Manned Orbiting Laboratory: Secrets of a US Military Space Station (Infographic)

Diagrams of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory
Planned in the 1960s but never realized, the Gemini-based manned spy satellite was finally declassified in 2015. (Image credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics artist)

Announced to the pubic in August 1965, the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) was described as a technology-development platform that would aid manned and unmanned space efforts. The project also had a top-secret mission: MOL was to be the first U.S. manned spy satellite. The program was terminated in 1969, before any operational flights had occurred.


MOL was to be 71.9 feet (21.9 meters) from the nose of its Gemini-B command module to the tail of its spy satellite cargo. The craft was to be 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter and would have weighed 31,910 lbs. (14,470 kilograms).


The rear section of MOL would have housed a Keyhole-10 spy satellite code-named “Dorian.”  This space telescope was designed to be pointed down at Earth, not out toward the stars. Mission planners hoped to use MOL’s 72-inch (1.8 m) optical mirror to capture high-resolution images of the Soviet Union from a polar orbit of Earth.

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Karl Tate contributor

Karl's association with goes back to 2000, when he was hired to produce interactive Flash graphics. From 2010 to 2016, Karl worked as an infographics specialist across all editorial properties of Purch (formerly known as TechMediaNetwork).  Before joining, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University and now works as a freelance graphic designer in New York City.