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Petty, Paul E. | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections

Name: Petty, Paul E.

Historical Note:

Paul E. Petty was born on a farm in southern Indiana, volunteered for the Navy and became a fighter pilot flying the famed Corsair. He served tours on the three battle class carriers; the Midway, Roosevelt, and the Coral Sea.

Petty received a BS, Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University in 1953. He did graduate studies in Modern Physics and Thermodynamics as well. He taught courses in Astronautics, Space Thermo-Physics and Space Systems Engineering. Petty spent 25 years in design, fabrication and operation of optical systems for space applications. An expert in Space Thermo-Physics, Petty was recognized as one of the pioneers of space reconnaissance.

While working at General Electric's Missile and Space Division, Petty was manager of thermodynamics at the Advanced Projects Department and was responsible for the thermal design of the KH-7 GAMBIT space vehicle, camera, and electronics. The GAMBIT project, declassified in September 2011, was capable of taking high resolution (less than two feet) photographs of specific targets from space. The first of thirty-eight flights was July 1963. The program was sponsored by the Secretary Air Force Special Programs (SAFSP) and classified as Top Secret/SCI.

Petty was later responsible for the FULCRUM space vehicle concept and presented the resulting designs, including camera operation to the Land Panel in 1965. The CIA Directorate of Science and Technology sponsored studies in 1964 of combining the KH-4 Corona (declassified May 1995) search and surveillance system, and the KH-7 Gambit high resolution framing camera. The studies resulted in the definition of a second-generation space reconnaissance system, FULCRUM.

The next generation of space reconnaissance was redefined and lead to the KH-9 Hexagon (declassified 2011). During the transition from FULCRUM to the HEXAGON KH-9, Petty was responsible for leading the group that conducted studies pertaining to the thermal control of the spacecraft and the camera system.

Upon joining Perkin-Elmer Corporation in 1968, Petty was assigned as Project Engineer for the first flight of the HEXAGON camera system and promoted to Program Manager in 1973. In 1975, Petty was elected Vice President of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation and General Manager of the Optical Technology Division (The Hexagon SCIF). Petty served in this position until his retirement in 1986.

Paul was also responsible for the proposal that resulted in the award of the Optical Telescope Assembly for the Large Space Telescope (the Hubble Space Telescope) to Pekin Elmer in October of 1977. Perkin-Elmer was able to obtain a memoranda of agreement between NASA, the CIA's DDS&T and the NRO that permitted the use of the Hexagon SCI/F and GFE (government, CIA, furnished equipment) for a NASA program. As General Manager of the Optical Technology Division located in Danbury, Connecticut, Petty was responsible for the design, fabrication, and assembly of the Hubble Optical Telescope Assembly.

Sources: Biography provided by Paul E. Petty.
Note Author: Paul E. Petty

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