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The HEXAGON (KH-9) declassified reconnaissance satellite is on display at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum on Sept. 17, 2011, in Chantilly, Virginia.
Albert Wheelon, a former Hughes Aircraft chairman who played a key role in developing the first spy satellite, has died. He was 84.
His sister, Marcia, tells the Los Angeles Times that Wheelon died of cancer Friday at his home in Montecito.
Wheelon was the CIA's first science and technology director when he helped guide development of the photo reconnaissance satellite in the early 1960s.
Code-named Corona, it helped the U.S assess the Soviet Union's capabilities during the nuclear arms race.
In 1967, Wheelon joined Hughes Aircraft. Over the next two decades, he helped build Hughes into a dominant player in the satellite business and became company chairman.
Ousted when General Motors bought Hughes in 1988, Wheelon later survived a five-year federal bribery probe. No charges were filed.