KH-11 KENNEN

The KH-11 KENNEN[1][2][3][4] (later renamed CRYSTAL,[5] then Evolved Enhanced CRYSTAL System, and codenamed 1010[6]:82 and Key Hole[6]:82) is a type of reconnaissance satellite first launched by the American National Reconnaissance Office in December 1976. Manufactured by Lockheed in Sunnyvale, California, the KH-11 was the first American spy satellite to use electro-optical digital imaging, and so offer real-time optical observations.[7]

A conceptual drawing based upon Hubble Space Telescope (HST) layout.
A conceptual drawing based upon Hubble Space Telescope (HST) layout with internal views.

Later KH-11 satellites have been referred to by outside observers as KH-11B or KH-12, and by the names "Advanced KENNEN", "Improved Crystal" and "Ikon". Official budget documents refer to the latest generation of electro-optical satellites as Evolved Enhanced CRYSTAL System.[8] The Key Hole series was officially discontinued in favor of a random numbering scheme after repeated public references to KH-7 GAMBIT, KH-8 GAMBIT 3, KH-9 HEXAGON, and KH-11 KENNEN satellites.[9]

The capabilities of the KH-11 are highly classified, as are images they produce. The satellites are believed to have been the source of some imagery of the Soviet Union and China made public in 1997; images of Sudan and Afghanistan made public in 1998 related to the response to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings;[citation needed][10] and a 2019 photo, revealed by President Donald Trump, of a failed Iranian rocket launch.[11]


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