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US’ secret surveillance satellite put on display

Virginia, US: Big Bird, one of the most advanced spy satellites of ‘70s was for the first time publicly displayed at US.

Formally known as the KH-9 Hexagon satellite, Big Bird, was first placed in orbit in 1971 after its development by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and was used to collect images of the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War.

It is believed to have produced images of the Soviet Union, China and other countries that held strategic importance for the US government during the Cold War. But it was never seen outside the intelligence community. To celebrate the NRO’s 50th anniversary, Big Bird was recently put on display at the newly declassified relic at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

At roughly 60 feet in length and 10 feet in diameter, the Hexagon was the largest spy satellite America had ever sent into orbit at the time.

It was kept operational through 1986, and captured images that were used by the Defense Department and throughout the US intelligence community.

Among those images are believed to be pictures that documented elements of the Soviet space programme.
‘It constituted quite an advance in film-based imagery systems,’ Charles P. Vick, a senior technical and policy analyst at defence think tank GlobalSecurity.org, told the Washington Post.

‘We have to realise that these film-based systems were the highest technology at the time.’

The satellite allowed the intelligence community to capture the highest-quality imagery it had ever gotten with low-resolution camera, Vick said.

In total there were 20 Hexagons put into orbit over the years.

There are calls for the satellite to be eventually placed at the National Museum of the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.

Source: Daily Mail