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Phil Pressel, Friday, 2-6-15 February 5, 2015

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  Phil Pressel, Friday, 2-6-15


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Guest:  Phil Pressel.  Topics:  The Hexagon Program and the Hexagon KHY-9 cameras used in our spy satellites.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See http://www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Phil Pressel to the show to discuss the Hexagon KH-9 spy satellites cameras used in the Hexagon program 1971-86.  During the first segment of this 100 minute program, we had a technical glitch in the first fifteen minutes so we restarted the program working off my notes.  You will hear the details of this in the special recorded message I used as part of the replacement program introduction.  Mr. Pressel was the project engineer in charge of the design of the formerly top secret Hexagon KH-9 camera as part of the Hexagon program which was finally declassified in 2011.  Phil prepared a Power Point presentation with important Hexagon KH-9 photos so you need to access this presentation during this program.  You will find the PPT on The Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com for this program and the Feb. 6, 2015 date.  Again, you need to be following along with Phil (he jumps around with different pictures and slides) to get the maximum benefit of this program and to understand Hexagon.  Most of the first segment Phil explained the challenges, the mission, and many of the technical aspects of the two cameras, the special film developed by Kodak, and the retrieval process for the film.  He focused on some of the specific slides showing us the components of the camera and how it worked, plus he described the workings to us in quite some detail.  Near the end of the first segment, questions started coming in about controlling the cameras, telemetry, and more.

In the second segment, Phil said the key to the system was the Twister which he explained to us using slide #23.  Michael Listner called to congratulate Phil and the team for this project and their service to the nation.  After Phil and Michael talked and Phil described the Twister, Dwayne called wanting to know how big of an area was captured by the cameras.  As you will hear, it was a big area.  They talked about the Push Broom Method of scanning which Hexagon used to some degree, its polar orbit and the huge amount of imaging done by the satellite.  Phil also described the process of getting the hardware to Lockheed, & the vibration and shake tests done with the camera and the satellite.  BJohn wanted to know how the Soviet spy cameras of the day measured up to Hexagon.  Both Dwayne and Phil offered their perspectives and both did not think the Soviets could match Hexagon but not much data has been released on this by Russia.  Phil talked about their security and even keeping silent about their real job with their families until the project was finally declassified.  Phil continued explaining how the camera worked and took us through more reference slides and pictures.  I believe you will find this to be a fascinating discussion and a look behind the scenes with the CIA and FBI during the Cold War.  We thank Phil Pressel and his team for their amazing contribution to this nation and their service to the country and us all.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog above.  You can contact Phil Pressel through my email, drspace@thespaceshow.com.




1. DDAY - February 15, 2015

There was a question about whether Soviet reconnaissance systems were ever as good as U.S. ones. I provided a long-winded answer, but I’ll summarize it here.

The U.S. always led in the area of satellite intelligence, both in time and capabilities. For instance:

First U.S. photo recon satellite-1960
First Soviet photo recon satellite-1962

First U.S. high-resolution satellite-1963
First Soviet high-resolution satellite-1968

First U.S. real-time reconnaissance satellite-late 1976
First Soviet real-time reconnaissance satellite-1980

(You can make similar comparisons for signals intelligence satellites as well.)

But firsts don’t tell all the story (they never do). The U.S. systems were almost certainly very superior to Soviet ones. A simple way to tell is to look at the aperture size of the U.S. and Soviet systems and/or focal length and the American systems were bigger or of greater focal length. Add to that superior American technology in certain areas such as film chemistry, and the American systems, like the HEXAGON that Phil designed, were much more capable.

The Soviets did develop their RORSAT Radar Ocean Reconnaissance SATellite system and the United States had no equivalent. But in almost every area that we can make comparisons the United States fielded systems first and had superior technology.

2. lunarush - February 13, 2015

I found the Phil Pressel in depth interview extremely interesting!

TheSpaceShow is uniquely suited to present long format, in-depth, entertaining, intelligent exploration of topics like the Hexagon Program & the Hexagon KHY-9 cameras.

Fantastic Work!

Please – Yes, more in-depth shows like this one!

3. DDAY - February 8, 2015

One minor correction: Phil mentioned the explosion of the Titan 34D carrying the last HEXAGON spacecraft in 1986. He said that I worked on the investigation for that failure. I was actually in high school when that happened. I later worked on the investigation team for the Columbia accident.

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