KH-11/CRYSTAL program

KH Bomber

The KH-11/CRYSTAL program had progressed to the point where it would soon become America’s sole satellite imagery system. An image of a Communist Chinese jet bomber taken by an NRO KH-11 spacecraft flying at more than 200 miles altitude illustrates the reconnaissance capability of the 35,000 lb. spacecraft.

On the morning of December 19, 1976, a Titan 3D rocket blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Its mission was to propel yet another KEYHOLE satellite into orbit. Through December 18, there had been 296 days of satellite coverage that year. Although there had been no crises equivalent to the Middle East wars, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, or the Cuban missile crisis to monitor, U.S. spy satellites certainly had not lacked targets.

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