Discoverer 17

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Discoverer 17
Mission type Optical reconnaissance
Operator US Air Force/NRO
Harvard designation 1960 Omicron 1
Mission duration 2 days
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type KH-2 Corona'
Bus Agena-B
Manufacturer Lockheed
Launch mass 1,091 kilograms (2,405 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date 12 November 1960, 20:43 (1960-11-12UTC20:43Z) UTC
Rocket Thor DM-21 Agena-B 297
Launch site Vandenberg LC-75-3-5
End of mission
Decay date 29 December 1960 (1960-12-30)
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Low Earth
Perigee 182 kilometers (113 mi)
Apogee 922 kilometers (573 mi)
Inclination 81.8 degrees
Period 95.7 minutes
The launch of Discoverer 17

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.[1]

The launch of Discoverer 17 occurred at 20:43 UTC on 12 November 1960. A Thor DM-21 Agena-B rocket was used, flying from Launch Complex 75-3-5 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base.[2] Upon successfully reaching orbit, it was assigned the Harvard designation 1960 Omicron 1. It was the first KH-2 satellite to successfully reach orbit.

Discoverer 17 was operated in a low Earth orbit, with a perigee of 182 kilometres (113 mi), an apogee of 922 kilometres (573 mi), 81.8 degrees of inclination, and a period of 95.7 minutes.[3] The satellite had a mass of 1,091 kilograms (2,405 lb),[4] and was equipped with a panoramic camera with a focal length of 61 centimetres (24 in), which had a maximum resolution of 7.6 metres (25 ft).[5] Images were recorded onto 70-millimeter (2.8 in) film, and returned in a Satellite Recovery Vehicle. The Satellite Recovery Vehicle used by Discoverer 17 was SRV-507.[4]

Shortly after Discoverer 17 began operations, its SRV separated prematurely. Two days after launch it was deorbited and recovered,[5] however only 52 centimetres (20 in) of film was found to be aboard, and no images were taken.[4][6] Following the separation of the SRV, Discoverer 17 remained in orbit until it decayed on 29 December 1960.[3]

In addition to its reconnaissance payload, Discoverer 17 also carried a biological research payload, intended to investigate human tissues in space. Since at the time the United States did not publicly acknowledge its reconnaissance satellite programmes, this was officially the satellite's primary mission. Unexpectedly high radiation levels during the flight led to the data from this experiment being considered particularly valuable by US Air Force scientists.[4]


  1. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "KH-2 Corona". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  2. ^ McDowell, Jonathan. "Launch Log". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d Wade, Mark. "KH-2". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on 23 January 2013. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Corona". Mission and Spacecraft Library. NASA. Archived from the original on 3 October 2007. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Pike, John (9 September 2000). "KH-2 Corona". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 26 June 2010.