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In the past I (think) I've read of artificial satellites which are designed to go into orbit quickly to deal with a short term need for observation of some type.

I'm now struggling to find a reference to this idea.

I'm not sure whether what I read was referring to the past or a system which is currently in place ?

I seem to remember that the idea was that it would be launched within days from the need occurring and wouldn't be intended to be used for longer than weeks.

I also have an idea that the orbit might be an unconventional one in order to provide optimal coverage of the area of interest.

Assuming I haven't imagined this - can anyone point me at examples of such systems ?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you thinking of the Corona series, maybe? "For use during unexpected crises, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) kept a Corona in 'R-7' status, meaning ready for launch in seven days. By the summer of 1965, NRO was able to maintain Corona for launch within one day." As it used physical film canisters that were ejected and recovered on Earth, their useful lifetime was limited. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corona_(satellite) $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Mar 9 '16 at 23:00
  • $\begingroup$ Besides satellites, for (very) short-term observations of/from space a much less expensive option is Sounding Rockets. You might want to look into this. $\endgroup$ – SF. Mar 10 '16 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ The closest I can think of (apart from the Corona series) are the fictional satellite program (NIRTSat) in some of Dale Brown's novels. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Mar 10 '16 at 20:47
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These are almost certainly for military applications, as they are the only ones that require short turn around and short term usage. This has been a dream of military for some time. Most of this research is spearheaded by DARPA. DARPA tests stuff like launching satellites from a fighter jet, $1 million satellites, and other related technology. Practically speaking, this isn't really being done at this time.

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