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Gambit — the “Key Hole” KH-7 spy satellite

9 April 2012

Gambit — the “Key Hole” KH-7 spy satellite

Lockheed KH-7 Gambit satellites flew 36 succesful mission for the National Reconnaissance Office beginning in July 1963 until June 1967. They were photo recon vehicles in essence, overflying military hotspots and taking photographic images on black and white film. Incredibly, Lockheed and Eastman Kodak, engineered a photographic system which would survive a rocket launch, operate in the cold of space in a near earth orbit, and deliver the undeveloped film in a re-entry bucket that would be captured by airplane while under parachute canopy.

Three cameras were aboard the KH-7, two serving for later orientation of the images and the main single strip camera where the film was moved across a slit aperture with a resolution on or about 1 meter. Each KH-7 had but a single bucket.

This satellite is a recent addition to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which was recently visited by Jayne Davis who courteously lent these images to this blog under her copyright.

Here is the KH-7 fact sheet from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Lockheed KH-7 Gambit, the gold spere (on the left) is the re-entry "bucket" and the rectangular port is the single strip camera window — photo courtesy of Jayne Davis

The re-entry vehicle known as a "bucket" which carried the exposed film back to Earth — photo courtesy of Jayne Davis

The Gambit camera and film system — photo courtesy of the National Reconnaissance Office

The KH-7 re-entry vehicle subsystem (left) and camera subsystem (right) — photo courtesy of Jayne Davis

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