Cryptologic Bytes

"On This Date in History" Calendar

1960: GRAB, first reconnaissance satellite, launched.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

GRAB - ("Galactic Radiation and Background," its cover, or codename TATTLETALE), was the world's first reconnaissance satellite and is on display at the National Cryptologic Museum. GRAB was in the final stages of development by the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) at the time of the loss of Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane on 1 May 1960.

Following the U-2's shoot-down President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the cancellation of all further manned reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union, the void to be filled with a series of satellite launches. GRAB I was the first of these and rose into orbit on 22 June 1960 atop a Thor-Able-Star rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The successful launch of the GRAB II satellite occurred on 29 June 1961.

The GRAB satellites had a dual mission. The unclassified mission, from which the satellite earned its name, was to gather solar radiation data. The secret mission involved the signals intelligence package carried aboard the satellite. It gathered radar pulses within a specific bandwidth from Soviet equipment.

Photo from NSA Anniversary Timeline: Naval Research Lab Team at Cape Canaveral for spin test of GRAB1 atop Transit 2A. (Left to right) Martin J. Votaw, George G. Kronmiller, Alfred R. Conover and Roy A. Harding

View our Video Exhibit page regarding the GRAB and Poppy Satellites via the link below.


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