the Navy, becomes first operational U.S. reconnaissance satellite
11 August 1960 #13 1st successful recovery from space
18 August 1960 #14 Took 1st image from space
6 September 1961 National Reconnaissance Office is chartered by CIA and Defense Department to centralize management of the National Reconnaissance Program
25 May 1972 #145, a KH-4b MURAL, became the final launch in the CORONA family
31 May 1972 Last images of the series taken
24 February 1995 Executive Order for CORONA declassification announced
24 May 1995 Ceremonies at Central Intelligence Agency and National Air & Space Museum
"Firsts" in History
  • 1st photo reconnaissance satellite in the world
  • 1st mid-air recovery of a vehicle returning from space
  • 1st mapping of earth from space
  • 1st stereo-optical data from space
  • 1st multiple reentry vehicles from space
  • 1st reconnaissance program to fly 100 missions
  • 1st reconnaissance satellite program to be declassified
Imagery Statistics
  • Imaging resolution was originally 8 meters (25 feet), but improved to 2 meters (6 feet)
  • Individual images on average covered an area of approximately 10 miles by 120 miles
Production Statistics
  • Operated for nearly 12 years
  • Over 800,000 images taken from space
  • Collection includes 2.1 million feet of film in 39,000 cans