Thor-Agena was a series of orbital launch vehicles. The rockets used Thor first stages and Agena second stages. They are thus cousins of the more-famous Thor-Deltas, which founded the Delta rocket family. The first attempted launch of a Thor-Agena was in January 1959. The first successful launch was on February 28, 1959, launching Discoverer 1 .
A launch vehicle or carrier rocket is a rocket used to carry a payload from Earth's surface through outer space, either to another surface point, or into space. A launch system includes the launch vehicle, launch pad, vehicle assembly and fuelling systems, range safety, and other related infrastructure.
A rocket is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle that obtains thrust from a rocket engine. Rocket engine exhaust is formed entirely from propellant carried within the rocket before use. Rocket engines work by action and reaction and push rockets forward simply by expelling their exhaust in the opposite direction at high speed, and can therefore work in the vacuum of space.
Thor was an American space launch vehicle derived from the PGM-17 Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile. The Thor rocket was the first in a large family of space launch vehicles that came to be known as Delta. The last derivative of the Thor was retired in 2018, which was the first stage of the Delta II.
Among other uses, the clandestine Corona program used Thor-Agenas from June 1959 until January 1968 to launch US military reconnaissance satellites operated by the CIA. During this program, Thor-Agena launch vehicles were used in 145 launch attemptsnow known to have been part of satellite surveillance programs.
The Corona program was a series of American strategic reconnaissance satellites produced and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology with substantial assistance from the U.S. Air Force. The Corona satellites were used for photographic surveillance of the Soviet Union (USSR), the People's Republic of China, and other areas beginning in June 1959 and ending in May 1972. The name of this program is sometimes seen in pre-ASCII all caps as "CORONA", but in mixed caps, its actual name "Corona" was a codeword, not an acronym.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States.
Also, Alouette 1, Canada's first satellite, was launched on a Thor-Agena-B.
Alouette 1 is a deactivated Canadian satellite that studied the ionosphere. Launched in 1962, it was Canada's first satellite, and the first satellite constructed by a country other than the Soviet Union or the United States. Canada was the fourth country to operate a satellite, as the British Ariel 1, constructed in the United States by NASA, preceded Alouette 1 by five months. The name "Alouette" came from the French for "skylark" and the French-Canadian folk song of the same name.
Discoverer 14 was a spy satellite used in the Corona program managed by DARPA and the United States Air Force. On 19 August 1960, usable photographic film images of the Soviet Union taken by the satellite were recovered by a C-119 recovery aircraft. This was the first successful recovery of film from an orbiting satellite and the first mid-air recovery of an object returning from Earth orbit.
Mid-air retrieval is a technique used in atmospheric reentry when the reentering vehicle is incapable of a satisfactory unassisted landing. The vehicle is slowed by means of parachutes, and then a specially-equipped aircraft matches the vehicle's trajectory and catches it in mid-air.
The RM-81 Agena was an American rocket upper stage and satellite bus which was developed by Lockheed initially for the canceled WS-117L reconnaissance satellite program. Following the split-up of WS-117L into SAMOS and Corona for image intelligence, and MIDAS for early warning, the Agena was later used as an upper stage, and an integrated component, for several programs, including Corona reconnaissance satellites and the Agena Target Vehicle used to demonstrate rendezvous and docking during Project Gemini. It was used as an upper stage on the Atlas, Thor, Thorad and Titan IIIB rockets, and considered for others including the Space Shuttle and Atlas V. A total of 365 Agena rockets were launched between February 28, 1959 and February 1987. Only 33 Agenas carried NASA payloads and the vast majority were for DoD programs.
The Samos E or SAMOS program was a relatively short-lived series of reconnaissance satellites for the United States in the early 1960s, also used as a cover for the initial development of the KH-7 Gambit system. Reconnaissance was performed with film cameras and television surveillance from polar low Earth orbits with film canister returns and transmittals over the United States. Samos was first launched in 1960 from Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The Atlas-Agena was an American expendable launch system derived from the SM-65 Atlas missile. It was a member of the Atlas family of rockets, and was launched 109 times between 1960 and 1978. It was used to launch the first five Mariner unmanned probes to the planets Venus and Mars, and the Ranger and Lunar Orbiter unmanned probes to the Moon. The upper stage was also used as an unmanned orbital target vehicle for the Gemini manned spacecraft to practice rendezvous and docking. However, the launch vehicle family was originally developed for the Air Force and most of its launches were classified DoD payloads.
The Thorad-Agena was an American expendable launch system, derived from the Thor and Delta rockets. The first stage of the rocket was a stretched Thor variant named "Long Tank Thrust Augmented Thor". The Long Tank Thor first stage was later adopted by NASA's Delta program for its "Thrust Augmented Improved Delta", which first flew in 1968. The second stage was the Agena-D, which had already been used in conjunction with the standard configuration Thor, as the Thor-Agena. Three Castor rockets would be used as boosters. Most launches carried Corona (KeyHole) reconnaissance satellites, particularly spacecraft of the KH-4 series, however some scientific and technology development satellites were also flown, mostly towards the end of the program.
Discoverer 30, also known as Corona 9022, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona''' satellite, based on an Agena-B rocket.
Discoverer 24, also known as Corona 9018A, was an American area survey optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961 but failed to achieve orbit. It was a KH-5 Argon satellite, based on an Agena-B. It was the third KH-5 to be launched.
FTV-1126, also known as Corona 9034A, was an American area survey optical reconnaissance satellite launched in 1962. It was a KH-5 Argon satellite, based on an Agena-B. It was also unofficially known as Discoverer 41, a continuation of the designation sequence used for previous US reconnaissance satellites, which had officially been discontinued after Discoverer 38. It was the first KH-5 satellite to complete its mission successfully.
Discoverer 22, also known as Corona 9015, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was lost in a launch failure in 1961. It was a KH-2 Corona' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 26, also known as Corona 9019, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-2 Corona' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 16, also known as Corona 9011, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was lost in a launch failure in 1960. It was the first KH-2 Corona' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 17, also known as Corona 9012, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1960. It was a KH-2 Corona' satellite, based on the Agena-B.
Discoverer 18, also known as Corona 9013, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1960. It was a KH-2 Corona satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 29, also known as Corona 9023, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was the first KH-3 Corona''' satellite, which was based on an Agena-B rocket.
Discoverer 31, also known as Corona 9024, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona''' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 32, also known as Corona 9025, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona''' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 34, also known as Corona 9027, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona''' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 35, also known as Corona 9028, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona''' satellite, based on an Agena-B.
Discoverer 36, also known as Corona 9029, was an American optical reconnaissance satellite which was launched in 1961. It was a KH-3 Corona''' satellite, based on an Agena-B rocket. It was the penultimate KH-3 satellite to be launched, the last successful mission, and the most successful of the program.
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