General Eisenhower, turned President Eisenhower established the Technological Capabilities Panel (1954), also known as the Surprise Attack Panel. This Panel was divided into three project teams, three subcommittees, each studying and solving the various new problems associated with offensive, defensive, and reconnaissance arts in the Nuclear Age. Each of these subcommittees reached engineering conclusions, having engineering solutions. Their directives have deployed unmentioned technologies whose combined use has effectively rendered obsolete all of the previous military systems which many yet consider indispensable. First NAO response was the establishment of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line of radar stations throughout the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic, a new level of territorial surveillance. Next came the development of special reconnaissance aircraft.
Intelligence subcommittee Project Three was led by Edwin Land, inventor of the Polaroid Camera System. The RAND study which dealt with cameras in space found its place under a study on conventional aerial reconnaissance systems. RAND was directed to produce a study on high flying unmanned reconnaissance systems, and considered the use of stratospheric balloons. These systems, GOPHER and GENATRLX, were ground launched so that their aerial ascent would assume a trajectory direcdy driving into the Jetstream. Jetstream propelled camera systems hurded over Soviet territories, and were actually recovered. Edwin Land supported the GENATRLX project, informing the government on the state of his new high-resolution reconnaissance photography. High Altitude Balloons Weapon System 461-L, using high resolution photographic techniques (W. Levison), and air recovery.
After the somewhat inadequate results of these balloon missions, Project Three decided that only a manned overflight could obtain much needed data on Soviet military installations. CL-282 craft designs were referred to as “Uril-ity-2” or, “U-2”. The U-2 aircraft was discussed under Project name “Aquatone”, code name “Idealist”. The U-2 was viewed as an interim measure, a more immediate means until the deployment of a working spacecraft could be achieved. The U-2 aircraft was fitted with cameras and ELTNT detectors. The Hycon Camera Corporation built the optical systems for the U-2, a camera (B-2) of resolving power 100 lines to the millimetre. The B-2 was capable of reading the labels from cigarette packages at 8 miles aerial elevation; and could, at 13 miles elevation, produce the print from a newspaper page without difficulty. Land suggested that the Lockheed U-2 be the vehicle of choice (1954). CIA overseers, A. F. Dulles and R. Bissel (Marshall Plan), directed Air Force Authority to use the U-2. Dulles and Bissel ordered 22 spy planes, a total cost of approximately 8 million dollars. These spy plane ventures carried inherent international hazards, a failed mission possibly resulting in a declaration of war. War in this scenario could have erupted into tactical nuclear deployments, the end of the known world for all rulerships.
Throughout this time frame, the CIA sponsored the Air Force issued design requirements for a military satellite system. Otherwise known as the Strategic Satellite System, designation WS-117L (Weapons System-117L), several agencies had already begun building workable space technologies. Of the three Industrial bases competing for the contract, Air Force chose the Lockheed design, called the AGENA (see figure). The AGENA spacecraft was 19 feet in length, 5 feet in diameter, occupied by a Bell Aerospace “Hustler” rocket engine and its fuel tanks (see figure).
THE CORONA PROJECT
Weapon System 117-L was to be a space based “reconnaissance platform” equipped with television systems. Images of Soviet territory would be stored on tape and slowly converted to signals in facsimile manner. The Lockheed Agena (Project code name “Pied Piper”) was to be thrust into polar orbit by an Atlas booster rocket. This televisual transmission plan was independently pursued by the Air Force during the next few months. While the Agena system was itself flawless, the engineering problem focussed upon the state of television art. RAND analysts viewed the problem of obtaining high resolution images from an orbiting satellite station in typical ill-informed style. The several optoelectronic applications of Dr. Farnsworth, special image storage devices, were completely ignored. These astounding Farnsworth devices could have absorbed and stored any image with greatest resolution and definition. Quickly dissected and transmitted to ground bases in NATO regions, such a system would have prevented the next almost impossible consideration which RAND advised. In a technological mismaneuver, RAND analysts published their “Physical Recovery of Satellite Payloads: A Preliminary Investigation” (1956). This report declared that a “recoverable satellite system” would be the best means for obtaining reconnaissance photographs of Soviet territories. This totally unfeasible project was code-named “Project CORONA”, which was publicly known as DISCOVERER. The Discoverer series was a CIA project
Aerial reconnaissance was interrupted by a new invader, the first artificial satellite Sputnik I (1956). Sputnik I emitted a distinct facsimile signal, a fact discovered by a British school teacher. Sputnik I was found to be a surveillance system, one whose images were transmitted in facsimile photographs. This compelled CIA directors toward ordering a relendess series of U-2 flights deeper into Soviet airspace, a decision which ultimately led to the capture of U-2 pilot, Gary Powers (1960). But the message was out. Space was the new warzone where ultra-aerial photographs were free for the taking. The ITEK Company designed all CORONA camera technology. Agena launches from Vandenburg Air Force Base would place the recoverable satellite into polar orbit, the Pacific range offering a security factor in emergency launch mishaps (see figure).
The film loaded camera was now designed to dislodge from the Agena, fire a retro-rocket, and fall to earth. Parachute deployed, a specially equipped C-119 would then be used to “scoop” the falling satellite while yet in its atmospheric descent. Highly practiced aerial capture methods were therefore of primary importance to the entire mission, a pitiful regression. Project CORONA was known to the public as “Discoverer”. The Discoverer launches were an incredible series of failures and mishaps. Eisenhower, Dulles, and Bissel were furious over the entire affair. Discoverer I (“Flying Yankee”), Discoverer II (“Early Time”), HI (“Gold Duke”), IV (“Long Road”), V (“Fly High”), VI (“Hurry Up”), VII (“Cargo Net, Livid lady, and Xm (“Foggy Bottom”) were a sorry trail of missile malfunctions, satellite failures, camera failures, and failed recoveries. Discoverer XIV was successful. Discoverer XV sank. Those launches which worked, successfully mapped and studied USSR and China. Discoverer XVI and XVII worked well, a string of successes finally managing to surpass the early failures. CORONA system clarity from orbit was astounding, recovered film gave within 6 feet optical resolution.
- CHAPTER 7