Colloquium: Phil Pressel

    Thursday, January 11, 2018 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
    Meinel 307

    Hexagon KH-9 Spy Satellite


    Mr. Pressel’s lecture covers the design and importance of the Hexagon KH-9 Spy satellite that helped keep the peace during the cold war from 1971 to 1986. It was the last film based spy satellite. The program was declassified by the NRO/CIA in 2011.The Hexagon satellite was an invaluable asset providing photographic intelligence information during the cold war. It was responsible for President Nixon signing the SALT treaty and allowed President Reagan to say,  “trust but verify.” Mr. Pressel was the project engineer responsible for the design of the f/3 60-inch focal length folded Wright stereo cameras.  He will explain    how the optical system worked in perfect synchronization with the fast moving film (linearly and in rotation). This satellite was and still is considered the most complicated satellite ever put in orbit. It was also one of America’s best and most successful spy satellites.

    Speaker Bio(s): 

    Phil Pressel worked nearly 50 years in the aerospace industry, of which 30 years were at the Perkin-Elmer Corporation in Danbury, Connecticut (now United Technologies). He is still doing consulting work. He was the project engineer in charge of the design of the stereo cameras for the formerly CIA Top Secret Hexagon KH-9 spy satellite, the last film-based satellite.

    Since the Hexagon program was declassified in September 2011 by the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) Mr. Pressel has lectured on the Hexagon program to many national technical organizations and museums including the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Museum in Dayton, Ohio (where the last remaining Hexagon vehicle is on display), at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and at the Spy Museum in DC, at National Conferences of the SPIE and the AIAA.

    Mr. Pressel is an accomplished public speaker and has been interviewed by numerous publications and TV stations. He was seen on CNN in 2016, in a one-hour documentary called “Declassified” about the Hexagon Program. He has written a book about Hexagon, published by the AIAA and is a member of AIAA and SPIE. He can be reached at