Scientific Colloquium
November 14, 2018, 3:30 p.m.
Building 3, Goett Auditorium

"The 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 engineering systems.

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 Hexagon program.
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