Discoverer 13

"The Discoverer satellite program began an age of spying from space that continues to this day."

Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

Collection Item Summary:

This is the Discoverer XIII reentry capsule which, along with the capsule cover and parachute, was recovered north of Hawaii by the U.S. Navy on August 11, 1960, the first man-made object to be recovered from orbit. The Discoverer XIII satellite had been launched the previous day from Vandenberg AFB. "Discoverer" was the cover name for the highly classified U.S. Air Force/Central Intelligence Agency Corona photoreconnaissance satellite program. The Discoverer XIII satellite did not carry cameras or film, and the capsule contained only diagnostic instruments. Corona satellites, however, carried cameras and film beginning with Discoverer XIV one week later. By the end of the Corona program in May 1972, over 120 Corona satellites had successfully flown and photographed the Soviet Union, China, and other nations. The capsule was made by General Electric and donated by the U.S. Air Force to NASM in 1960.

Collection Item Long Description:

Inventory Number


Credit Line

Transferred from the United States Air Force

Country of Origin

United States of America


Capsule is aluminum (w/gold plating); instrumentation inside capsule is magnesium and other metals; wiring inside capsule is metal and plastic


Other: 73.7 × 47cm, 136.1kg (2 ft. 5 in. × 1 ft. 6 1/2 in., 300lb.)

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-Test Vehicles