Spy Satellite Proof-of-Concept Launch, 50 Years Ago

A half-century ago today — August 10, 1960 — Discoverer-13 launched from Vandenberg AFB on a Thor-Agena rocket.

(President Eisenhower presented with U.S. flag flown inside Discoverer capsule. Dwight D. Eisenhower Library image from the National Air & Space Museum.)

Discoverer-13, and indeed the entire Discoverer series of spacecraft, was part of the highly classified CORONA program managed by the National Reconnaissance Office. Discoverer-13 did not take any images itself, however, as it was used to prove that all the systems would work. Discoverer-14 took the program’s first images a few days later.

The Discoverer-13 capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean and became the first man-made object recovered from space. The first segment of this YouTube newsreel video shows President Eisenhower being presented with a U.S. flag that flew inside the capsule.

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