HEXAGON spy satellite video declassified

Grab the popcorn.

A long film declassified by the US National Reconnaissance Office explains the history and use of the HEXAGON surveillance system, a joint CIA and Air Force effort. HEXAGON was conceived in 1963 to blend the powers of two existing systems; a plan to mix the high-resolution of GAMBIT with the wide-area coverage of CORONA and achieve results that have not been made available to the public even today (e.g. resolution down to a couple feet over 150 miles). The system was taking 150,000 feet of film at up to 200 inches per second.

Obviously much of the scenes and audio are redacted yet the movie still manages to detail how 40 years ago (1971) a US government-contractor team successfully launched a broad and high-resolution reconnaissance system with satellites to spy on other countries (90% of Eurasian land mass, 80% of Africa, and “much” of South America) during the Cold War.

The Air Force described this broad view as “treaty compliance verification” of the Soviet Union. The narrator of the movie also calls HEXAGON a “sentinel of liberty” and the defense of freedom.

Success of the program is said to have come from redundancy in the design and comprehensive testing. The dish used to communicate with the satellites was still sitting in Sunnyvale, pointed at Yahoo! headquarters, until just a few years ago.

There are a lot of interesting characters but this guy might be my favorite in the film…by golly.

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