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The KH-11 has been one of the United States' most important models of spy satellites, and much of its design is similar to the Hubble Space Telescope. "KH" is an abbreviation for Key Hole.

The KH-11 model is also known as "Kennen". How did the satellite get this name?


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From the National Reconnaissance Office website:

Some time ago Dr. Naka stated the desire to select the Codeword for the EOI system upon the retirement of the ZAMAN nom-de-plume. He announced at staff meeting on November 23 that KENNEN had been selected. The term is Middle English, and means "to perceive." (common usage now is "ken.")

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    $\begingroup$ I have never seen such a clear to the point answer to such an obscure question :D $\endgroup$ – Hakaishin Mar 28 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps worth noting that the word "kennen" exists in German and Dutch as a verb meaning "to know". $\endgroup$ – Gallifreyan Mar 28 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ We could remove question-answering privileges from everyone except @OrganicMarble and nobody would notice, since s/he ends up answering everything anyway :p $\endgroup$ – Ian Kemp Mar 28 at 20:44
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    $\begingroup$ @IanKemp lol, but a lot of stuff here is out of my wheelhouse: orbital mechanics, planetary science, (really science in general), Soviet space, anything that involves electromagnetism, etc, etc. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 28 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ To expand on what @Gallifreyan is saying: German actually has two different words for "to know": "kennen", which more subtly means "to be familiar with" and is generally used in reference to people, i.e., "to know s.o.", and "wissen", which means "to know as a fact" $\endgroup$ – Tristan Mar 31 at 17:36

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