November 14, 2018, 3:30 p.m.
Building 3, Goett Auditorium
Hexagon KH-9 Spy Satellite"
Mr. Pressel’s lecture covers the design and importance of the
Hexagon KH-9 Spy satellite that helped keep the peace during the
cold war from 1971 to 1986. It was the last film based spy
satellite. The program was declassified by the NRO/CIA in 2011.
The Hexagon satellite was an invaluable asset providing
photographic intelligence information. It was responsible for
President Nixon signing the SALT treaty and allowed President
Reagan to say, “Trust but Verify.” Mr. Pressel was the project
engineer responsible for the design of the Hexagon stereo
cameras. This satellite was and is still considered the most
complicated satellite ever put in orbit. It was also one of
America’s best and most successful spy satellites.
Mr. Pressel will explain how the system worked and will show
numerous photos of Soviet and domestic targets. Present
intelligence and military leaders say that no other photographic
system existing since has surpassed Hexagon’s capabilities.
During its design phase in the 1960’s many new technologies were
developed or invented such as optical encoders, brushless DC
motors, film handling mechanisms allowing film to travel at high
speeds both linearly and in rotation simultaneously, light
pipes, phase-lock closed loop servos and high resolution films.
About the Speaker:
Phil Pressel is semi-retired after nearly 50 years
working in the aerospace industry, primarily for the
Perkin-Elmer Corporation. He is still doing consulting work for
the Quartus Engineering Company in San Diego. Quartus does
sophisticated design and analyses of optical and other
Mr. Pressel was the project engineer in charge of the design of
the stereo cameras for the Hexagon KH-9 spy satellite, the last
film based satellite. Nineteen Hexagon missions were launched
from Vandenberg AFB between 1971 and 1986.
Mr. Pressel and his wife live in San Diego. His first book “They
Are Still Alive” describes his and his parents’ wartime escape
from the Nazis in France. During 1944 he was hidden and
sheltered by a kind and courageous Catholic family in a small
village that was a headquarters for the French underground.
His second book “Meeting the Challenge, the Hexagon KH-9
Reconnaissance Satellite” describes the Hexagon system in detail
and its importance to US security.
He has lectured about Hexagon to many national technical
organizations and Air and Space Museums including the US Air
Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio where the last remaining Hexagon is
on display. He is an accomplished public speaker and has been
interviewed on TV, on NPR and various newspapers. He was seen on
CNN in a one-hour documentary called “Declassified” about the
Return to Schedule