Tuesday, August 31, 2010

50 YA: Spy Satellite Success

C-119 "Flying Boxcar" captures the spy film canister's parachute.

Never can trust those spies, can you? On the 19th I reported on the successful launch of Discoverer 14 from Cape Canaveral. Well, wouldn't you know it but that was the cover name for a secret spy satellite in the Corona program. Discoverer 14 became famous (at a top-secret level, of course) for being the first successful mid-air-capture of its film canister, ejected from the orbiting satellite, braking through the Earth's atmosphere, and descending to the ground by parachute. Only it was never destined to reach the ground. Instead, a military C-119 transport aircraft was equipped with a snagging-device which grabbed the parachute lines and reeled the canister into the cargo bay. The plane then continued on to a safe Air Force location. On the film? Pictures of the Soviet Union and other sensitive countries, of course!

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