PROJECT CORONA-SECURITY IN 1960

Created: 3/17/1959

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APPROVED FOR RELEASE DATE:1

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PROJECTECURITY0

Reference! Memorandum "Project CORONA" datedarch

2. The referenced memorandum proposeseries of eight CORONA flights be acheduled in calendar0ontinuation of the flights currently scheduled for the next eight months.uestion arises as to whether, if this supplementary activity is approved and undertaken, an effort should be made, as with the serieso conceal its true purpose. If an affirmative decision is made on this matter,0 flights would presumably be describedontinuation of the publicly announced DISCOVERY series. The alternative course of action might involve the identification forthwith within the Military establishment of0 activityeconnaissance project entirely separate from the DISCOVERY series, to be handled in all respectsormal Military project, and involve in dueublic announcement of the true mission. This isoreign policy decision but it requires an estimate (a) of the feasibility of maintaining securityecond year, and (b) of the impact on the9 CORONA programublic announcement0 series. The following comments are addressed to these topics.

2, The DISCOVERY aeries of satellite flights has been publicly describedesearch and development activityariety of specific objectives including development flight testing of hardware, development and testing of procedures for the recoveryatellite payload after flight, the study of environmental conditions relevant to human flight including measurement of certain typee of radiation encountered at relatively low altitudes, testsatellite infra-red sensor as the prototype of an early warning device, and the exercise of tracking stations and other elementsew ground environment. The official cover atory states or implies that achievement of these specific objectives will contribute to the broad purposes ofumber of Military subsystems closer to operational status, of the achievement of man-in-space flight, and more generally contributing importantly to the ability of the Military establishment to design and operate missile and satellite systems. This official cover story was carefully designed and is constantly being supplemented in an effort to satisfy two requirements: First, that the operations undertaken under the name oi the DISCOVERY series should not themselves be Military

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acts, and second, that they should nevertheless be activities appropriate to the Military establishment and of importance sufficient to justify an operationubstantial scale. It should be noted that ARPA has announced programs involving the use of satellites for early warning and communications and involving the developmentanned recoverable space vehicle, thusthat the Defense establishment is actively pursuing all the long-range objectives which the DISCOVERY series allegedly serves.

above-outlined official cover story has been embroideredin one important respect in the technical press. It waswhen the DISCOVERY series was announced that it wouldoperations originally contemplated as part of the SENTRYit was widely speculated that the DISCOVERY series is atpart the research and development phase of SENTRY, that is, that aof the DISCOVERY series is development flight testing of basic(vehicles, guidance, recovery system, and ground environment)ultimately be used for SENTRY. It would, perhaps, have beenthis inference could have been avoided but it was in fact foreseen beforeannouncement of DISCOVERY that technical speculation would take Fortunately, there has been little speculation to date to thethe DISCOVERY series includes any operational flightsiven this development, it would be altogether infeasible to deny

that there is an element of truth in this speculation, and to attempt to do so would simply call the whole CORONA cover story into question. Accordingly, current efforts are devoted to emphasizing the specific objectives of the DISCOVERY Beries as stated in the official cover story while freely admitting that this alleged research and development program will benefit not only the achievement of space flighthe development of early warning and communica-tions satellites but also the development_pf the SENTRY reconnaissance system, which has long been an officially announced and identified Military program.

above circumstances are cited as background for thein this and the following paragraph on the feasibility ofeffective cover for an extended CORONA serieshejudgment which is offered here with some trepidation is that theto the security of the present or extended CORONA program is notunauthorized disclosure by properly witting individuals and that thisgood luck, can be contained. Major efforts have been made to limit the

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number of perform knowledgeable of the program. The number is too large for comfort (and almost larger than it need be) but reasonable success has been achieved in impressing on all concerned the vital importance of security. The greatest danger of disclosure is that individuals toDafenseand especially various technical consonants, .will surmise thatlassified program is being carried pn, will correctly guess its general character, and will feel free to discuss their surmise widely in the technical corrimunity. It is impossible to be sure that this will not happen but every effort is being made to detect the spread of informed rumor in the technical community and to halt it (usually by making the originator aware that therelassified program and placing on them the responsibility for preserving its security),

5. The obverse of this limited optimism concerning disclosure is that the major danger to effective concealment of the true purpose of CORONA is that constituted by speculation in the technical press. It will be readily recognized that once great curiosity is arousedrogram of this character the efforts of skillful and well informed representatives of the press to ferret out more itiiormation from witting individuals in the Government or in the companies concerned are exceedingly difficult to resist. Accordingly, the only real defense against such speculation and its consequences is the construction and the constant amplification in detail and reiterationlausible cover story. If the ostensible purposes of the missile flights are in sufficient detail to answer the queries of the press, and if they are truly plausible, the danger is vastly reduced. It is believed that in the case of CORONA it has been possible to date and will continue to be possible to develop and sustain cover stories of this character (provided that administrative obstacles do nott is also believed, however, that to do so will require if anything increased reliance on the explanation that^the DISCOVERY scries is indeed contributing in an important way to the development of SENTRY, The reason that the above-mentioned speculation to this effect is an important part of the CORONA cover story is that the detectable connection of certain individuals and companies with DISCOVERY can most easily be explained by admitting the existence of abetween the two programs. Moreover, if there should be any disclosure of work going iorward on specifically reconnaissance subsystems, the disclosure could be covered in confusiononnection between the two programs had been acknowledged. This is not to suggest any change in the policy of insisting that DISCOVERY is completely separate from SENTRY but only that the contribution of DISCOVERYevelopmental activity to SENTRY as an operational program should be tacitly acknowledged.

b. In summary* the preceding paragraphs arc intended to express cautious optimism that it may be possible bath to avoid unauthorized damaging disclosures concerning the true purpose of CORONA and that it will be possible to provide plausible explanations of an extended DISCOVERY series which characterise itontinuing developmental activity* Care has been taken up to this point not to announce sny firm schedule for the DISCOVERY scries or any definitelynumber of flights* Hence, there is no need tohange of plans (which always invites attention) nor, indeed, to make at this time any announcement about the duration of the DISCOVERY series. If an affirmative decision is made on the proposal in the referenced memorandum0 series, it would probably be best either to say nothing at this time about the duration of the activity or to say frankly that the number of DISCOVERY flights has not yet been finally determined. This cautious optimism* it must be emphasized, is contingent upon continued more strenuous efforts by all concerned both to avoid unauthorized disclosure and to support the cover stories. In particular the maintenance of cover for CORONA (evenill require the stern exercise of authority at all appropriate points to discourage the kind of technical discussion in advisory committees and in Military.cntg. _tl*at quickly reveals the factighly classified project, the purpose and character of which can then be readily surmised,

7. Finally, it must be repeated (from the last paragraph of the referenced memorandum) that the degree to which the cover of CORONA will be eroded in forthcoming months, and thereby the judgments expressed above, is inevitably subjectigh degree of uncertainty. Accordingly, if it is decided toeries of flights with the CORONA vehicle0 and if concealment of the true purpose of this activity is believed desirable, the best course of action might well be to embark on this program with every intention of conducting it under the security with which CORONA has been surrounded but to review the security status of the program in six months. If its cover has then begun to weart would probably be betterarefully contrived manner to surface its true purpose. Alternatively, if cover is holding up well, the original intent can be adhered to. No attempt has been made here to comment on the importance of concealment of the reconnaissance mission. If this is of low importance, it will be well to decide at this point to surface the purpose of0 programime andanner which will best preserve the security of CORONA If, at the other extreme, the importance of concealing the mission is so great that the program could be carried out only if such concealment is effectively maintained, then it must be said in all honesty that thereubstantial risk that the objective cannot be achieved*

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