Monday, October 18, 2010
The U.S. code name assigned to the first photographic satellite program, which became operational in February 1959. The satellites jettisoned gold-plated capsules that were collected by aircraft deployed over the Pacific to snag the parachutes and recover the canisters containing 3,000 feet of 70mm film. The size of a small car, CORONA provided crucial coverage of the Soviet Union following the termination of the U-2 overflights in May 1960. After four failed attempts, the first successful CORONA flight, on 1 August 1960, was launched as Discoverer 14. It was in orbit for a single day and photographed more of the Soviet Union—1.6 million square miles—than the previous 24 U-2 overflights combined, disproving the "missile gap" theory in the process. The last of 95 successful CORONA launches took place in May 1972, and the resulting imagery was declassified in 1995.