National Archives Releases Recently Declassified Satellite Imagery
Press Release · Wednesday, October 9, 2002
College Park, MD
The National Archives and Records Administration recently made available to the public 48,000 images from two significant satellite surveillance programs. The high-resolution satellite imagery was officially transferred to the National Archives as part of the "Historical Imagery Declassification Conference—'America's Eyes: What we were seeing.'" The conference was sponsored by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and the University of Maryland-University College.
The newly accessioned materials consist of approximately 19,000 images from the KH-7 surveillance system that was the intelligence community's first high-resolution surveillance or "spotting" imaging satellite. Priority targets for this system included Soviet and Chinese nuclear installations and intercontinental ballistic missile sites, providing key cartographic information for large scale maps for the Department of Defense. The program flew 38 missions from July 1963 to June 1967. Initially, the best resolution gained from the images was four feet on the ground, however by 1966, the resolution improved to two feet.
The National Archives is also releasing 29,000 images from the KH-9 mapping program that was operational from 1973 through 1980. The "frame camera" imagery system was devoted solely to mapping, charting and geodesy and was designed to support foreign and domestic mapping requirements and global geodetic positioning. The 12 missions that lasted from 42 to 119 days each covered approximately 104 million square nautical miles.
Dr. Michael Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for Record Services, Washington, DC, described these accessions as "a very important addition to our collection of satellite imagery. These images of strategic targets in China and the former Soviet Union will be particularly valuable to historians and scholars of the Cold War period."
The images are available to researchers in the Room 3320, the Cartographic Research Room, at the National Archives in College Park, MD. The National Archives is located at 8601 Adelphi Road. Free parking is available.
This page was last reviewed on February 21, 2019.
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