CORONA System Information

CORONA is the name for the first operational space photo reconnaissance satellite. President Dwight David Eisenhower approved the project in Febuary 1958. The project was conceived to take pictures in space of the Soviet Bloc countries and de-orbit the photographic film for processing and exploitation.

CORONA Launch Sequence

The Corona vehicle was launched by a THOR booster and used the AGENA spacecraft as the upper stage. While in orbit, Corona took photographs with a constant rotating stereo panoramic camera system and loaded the exposed photographic film into recovery vehicles.

  • Solid Motor Burnout, 3NM
  • Solid Motor Ejection, 13NM
  • Start BTL Steering, 17NM
  • Separation, 48NM
  • Main Engine Cutoff
  • Vernier Engine Cutoff
  • Agenda Ignition, 50 NM
  • Stop BTL Steering Agenda, 76 NM
  • Fuel Dump
  • Initiate Photo Ops

CORONA Recovery Sequence

The recovery vehicles were de-orbited and recovered by Air Force C-119 aircraft while floating to earth on a parachute.

  • Pitch Down / Separation (120 degrees)
  • Spin/Retro/Despin (550,000 - 800,000 Feet)
  • Thrust Cone Separation (540,000-590,000 Feet)
  • Chute Cover Off/ Heat Sheild Separation (60,000- 65,000 Feet)
  • Deceleration Chute (60,000-65,000 Feet)
  • Main Chute (55,000-60,000 Feet)
  • Air Recovery (15,000 Feet)











Major components of the CORONA Camera system are shown in detailed drawings and photographs of the systems used.



Side and Top view of the CORONA camera and recovery system as seen on display at the Central Intelligence Agency.