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Declassified Intelligence Satellite Photographs

Fact Sheet 090-96 (February 1998)

Recently declassified photographs from spy satellites are an important addition to the record of the Earth's land surface held by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

A Black and white Landsat photograph showing a costal area and water.    Not much urban area.

1963 declassified image over Cape Canaveral, Florida

A Black and white Landsat photograph showing a costal area and water.

1992 Landsat image over Cape Canaveral, Florida

More than 800,000 high-resolution photos taken between 1959 through 1972 were made available by Executive Order of the President. The collection is held at the USGS EROS Data Center, near Sioux Falls, S. Dak., and are offered for public sale. For some purposes in earth science studies, these photos extend the record of changes in the land surface another decade back in time from the advent of the Landsat earth-observing satellite program.

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1992 Landsat Multi-spectral Scanner Image

In the Cape Canaveral, Florida, image pair (at right), the Landsat MSS image (acquired March 1992) shows how agricultural use of a marshy region near Cape Canaveral has expanded since the declassified image was acquired (Mission 9059A, October 30, 1963). In the declassified image, the region is dissected by ponds and small stream channels. In the Landsat image, acquired more than 28 years later, many of the small streams have been modified by dams and reservoirs, a network of roads has been constructed in the area, and agricultural development has increased.

Summary of Satellite Missions

Satellites Mission Mission Notes
KH-1 Dates: June 59-Sep. 60
Ground Resolution: 25 ft
Notes: Single camera
Frames: 1,432
KH-2 Dates: Oct. 60-Oct. 61
Ground Resolution: 25 ft
Notes: Single camera
Frames: 7,246
KH-3 Dates: Aug. 61-Jan. 62
Ground Resolution: 25 ft
Notes: Single camera
Frames: 9,918
KH-4 Dates: Feb. 62-Dec. 63
Ground Resolution: 25 ft
Notes: Two cameras
Frames: 101,743
KH-4A Dates: Aug 63.-Oct. 69
Ground Resolution: 9 ft
Notes: Two cameras
Frames: 517,688
KH-4B Dates: Sep. 67-May 72
Ground Resolution: 6 ft
Notes: Two cameras
Frames: 188,526
KH-5 Dates: Feb. 61-Aug. 64
Ground Resolution: 460 ft
Notes: Global coverage, mapping camera
Frames: 38,578
KH-6 Dates: July 63
Ground Resolution: 6 ft
Notes: Panoramic camera
Frames: <910

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Available Products

Products available from the USGS include contact-scale, black-and-white, positive film, negative film, and paper prints. In addition, custom enlargements are available if customers purchase a contact-scale paper print and annotate on that print the area to be enlarged and the amount of enlargement. The National Archives and Records Administration holds the original negatives as well as technical mission-related documents that include the orbit parameters for each mission.

World Wide Web accesss

An online description of this photographic collection is available on a USGS World Wide Web server. The Web address for this document is


For prices and other information, visit the Declassified Satellite Imagery-1 Web site at To preview and order images, visit the Web site. Currently, only ARGON images can be ordered on Earth Explorer. For information on ordering CORONA and LANYARD images, contact the USGS Customer Service.

For information related to image products from this collection, contact:

Earth Science Information Center
EROS Data Center
Sioux Falls, SD 57198
Telephone: 605-594-6151
Fax: 605-594-6589

For information related to mission documents, contact:

National Archives and Records Administration
Cartographic and Architectural Branch
8601 Adelphi Rd.
College Park, MD 20740-6001
Telephone: 301-713-7030
Fax: 301-713-7488

For information on other USGS products and services, call 1-888-ASK-USGS, or visit the general interest publications Web site on mapping, geography, and related topics at

For additional information, visit the Web site or the USGS home page at

Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. This document has undergone official review and approval for publications established by the National Mapping Discipline, U.S. Geological Survey. Some figures have been modified or added to improve the scientific visualization of information.

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