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NGA in History - Defining Moments

Gambit 3 KH-8 Reconnaissance Satellite

Following the successful Gambit 1 KH-7, the Gambit 3 KH-8 reconnaissance satellite provided the United States much better image resolution than its predecessor. Like the KH-7, the KH-8 worked in tandem with the CORONA and later the HEXAGON wide-search satellites, which allowed analysts at the National Photographic Interpretation Center – a heritage organization of NGA – to focus on high-priority targets.

In addition to better image quality, the KH-8 introduced a “roll joint” between the camera module and control vehicle, which “made the satellite extremely stable as a photo platform, conserved film, and increased the number of targets photographed,” according to the NRO. The advanced Gambit 3 system stayed in operation for nearly two decades, completing 54 missions from July 1966 to April 1984.

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