Read below to see our go-to list of free satellite imagery sources. Three stations were launched between 1973 and 1976: Salyut 2, Salyut 3 and Salyut 5. Communications satellites are used for military communications applications. We map out and quantify the world’s complexities so that organizations can make more informed decisions.”, “By applying artificial intelligence to satellite, UAV, and other geospatial data sources, we seek to discover and quantify societal and economic trends on Earth that are indistinguishable to the human eye. Military using 13 satellites to keep eye on foes; ... 712-kg Cartosat-2 series spacecraft is an advanced remote sensing satellite capable of providing scene-specific spot imagery. USGS reports: “The Aral Sea once covered about 68,000 square kilometers, a little bigger than the U.S. state of West Virginia. Geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT, is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically referenced activities on the Earth. The original film is held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The first military satellites were photographic reconnaissance missions. Use imagery to analyse and report significant features and activity at military installations. With imagery collected from the past two decades, along with so many different options available, we can offer high resolution imagery for nearly any place on Earth. Resolutions for the sensors in this section range between 0.3 meter (the highest commercially available) to 1 meter. Use imagery to analyse and report on the status and activity of deployed military forces. The first Landsat satellite was launched on 23 July 1972 with two electronic observing systems, both of which had a spatial resolution of about 80 meters (262 feet). Orbital Insight reports: “Orbital Insight turns millions of images into a big-picture understanding of Earth. [2] Satellites within the Corona program carried different code names. Combining this information with terrestrial data, such as mobile and location-based data, unlocks new sources of intelligence.”, The Orbital Insight website is here: https://orbitalinsight.com/company/, 5. The big question for a lot of people is: "What can they see?" Resolution of the current generation multi-spectral scanner on Landsat 9 is 30 meters (98 feet) in visible light bands. However, the unique imaging geometry of the CORONA satellite cameras, which produced long, narrow film strips, makes correcting spatial distortions in the images very challenging and has therefore limited their use by researchers.”, CAST reports that they have “developed methods for efficient, orthorectification of CORONA imagery and now provides free public access to our imagery database for non-commercial use. Richard Grey, “The spy photos that reveal an early start to Antarctic melt: Biggest ice shelf collapse on record began in the 1960s,” Daily Mail, 10 June 2016; Wenkai Ye, et al., “Improved Geometric Modeling of 1960s KH-5 ARGON Satellite Images for Regional Antarctic Applications,”  Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing, Vol. Experience Earth on any device See all Earth versions. The first launches were code named Discoverer. During the Cold War arms race, the nuclear threat was used to justify the cost of providing a more capable system. Whoops. The classified military satellite systems code-named CORONA, ARGON, and LANYARD acquired photographic images from space and returned the film to Earth for processing and analysis. Several examples applications of the declassified imagery are described below. Declassified satellite imagery (e.g., Corona, Argon and Lanyard) used in early mapping programs may be obtained from the USGS EROS Data Center at 605-594-6151 or custserv@usgs.gov or from the National Archives at 301-837-1926 or carto@nara.gov. This program has been superseded by the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS). The advent of the US civilian Earth observation programs. A European satellite designed to collect Earth sciences data and distribute it freely to people around the world has the unintended consequence of detecting military radars. The latest changes are being observed through satellite imagery at Hotan in occupied East Turkestan, now Xinjiang, which is one of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s (PLAAF) major fighter airbases. The US Armed Forces maintains international networks of satellites with ground stations located in various continents. The USGS explains: “The images were originally used for reconnaissance and to produce maps for U.S. intelligence agencies. By Olivia Solon. The Atlas contains 833 archaeological sites. In the United States these satellites are operated by the Defense Support Program (DSP). Eight satellites took pictures on film roll, which were then parachuted back into the atmosphere, where a perfectly timed US military plane snatched it mid-air before it could be intercepted. Bing Maps. Satellite images are only as good as their resolution. Robert Perry, “A History of Satellite Reconnaissance,” Volumes I to V, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), various dates 1973 – 1974; released under FOIA and available for download on the NASA Spaceflight.com website, here: Kevin C. Ruffner (Editor), “CORONA: America’s First Satellite Program,” CIA War Records Series, Central Intelligence Agency, 1995; Craig Covault, “Top Secret KH-11 Spysat Design Revealed By NRO’s Twin Telescope Gift to NASA,”  6 June 2012; Ralf Vandebergh, “KH-12 Keenan Keyhole Secret Military Spy Satellite Photos,” Space Safety Magazine, 26 September 2013; US Geologic Survey Fact Sheet 2008-3054, “Declassified Intelligence Satellite Photographs,” July 2008; Fariss Samarrai, “Cold war-era spy satellite images reveal possible effects of climate change,” Phys Org, 10 April 2017; “The Aral Sea, Before the Streams Ran Dry,” NASA Earth Observatory. Spy satellites have been with us since the dawn of the Space Age. You’ll find more information on the NRO’s film-return, optical reconnaissance satellites (KH-1 to KH-9) at the following links: You’ll find details on NRO’s electronic optical reconnaissance satellites (KH-11, KH-12) at the following links: 6. 83, No. Campbell (2002) defines these as follows: Military Satellite and UAV Images Blog Global Hawk Captures Essential California Wildfires Images Source: U.S. Air Force | Posted 10.30.2007. When lives are at stake, defence and security-related decisions require accurate, actionable intelligence and a detailed understanding of the situation on the ground. Work within an analyst team and as an individual imagery … Thursday 14 August 2014. All military reconnaissance satellite imagery was highly classified until 1995, when some imagery from early defense reconnaissance satellite programs was declassified. The US Navy required precise navigation to enable submarines to get an accurate fix of their positions before they launched their SLBMs. NGA’s predecessor agencies, with comparable missions, were: The NGA’s web homepage, at the following link: https://www.nga.mil/Pages/Default.aspx, The NGA’s webpage for declassified satellite imagery is here: https://www.nga.mil/ProductsServices/Pages/Imagery.aspx, 2. KH-7 image resolution is 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 meters). NASA has developed in recent years a platform, called Land, Atmosphere Near Real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE), to provide near real-time data to those needing data and use of platforms such as MODIS. Conducting commercial geospatial analytics over a broader period of time: The firm Orbital Insight, founded in 2013, is an example of commercial firms that are mining geospatial data and developing valuable information products for a wide range of customers. A Silicon Valley start-up is offering the most detailed space radar imagery on the market Capella Space is teaching the US military how to make satellite radar … It is now only about 10% of the size it was in 1960…..In the 1990s, a dam was built to prevent North Aral water from flowing into the South Aral. Fo… This set of photos, declassified in 2002, consists of photographs from the KH-7 GAMBIT surveillance system and KH-9 HEXAGON mapping program. A KH-12 is a $1 billion satellite that resembles the Hubble Space Telescope, except it is looking at our planet. A fourth ground-based station, at an undetermined position, could then use those signals to fix its location precisely. Stratfor Military Analyst Sim Tack explains a series of satellite images that show the construction of a Russian air base in Syria. The declassified imagery is held by the following two organizations: The declassified military satellite imagery available in the EROS archive is summarized below: USGS EROS Archive – Declassified Satellite Imagery – 1 (1960 to 1972), USGS EROS Archive – Declassified Satellite Imagery – 2 (1963 to 1980), USGS EROS Archive – Declassified Satellite Imagery – 3 (1971 to 1984), More information on the declassified imagery resources is available from the USGS EROS Archive – Products Overview webpage at the following link (see heading “Declassified Data”): https://www.usgs.gov/centers/eros/science/usgs-eros-archive-products-overview?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects, 4. Keyhole satellites are identified by a code word and a “KH” designator, as summarized in the following table. Image resolution is 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters); significantly better than the 98 feet (30 meter) resolution of LANDSAT imagery. There have also been a number of subsequent programs including Magnum and Trumpet,[7] but these remain classified and therefore many details remain speculative. Not only does this create unprecedented transparency, but it also empowers business and policy decision makers with new insights and unbiased knowledge of socio-economic trends. About 29,000 mapping images are available. Launch in Earth. Declassification of certain military reconnaissance satellite imagery. The Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies, a University of Arkansas / U.S. Geological Survey collaboration, has undertaken the CORONA Atlas Project using military reconnaissance satellite imagery to create the “CORONA Atlas & Referencing System”. This set of photos, declassified in 1995, consists of more than 860,000 images of the Earth’s surface from the CORONA, ARGON, and LANYARD satellite systems. A military satellite is an artificial satellite used for a military purpose. The declassified military reconnaissance satellite imagery provides views of the Earth starting in the early 1960s, more than a decade before civilian Earth observation satellites became operational. The project floundered due to the lack of any mechanism to protect the satellites from attack resulting in the cancellation of Defender in 1968. The first US military optical reconnaissance satellite program, code named CORONA, pioneered the development and refinement of the technologies, equipment and systems needed to deploy an operational orbital optical reconnaissance capability. There are five types of resolution when discussing satellite imagery in remote sensing: spatial, spectral, temporal, radiometric and geometric. Additional reading related to US optical reconnaissance satellites. Duplicate film held in the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center archive is used to produce digital copies of the imagery for distribution to users. Satellite imagery has become an effective tool for reporting in conflict zones. NASA satellite imagery and astronaut photography reveal where an English alphabet can be found in the landforms of the Earth. Only military sources, however, have access to images captured at the satellite's maximum ground resolution of 0.41 meters; Commercial clients' images are re-sampled at a 0.5-meter resolution. The United Kingdom also operates military communication satellites through its Skynet system. During the Cold War, on the vast, barren flatland around Area 51's dried-up Groom Lake, the military developed a stealth spy plane code-named Project Oxcart. KH-6 LANYARD  image resolution was about 6 feet (1.8 meters). [20], Why Isro's Gsat-7A launch is important for the Indian Air Force, "Military Satellite Systems: A History — Part One", "Russian Satellite Maneuvers, Silence Worry Intelsat", "Why Did the Department of Defense Develop GPS? 14 Aug 2014. The first launch of a DSP satellite was on 6 November 1970 with the 23rd and last launched 10 November 2007. This set of photos, declassified in 2011, consists of more photographs from the KH-9 HEXAGON mapping program. As of December 2018 there are 320 known military or dual-use satellites in the sky, half of which are owned by the US, followed by Russia, China and India (13).[1]. As of 2013, there are 950 satellites of all types in Earth orbit. Satellite imagery from Keyhole reconnaissance satellites is an important information source for national security-related GEOINT activities. You can explore the Aral Sea Earthshots photo sequences at the following link: https://earthshots.usgs.gov/earthshots/node/91#ad-image-0-0. In the United States the first formal military satellite programs, Weapon System 117L, was developed in the mid 1950s. Overview of US military optical reconnaissance satellite programs. [9] It used a constellation of five satellites and could provide a navigational fix approximately once per hour. The US Corona Project used a satellite to spy on Russia during the Cold War and now the images, taken in the 1960s and 1970s, are helping scientists better understand our planet. Analysis. It is not possible to identify the exact number of these that are military satellites partly due to secrecy and partly due to dual purpose missions such as GPS satellites that serve both civilian and military purposes. 1 Description 2 Military satellite industry 3 Use by the U.S. Armed Forces 4 See also 5 References 6 Resources 7 External links Star Wars program A satellite by itself is neither military nor civil. Since some of the major military activities of the U.S. army is in foreign territories, the U.S. government needs to subcontract satellite services to foreign carriers headquartered in areas with favorable climate.[18]. Since the CORONA, ARGON, and LANYARD data were no longer critical to national security and could be of historical value for global change research, the images were declassified by Executive Order 12951 in 1995”, You can read Executive Order 12951 here: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/WCPD-1995-02-27/pdf/WCPD-1995-02-27-Pg304.pdf. A first military satellite named Noor is launched into orbit by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, in Semnan, Iran April 22, 2020. Additional sets of military reconnaissance satellite imagery were declassified in 2002 and 2011 based on extensions of Executive Order 12951. NRO developed several generations of classified Keyhole (KH) military optical reconnaissance satellites that have been the primary sources of Earth imagery for the US Department of Defense (DoD) and intelligence agencies. The most common missions are intelligence gathering, navigation and military communications. [15], Since October 1967 satellite based weapons systems have been limited by international treaty to conventional weapons only. And remember – if you just want to look at satellite imagery without downloading the data, check out our list of 25 satellite maps. Abstract only at: Carolyn Gramling, “Cold War–era spy satellite images show Himalayan glaciers are melting fast – Declassified photos and NASA data provide a picture of accelerating ice loss,” 19 June 2019, Sciencenews website at: Geoff Manaugh, “Archaeologists Are Spotting Ancient Ruins in Cold War Spy Photos,” The Atlantic, 23 June 2016. This is currently operated with support from Astrium Services and provides near worldwide coverage with both X band and Ultra high frequency services. The data applications include science, environment studies, resources and disaster management, computer science. [3] The Corona program continued until 25 May 1972. After recovery, the film was processed and analyzed. 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