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Pioneer In Satellite Industry Dies in Santa Barbara County

Posted on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 1:27pm

A man who helped pioneer America’s development of commercial, and spy satellites has died in Santa Barbara County.

Albert Wheelon was the first science, and technology director for the CIA, the agency which pioneered photo reconnaissance satellites.  The first satellite, which was code named Corona, took pictures of the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the early 1960′s, and then dropped the film into the atmosphere where it was caught in mid-air by military aircraft.

After working for the government, he went to work for Hughes Aircraft, heading its division which developed spy satellites, as well communications satellites.  The company dominated the field for decades.  After leaving Hughes, he wrote two major research books on physics.

Wheelon died at his home in Montecito.  He was 84 years old.

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