The Drone was supposed to fly over Soviet territory then air drop its film before self destructing.
Over 50 years ago, in the height of the Cold War, spying on the Soviet Union from the air was a major endeavor. If you’ve seen the movie “Bridge Of Spies”, you may recall that it was based on the Soviets shooting down a U-2 spy plane and capturing its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, in 1960.
A few years later after the Powers’ incident, the U.S. had developed the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance aircraft. But instead of risking pilots over Soviet territory, the SR-71 was used to launch a drone that would make a photography pass, drop its payload safely and then self-destruct.
This video shows a test that ended in disaster in May of 1966, destroying both the drone and the SR-71 and resulting in the death of Launch Control Officer Ray Torick.