9.3.3: SAMOS Program 201

The next phase of the SAMOS project was Program 201, also known as Program 698BJ and E-6. The E-6 satellite used film return like CORONA, but like E-5 the reentry vehicle did not have its own retrorocket, using the Agena B engine for retrofire instead. This is confirmed by a Lockheed document [229] which reports that Program 101-A and Program 201 vehicles used a delayed Agena burn for retrofire. Furthermore, the capsule was recovered not over the Pacific Ocean but from the desert in the western US. The Jul 1960 documents [227] proposed Edwards AFB as a possible retrieval area and described several possible recovery capsule types, including the use of a deployable drag brake which would open at an altitude of 120 km, or a lifting body reentry vehicle. It isn't clear what the final technique adopted was. The contract was awarded in late 1960; Lockheed, working on E-5, was excluded from the payload competition. The E-6 payload carried twin 0.9m focal length cameras.

The orbital data in the table below are taken from the Vandenberg launch reports and the Satellite Catalog, since the RAE Tables are unreliable for this series. The Vandenberg launch reports include statements such as `all systems performed nominally through orbit 18'. I suspect that the orbit number given here is the orbit of retrofire, and the retrofire times given below reflect this.

According to a Lockheed statement, Program 201 was cancelled in 1962. It seems to have been superseded by the success of CORONA and the approach of a new Air Force program, the high resolution film return system codenamed GAMBIT.