Program Discoverer

USA/USAF


The Discoverer program was managed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force. The primary goal of the program was to develop a film-return photographic surveillance satellite to assess how rapidly the Soviet Union was producing long-range bombers and ballistic missiles and where they were being deployed, and to take photos over the Sino-Soviet bloc to replace the the U2 spyplanes. It was part of the secret Corona program which was also used to produce maps and charts for the Department of Defense and other US government mapping programs. The goal of the program was not revealed to the public at the time, it was presented as a program to orbit large satellites to test satellite subsystems and investigate the communication and environmental aspects of placing humans in space, including carrying biological packages for return to Earth from orbit.
In all, 39 Discoverer satellites were launched between 28 February 1959 and 18 April 1962, although the satellite reconnaissance program continued until 1972 as the Corona project. The program documents were declassified in 1995.

Discoverer/Corona launch list

Type / Application: Technology
Operator: ARPA
Contractors:  
Equipment: ?
Configuratation: Agena-A, 1 SRVs
Propulsion: Bell 8048

Discoverer 3

Discoverer launch list:

Satellite Date LS   Launcher Remarks:
Discoverer 0 21.01.1959 Va 75-3-4 F% Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 1 28.02.1959 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 2 13.04.1959 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 3 03.06.1959 Va 75-3-4 F Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 4 (KH-1 1) 25.06.1959 Va 75-3-5 F Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 5 (KH-1 2) 13.08.1959 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 6 (KH-1 3 19.08.1959 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 7 (KH-1 4) 07.11.1959 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 8 (KH-1 5) 20.11.1959 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 9 (KH-1 6) 04.02.1960 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 10 (KH-1 7) 19.02.1960 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 11 (KH-1 8) 15.04.1960 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 12 29.06.1960 Va 75-3-4 F Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 13 10.08.1960 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 14 (KH-1 9) 18.08.1960 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 15 (KH-1 10) 13.09.1960 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM18 Agena-A  
Discoverer 16 (KH-2 1) 26.10.1960 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 17(KH-2 2) 12.11.1960 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 18(KH-2 3) 07.12.1960 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 19 20.12.1960 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 20 (KH-5 1) 17.02.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 21 18.02.1961 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 22 (KH-2 4) 30.03.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 23 (KH-5 2) 08.04.1961 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 24 (KH-5 3) 08.06.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 25 (KH-2 5) 16.06.1961 Va 75-1-1   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 26 (KH-2 6) 07.07.1961 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 27 (KH-5 4) 21.07.1961 Va 75-3-4  F Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 28 (KH-2 7) 04.08.1961 Va 75-1-1   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 29 (KH-3 1) 30.08.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 30 (KH-3 2) 12.09.1961 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 31 (KH-3 3) 17.09.1961 Va 75-1-1   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 32 (KH-3 4) 13.10.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 33 (KH-3 5) 23.10.1961 Va 75-3-5  F Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 34 (KH-3 6) 05.11.1961 Va 75-1-1   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 35 (KH-3 7) 15.11.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 36 (KH-3 8) 12.12.1961 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 37 (KH-3 9) 13.01.1962 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 38 (KH-4 1) 27.02.1962 Va 75-3-4   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  
Discoverer 39 (Kh-4 2) 18.04.1962 Va 75-3-5   Thor-DM21 Agena-B  

 


A second version of this program started in 1998 by a call for proposals (the idea is a constellation of radar/spy satellites for worldwide coverage; with SAR in X-band, 770 km). The program is managed by Darpa, USAF and the NRO. The project winner should be designated in june 2000. 2 demonstrations satellites should then be launched. The full system should consist of 24 satellites costing each less than $100 million. The total cost of exploitation over 20 years is targeted at $6.5 billion. The first phase of the program will be carried out by Lockheed Martin, TRW and Spectrum Astro. Each contract is woth $10 million. Planned resolution: 10 m standard with max 30 cm. 25 second repetition. The satellite would relay via GEO satellites.


Ref: #14, #15, #27b - update: 09.06.05