Re: MOL == Agena? Re: Solutions to the Zero-G problem

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 11:32:55 MDT

"Michael M. Butler" wrote:
> Umm. I remember the Agena, and I remember the MOL project. I can't of
> course prove that the Agenas *didn't* carry cameras, but can you give a
> cite for Agena stages being called MOLs? As best I can recall, the MOL
> was a Navy project, human habitable in design, final design had the
> Gemini mated ass to the can with crew transfers through a porthole in
> the heat shield; and never flew. As I recall, there were some
> preliminary studies of twin-can "swinging" MOL-like designs, with a SNAP
> nuke reactor at the "far" end. It seems oversilly to me for even the
> '60s fedgov to name an Agena with a docking collar a Manned Orbiting
> Laboratory.

My father was involved in developing cameras at Itek for the Corona and MOL
projects. He told me about the amazing amount of compartementalization between
projects there. He said they had several different spysat camera projects going
on at the same time, and people from different projects could not share info
with other projects, so each team had to solve the same problems by themselves.
When a project finished, they would be told instead that it was 'cancelled', but
all the stuff they built and at least one person from the team would get sent
off to either the NRO, Canaveral, Langley, or Vandenberg, never to be heard from
again.... From my own research, it seems that the Air Force was launching MOL's
on Titan launchers from Vandenberg at least up into the early 80's. The MOL was
derived from the Agena.

> "Michael S. Lorrey" wrote:
> > Tethers have been experimented with since the Gemini
> > program (the Gemini capsules would hook up a tether to an Agena MOL, and reel
> > out a couple hundred yards to induce a microgravity for experiments (and to
> > properly eject film capsules from spy cameras on the Agena MOL for re-entry).
> More than microgravity, in one case--though that was blamed on "stuck
> thrusters"--later, the excuse was that the Gemini computer had the wrong
> attitude control program loaded and tried to orient the Gemini-Agena
> system as if it were just the Gemini. Oops. And that was with the two
> hard docked.
> I don't remember hearing about tethers at the time, either, but that
> doesn't mean they didn't do it. It's an obvious thing to try. I'll do
> some snooping on the NASA history sites and see what they say.

I just downloaded some nice pics the other day by a Gemini astronaut showing an
Agena hanging below the Gemini capsule from a thether, with earth in the

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