Heat Shield, Corona


Display Status:

This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the cutaway heat shield which covered one of the two film return capsules of NASM's Corona KH-4B photoreconnaissance satellite camera. The KH-4B was the last and most advanced camera system used in Project Corona, America and the world's first photoreconnaissance satellite program. Between August 1960 and May 1972, when the program ended, 145 Corona satellites were launched and produced over 800,000 usable images of the USSR and other nations. Film return capsules containing the exposed film separated from the spacecraft in orbit, reentered the atmosphere, and were retrieved in midair. Made by General Electric, the capsules were protected during reentry by a heat shield. At about 60,000 feet, the heat shield was jettisoned and a parachute deployed. Air Force planes with trailing booms would snag the parachute and bring the capsule into the plane. This heat shield was not reinstalled on the KH-4B camera after its restoration in the early 2000s.

The National Reconnaissance Office transferred the heat shield to NASM in 1995.

Collection Item Long Description:

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Transferred from the National Reconnaissance Office

Country of Origin

United States of America


  • Phenolic Resin
  • Paint
  • Likely Aluminized Mylar
  • Anodized Aluminum Alloy
  • Plastic
  • Adhesive
  • Steel
  • Cadmium Plating


  • 3-D (Diameter x Depth): 76.2 × 68.6cm (30 × 27 in.)
  • Storage (Rehoused on an aluminum pallet): 122.6 × 153 × 132.1cm, 170.1kg (48 1/4 × 60 1/4 × 52 in., 375lb.)

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum

Restrictions & Rights

Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum


SPACECRAFT-Unmanned-Parts & Structural Components

Related Topics