HEXAGON KH-9 Reconnaissance Satellite | National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NGA in History - Defining Moments

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.”

Associated Document(s)