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MISTY / AFP-731

The MISTY low observables spacecraft program was initially justified on the basis that it would help the Reagan Administration catch the USSR cheating on arms control. The analog was to the first KH-11, which the US believed [correctly or not] the Soviets hadn't recognized as a photoreconnaissance satellite until Kampiles sold them the operators manual, and which allowed the United States to peek into some buildings at Sary Shagan that were normally closed up when the earlier KEYHOLEs went overhead. The enthusiam for nuclear warfighting programs of the early 1980s might have been of equal or greater importance. Such programs as the B-2 stealth bomber, Continuity of Government, and the formation of the DDX/K Group strategic counter-C3 at NSA all occurred at around that time, and were all characterized by the same ultra-blackness as the ZIRCONIC programs. It may have been argued that MISTY would give the US a survivable Trans-SIOP reconnaissance capability.

AFP-731 (1990-019B 20516 USA-53) was launched on 28 February 1990 by the Space Shuttle Discovery on flight STS-36, into an orbit with an initial inclination of 62 degrees. On 3 March 1990 this spacecraft executed a small maneuver to raise its altitude, and on 7 March it executed a much larger maneuver, which raised its inclination to 65 degrees, and its altitude to a roughly circular orbit at 811 kilometers.

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http://www.fas.org/spp/military/program/imint/afp-731.htm
Maintained by Steven Aftergood
Originally created by John Pike
Updated December 21, 2004