Some early observation satellites took pictures on photographic film and the film was dropped towards Earth and picked up by airplanes (e.g. Corona). What was the last satellite to use photographic film? When was the last roll of photographic film dropped from a satellite down to Earth?

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    $\begingroup$ Would an astronaut with a film-based camera count? $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Jun 30, 2020 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit If the astronaut is in orbit around the Earth, I guess he counts as one of Earth's satellites $\endgroup$
    – usernumber
    Jun 30, 2020 at 9:49
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    $\begingroup$ You might want to specify "by which countries," as I rather doubt you'll find any public info on Soviet / Russian or early China spy satellites. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2020 at 12:13
  • $\begingroup$ For US, google.com/… indicates 11 October 1984. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 30, 2020 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit - not too many astronauts (or their film) have been dropped and picked up by an airplane! $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 30, 2020 at 14:39

1 Answer 1


Zenit flights continued until 1994 http://www.zarya.info/Diaries/Zenit/Zenitindex.php

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    $\begingroup$ Were they the last flights to use photographic film? $\endgroup$
    – usernumber
    Jun 29, 2020 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ satmilmagazine.com/story.php?number=30747315 indicates that some later Yantar satellites also used film drops. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 30, 2020 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Hmmmm... and "The Yenisey series, also known as Orlets-2, was based on the Don series but carried up to 22 film return capsules. It is also likely that the satellites’ optics systems allowed them to take images at a higher resolution than that achieved by satellites of previous generations. The first of the series was launched on 26 August 1994 with a second launched on 25 September 2000." from previous link $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 30, 2020 at 14:51

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