Gallery: Declassified US Spy Satellite Photos & Designs

Close-Up View of a GAMBIT Spy Satellite

Roger Guillemette/SPACE.com

A closeup into the inner wokrings of an KH-7 GAMBIT spy satellite design used by the National Reconnaissance Office between 1963 and 1984 during a one-day display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Va., on Sept. 17, 2011. The NRO declassified the GAMBIT 1 and GAMBIT 3 satellite programs on the same day.

GAMBIT 1 Spy Satellite Mission Description

NRO

The National Reconnaissance Office's GAMBIT 1 spy satellite missions launched between 1963 and 1967. A total of 38 satellites were launched, with 10 of them failing. At mission's end, each satellite would drop a re-entry capsule containing its onboard film. The canister was snagged in midair by a recovery aircraft.

Launch of a GAMBIT 3 Spy Satellite

NRO

This image from a National Reconnaissance Office document shows the launch of a GAMBIT 3 spy satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Dec. 14, 1966 atop a Titan 3B rocket.

GAMBIT 1 Spy Satellite Imaging Technique

NRO

This diagram from a declassified NRO document shows the imaging coverage area of the GAMBIT 1 spy satellite series, which was used on 38 U.S. space reconnaissance missions between 1963 and 1967. The satellites had a resolution of between 2 and 3 feet, NRO officials say.

KH-7 GAMBIT Spy Satellite: Side View

Roger Guillemette/SPACE.com

A side view of a KH-7 GAMBIT spy satellite on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Va., on Sept. 17, 2011.

GAMBIT 1 Spy Satellite Design

NRO

This image, taken from a declassified National Reconnaissance Office document, shows a depiction of the GAMBIT 1 spy satellite, a space reconnaissance platform design used for 54 missions between 1963 and 1967. The satellites launched atop Atlas D rockets equipped with Agena D upper stages from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

GAMBIT 3 Spy Satellite Flight Profile

NRO

This image shows the flight profile for the NRO's GAMBIT 3 spy satellite missions between 1966 and 1984. A total of 54 missions were launched, with four failures. Like the CORONA and GAMBIT 1 satellites, GAMBIT 3 craft snapped reconnaissance photos, then sent

KH-7 GAMBIT Satellite Nose Cone

Roger Guillemette/SPACE.com

A look at the re-entry nose cone of a KH-7 GAMBIT spy satellite, the same type used by the National Reconnaissance Office to spy on the Soviet Union, China and other targets between 1963 and 1984.

GAMBIT-3 Spy Satellite Imaging Technique

NRO

This image from an NRO document describes how the cameras aboard the GAMBIT 3 spy satellite observed targets on the Earth. These satellites had a resolution of better than 2 feet, according to the NRO.

The KH-7 GAMBIT Spy Satellite: Rear View

Roger Guillemette/SPACE.com

A look at the rear of a KH-7 GAMBIT spy satellite on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Va., on Sept. 17, 2011.

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