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HEXAGON KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite

Lovingly referred to as “Big Bird,” the KH-9 HEXAGON was the last (and largest) of the Cold War reconnaissance satellites to return photographic film to earth. Much like its predecessor, the CORONA satellite system, the HEXAGON’s wide-area search capability was used in unison with the high resolution accuracy of the GAMBIT satellite system by analysts at the National Photographic Interpretation Center – a heritage organization of NGA – to identify high-value Soviet targets. According to the NRO, “between 1971 and 1986, 19 HEXAGON missions imaged 877 million square miles of the earth's surface.”