The CIA’s Secret Corona Spy Satellite Program

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On August 19th 1960 the CIA recovered the first images from a Spy Satellite as part of its secret Corona program. The Corona satellite flew from 1960 to 1972, providing important intelligence on the Soviet Union and other potential adversaries. The technology of the time forced the use of photographic film which would have to be recovered using a reentry capsule and a capture aircraft.

The program was declassified in the 1990’s along with all the images, however the reports made from those images continue to be secret.

Lots more about the program is available in the CIA’s archives:

  1. Riley Wade

    You clickbait wizard… take my like you sob

  2. kimsmoke17

    Don’t forget Hubble was made from spare parts from the KH program.

  3. Максим Чех

    Great stuff, thank you for your video!

  4. Lorenzo Mata

    4:47 its always those damn belkans

  5. Brian Szymanski

    I always learn so much from this program.

  6. Christian Müller

    Dang, Scott, the title of this video made me think you joined the conspiracy theorists 🙈 I should have known better.

  7. Noe Carrier

    Hey, does anyone know anything much about the B-58’s Powered Disposable Bomb Pod that was under development and which used the XLR81 motor prior to it being modified for use on Agenas? It seems to have been some kind of ALBM, obviously, but the few sources I’ve found say they would have been armed with “many” and that doesn’t chime with ballistic missile weights of the period, even without a first stage. Maybe that was why they cancelled it — couldn’t make it small or light enough to be worth it. That being said, the B-58 only carried one or a small number of bombs.

    I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else has more info than I’ve been able to dig up briefly poking around the internet. That would have been a terrifying mission, adding to the already suicidally dangerous low altitude toss bombing escapade — here, carry this giant tube of extremely dangerous chemicals to this launch point way up high and at maximum velocity in your giant shiny bomber and then air start it, would you? By the way, I hope you’ve got your zoom climb quals in order.

  8. Keny Charles

    Thank you for this presentation.

  9. qdmc12

    Yeess, he had to make a video on it. :P

  10. Taicheng Song

    There are about 13 Hubble level satellites in space right now, and only 1 of them is pointing at the space!

  11. Bobby Benfield

    You herd it here first: Scott Manley says the CIA brought corona from space. Watch it fake news go crazy 😜😂🤣

  12. Matthew Cox

    A You-Tuber mentioned Orien-Taters and Spudnik… 😁

  13. GCDesign

    I think the two primary mirrors that were donated to NASA were supposedly not KH-11 related, but the leftovers from the failed Boeing program that was started in the 2000’s to replace the KH-11. The program sputtered so they put two more KH-11s up with improvements.

  14. cheesyvin

    I think the project stuck around, a bit too much literally I guess.

  15. mjncad

    Corona satellites, the ultimate disposable film cameras.

  16. Angus Miller

    Here I thought Scott went off the deep end and was spouting Coronavirus conspiracies…

  17. CargoCultScientist

    I wonder whether historians will tell similar stories about the intelligence that Russia and China are gathering these days and whether it will be similarly embarrassing.

  18. wrote8

    Great vid, Scott. Back in the day – ’96 to be exact – when I first connected to the internet (using a browser called Super Mosaic and penny-a-minute dial-up!) the first thing I searched for was “satellite” and Corona was the best hit – amazing to see photographs from space taken in, I think, 1961 showing individual cars in the Pentagon carpark

  19. Tymme Zinni

    I thought this was going to be a satire video mocking flat-earthers and similar conspiracy theories that are rampant.

  20. Lukas Foukal

    The title sounds like it is a Karen conspiracy theory about COVID

  21. Max Xiong

    I literally expected a conspiracy or something like that from that title lol

  22. TheStormingmonkey

    Ok, so I feel a bit like a fool. I’ve always known that the hubble was the same hardware as spy satellites. Is that the same as Kepler or any of the other satellites?

  23. cdcollura

    I also remember that these also had a “salt plug”, which ensured that if it landed in the ocean it would sink after a certain amount of time – Allowing recovery efforts BUT preventing unauthorized folks from finding the return bucket / film package.

  24. Bastoid

    Well, you certainly did get my attention with that headline

  25. Henry Salayne

    Conspiracy theories confirmed: Corona was introduced by the CIA to keep an eye on everyone!

    Scott, be honest, is this just an experiment? Throwing some keywords at the Youtube algorithm to confuse certain people searching for the “truth” and thus getting more views on your video? OMG, I just realised this is also a conspiracy theory. What is happening? What have you done?

  26. Will It Snap?

    Is this the thing Woods is talking about in the beginning of Black Ops 2?

  27. RL112871

    I’m curious how many “Hubble’s” are looking down at the Earth.

  28. Andrew Pearse

    When I saw the title I thought Scott was getting pulled into the dark and dubious conspiracy theory world!

  29. 1000dots

    I love you so much for correcting ‘orientate’ to ‘orient’ <3

  30. Michael Karnerfors

    01:10 Is it just me or is that rocket very _wobbly_ ?!

  31. ianwilson4286

    Any news on KSP 2? It is great to see you still using KSP

  32. Toasted Coconut

    I love how interesting and at the same time informational these videos are

  33. Unsubtle Major Dictator

    The last thing on their mind when they developed this program was for it to go viral!

  34. grovermatic

    OMG thank you for correcting yourself after saying “orientate” (yeah, I”m that guy)

  35. Sidney Fein

    Project Horizon, a 1950’s plan for a military base on the moon. Sweet.

  36. George Wang

    Have you seen the DARPA ACE (Air Combat Evolution) AI program that went 5-0 against an instructor? Might be an interesting thing to look at given your ai Kerbal fighters tournament.

  37. evil Duck

    something tells me that, there are gonna be people who are going to misinterpret this….

  38. Random User

    Don’t tell Jones about this. We won’t here the end of it

  39. E2qNX8btraQ3zRD6J7fc

    the orbital Fotomat with guys living aboard – that’s just the coolest thing I’ve heard this week. That would be a hellova job to have.

  40. David Wührer

    I’m surprised the CIA did some actual spying themselves.

  41. Niels R

    I think we all know Scott did this ‘slightly’ on purpose 😝

    Another great video though!

  42. Joris Geertman

    Bluedog Design Bureau has a whole suite of very high fidelity parts to recreate various Keyhole satellites in KSP, including the Agena and Thor variants they launched on. Really missed opportunity to showcase them here!

  43. Gene Cash

    The subtitles turned “U-2 aircraft” into “YouTube aircraft”

  44. dine909


  45. triibuste von kass

    Soviet Luna 3 took photos of Far side of Luna using US made unused photographic film, recovered from US spy satellites or spy balloons. Soviets didn’t have photographic film technology for extreme environments by then.
    Vladimir Surdin actually told that in his lectures in Moscow University.
    He was,
    as a student of Moscow University, a apprentice of the people who built Luna-3.

  46. SpetsnatzLegion 336

    Anyone: says corona in relation to something not related to viruses
    People in 2020: 👀👀👀👀👀👀

  47. Sheldon Robertson

    >…hopefully I won’t get demonitized for saying this…
    YouTube censor bots really have jumped the shark.

  48. seafighter4

    1:00 Is the exhaust wobble due to insufficient chamber pressure, the steering system or the booster oscillating as a whole?

  49. ZChris13

    So, Scott. Did you get demonetized?

  50. Gawayne

    I love cold war space tech, it’s so incredibly ingenious

  51. Caturday Nite

    The program NOVA on PBS had an episode about the corona program. It was quite a feat of engineering for it’s day. Eisenhower was apparently nervous (See U2, Francis Gary Powers) about being the first in space and wanted the Soviets to make the first move and set precedent. After that space was a free zone where you could spy on your adversary and not get shot down. Eisenhower was more interested in spying on the Soviets than being first in space.

  52. John Johansen

    “The bucket that CIA used to bring Corona back from space”
    Didn’t Corona originate in China?

  53. Michael Helmick

    Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio has both Gambit and Hexagon satellites on display.

  54. Dark Guardian

    4:55 Harsh ending for the dogs.
    I and placed in a museum… forever.

  55. Phill

    Look up a documentary called “to catch a falling star” .

  56. Aubrey Freeman

    Textbooks: “Satellites don’t have to worry about aerodynamics.

    Corona satellites: “Well yes but actually no”

  57. Masked Rocket Scientist

    I was so confused by that title like i thought it would be a satellite that would track cases or something Lmao

  58. Vince Marenger

    Nice title. Now Karens will share this video on Facebook without watching it and exclaiming it is proof of some conspiracy.

  59. Wolf Smith

    Here in Arizona, between Phoenix and Tucson is Casa Grande, where you can still find huge concrete maltese crosses set into the ground at regular intervals that were used to calibrate the cameras on Corona satellites. Many of the crosses are gone now but if you know where to look, some remain.

  60. liaminwales

    the space program has been had in hand with the spy’s and the history is amazing, i relay hope you cover more!

  61. Oisin Flynn

    Expectation: 5G bad

    Reality: Education

  62. Bob Plested

    U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio has some of these on display.

  63. Jim's videos

    Why would you get demonitized for saying, “I’m Scott Manley, fly safe”? :-|

  64. Walter

    Great show ! Camera technology has improved like crazy ! Today You can film a lightning strike with a consumer compact camera, it is amazing !
    And who did click this video because the titel has corona ? What a clever guy this Manley is ! Publishing a video about corona satellites when corona is very popular for other reasons. 👍🏼🚀🌍✌🏻

  65. Tom Repetti


    What is he doing?

    He is beginning to believe…

  66. Quazar501

    In soviet russia Corona investigates YOU!

  67. B1 Laxson

    I spy with my little eye, ice station Zebra and spy movie plots.

  68. RicardoA BH

    These disposable cameras must be very expensive lol

  69. John Lubbers

    Shame on you Scott Manley for not using the FASA mod’s EXCELLENT Thor and Agena parts! (Also the FASA Atlas-Agena parts are super cool; complete with 1.5 staging for the Atlas). Great video otherwise though!

  70. Drew Barty

    Finally, a Corona video I can watch.

  71. INERT

    Kerbal should patch in all the other satellites and space debris in LEO.

  72. daffidavit

    It was named after the director’s typewriter. I remember the manual typewriter’s made by the company. Corona typewriters.

  73. Daniel Wulf

    Ah it’s a shame you used the old version for the Bluedog Design Bureau mod. The dev version has specialized corona parts that look amazing

  74. Alexander Sannikov

    just fyi: the names of the first USSR dogs were “Belka” and “Strelka” which in Russian means “squrrel” and “arrow”

  75. Olysk8er

    “The CIA brought Corona back from space.”

    This proves it. I knew Sasquatch wasn’t lying when he told me so.

  76. nitehawk86

    There’s an nearly complete corona satellite at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

  77. Wallace

    Named ‘Corona’ after the typewriter on a CIA official’s desk ….. apparently !

  78. Tom F

    Hexagon System ? They spied France ? Uh stupid question they spy everyone.

  79. Daniel Wulf

    Love the keyhole satellites!! Please make a video solely about KH-9 Hexagon!

  80. Daniel Moolman

    Imagine having to spend the whole video saying “sun atmosphere” instead of corona.

  81. The Covenant

    You got me on the title scotty ,not gonna lie!!

  82. Cam plays

    I was playing ksp and the sound of your launch startled me

  83. ke9g

    Read “Insisting on the Impossible” a biography of Edwin Land, one of the greatest innovators second in patents only to Thomas Edison. He led the project that designed and built the Corona cameras. He also invented ‘instant photography’ for Polaroid after his daughter asked him one day why she can’t see the picture he just took of her. A great inventor.

  84. Jacob Nusbaum

    I see that Thor booster gimbaling like a mad man. It looks to me like a PD controller oscillation. Any info Scott?

  85. James Curran

    6:19 I couldn’t resist saying “enhance!”

  86. mjproebstle

    boy that Thor booster nozzle and verniers jets were really oscillating after liftoff 😬

  87. Crusty Clown

    The word Corona now Is turning people Into complete Idiots.

  88. bernard langham

    “this is the bucket the CIA used to bring Corona back from space”. i see what you did there. :D

  89. Pee Sweezy

    Everyone looked at the smaller side rocket jets moving left and right

  90. rydplrs

    I have worked with many of the former Perkin Elmer engineers that worked corona and Hubble. They were bought out by ASML and now work on EUV lithography. They are still the best of the best.
    Instead of capturing the smallest images they now project them to the accuracy of one atom.

  91. Ian Colquhoun

    The Aral sea back when it was still pretty big!

  92. tripwire76

    TLDR for conspiracy theorists that only came here for the title: “The CIA brought corona back from space in a bucket” (10:27)

  93. SteveMHN

    They should have just used Google Earth, much simpler.

  94. T65Bx

    I knew Corona was early, but I didn’t realize it was the very first spy sat programm at all!

  95. Andrew Kauke

    The video title sounds like something that would be on the History channel at 3:00 am

  96. Pharmdkeith

    My grandpa worked on this! He was the Kodak VP, Head of film. When it was declassified my gramps got to keep some of the photo negatives


    There is a small museum on Vandenberg AFB that houses some pictures of the crew that packaged the spy satellite onto the rocket that launched it. The person who runs that museum told us that some guy walked into his museum and recognized the picture and he was confused because he ‘never worked on project corona’ and ‘never met anyone from the CIA’. The guy who runs the museum told him ‘yes you did, you just didn’t know it’

  98. j worldwide

    CIA, Corona, and space.

    This is MASTERFUL conspiritard bait.

  99. spider0804

    Other youtubers: Hey you can say Corona now without being instantly demonized. *Nervous laughter.
    Scott: Let’s test that…corona corona corona corona corona.

  100. Imagine A World

    This is the click baitiest, not click bait thing I have ever seen..
    Should I just say a very Manley video

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