A pipeline for automated processing of declassified Corona KH-4 (1962-1972) stereo imagery

Sajid Ghuffar*, Tobias Bolch, Ewelina Rupnik, Atanu Bhattacharya

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Downloads (Pure)


The Corona KH-4 reconnaissance satellite missions acquired panoramic stereo imagery with high spatial resolution of 1.8–7.5m from 1962-1972. The potential of 800,000+ declassified Corona images has not been leveraged due to the complexities arising from handling of panoramic imaging geometry, film distortions and limited availability of the metadata required for georeferencing of the Corona imagery. This paper presents the Corona Stereo Pipeline (CoSP): A pipeline for processing of Corona KH-4 stereo panoramic imagery. CoSP utilizes deep learning based feature matcher SuperGlue to automatically match features point between Corona KH-4 images and recent satellite imagery to generate Ground Control Points (GCPs). To model the imaging geometry and the scanning motion of the panoramic KH-4 cameras, a rigorous camera model consisting of modified collinearity equations with time-dependent exterior orientation parameters is employed. Using the entire frame of the Corona image, bundle adjustment with well-distributed GCPs results in an average standard deviation or σ0 of less than two pixels. We evaluate fiducial marks on the Corona films and show that pre-processing the Corona images to compensate for film bending improves the 3D reconstruction accuracy. The distortion pattern of image residuals of GCPs and y-parallax in epipolar resampled images suggest that film distortions due to long-term storage likely cause systematic deviations of up to six pixels. Compared to the SRTM DEM, the Corona DEM computed using CoSP achieved a Normalized Median Absolute Deviation of elevation differences of ≈ 4m over an area of approx. 4000km2 after a tile-based fine coregistration of the DEMs. We further assess CoSP on complex scenes involving high relief and glacierized terrain and show that the resulting DEMs can be used to compute long-term glacier elevation changes over large areas.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5629614
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2022


  • Panoramic cameras
  • Spy satellites
  • Corona KH-4
  • Superglue
  • DEM
  • Glacier changes
  • Epipolar resampling


Dive into the research topics of 'A pipeline for automated processing of declassified Corona KH-4 (1962-1972) stereo imagery'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this