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Among one of the first team members chosen for the Corona Program, Minoru "Sam" Araki served as Lockheed system engineer for the Agena spacecraft – the upper stage for the Corona launch vehicle – and the three-axis stabilized spacecraft for the camera payload.
More than any other booster-satellite craft, according to U.S. Air Force historians, the Agena "put the Air Force in space." As the world's first three-axis stable platform for space, the Agena literally made satellite photoreconnaissance possible, and went on to become the workhorse of the National Reconnaissance Office, U.S. military, and NASA missions in the 1960s, eventually flying over 500 times.
Among the many firsts accomplished by Mr. Araki and his team with Agena included attitude and ephemeris knowledge, three-axis attitude control, attitude pointing and control, orbit adjust for drag makeup and period adjust, and image motion compensation.
Mr. Araki continued his work supporting Lockheed Missiles and Space Company and Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space for 38 years, retiring in 1997 as the President of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space Company. He is a Fellow of the American Astronautical Society and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. In 2004, he received the von Braun Award for Excellence in Space Program Management from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. He also was named a Pioneer of National Reconnaissance by the National Reconnaissance Office.