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Titan 4 Roars Into Space With Military Satellite

June 15, 1989|From Times Wire Services

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The Titan 4 made a dazzling debut as America's newest, most powerful and most costly unmanned rocket Wednesday when it roared into space carrying a satellite to provide instant alert of a missile attack.

It was the most expensive unmanned space mission ever by the United States, with the $220-million rocket, the $180-million satellite, a $45-million payload booster stage and other costs raising the total to close to half a billion dollars.

Ten minutes after the 20-story-tall booster roared off its launch pad, the Air Force reported that it had successfully passed its first trial and had placed the military satellite in space.

"This is an important milestone for the Air Force because it's the first Titan 4, our new heavy lift launch booster which will give us assured access to space for our critical heavy national security payloads," said Lt. Col. Ron Rand, an Air Force spokesman.

Defense Department officials decided after the shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986 that they were relying too much on the manned shuttle for military payloads.

The post-Challenger hiatus in shuttle flights left about 40 vital reconnaissance and other national security payloads in storage for want of a launch vehicle.

As a result, the Defense Department more than doubled the number of Titan 4s on order and authorized development of two new smaller rockets, the Delta 2 and Atlas 2.

The Titan 4 can boost 39,000-pound payloads to an orbit 150 to 300 miles high or propel 10,000-pound packages to so-called stationary orbits 23,000 miles up. It replaces the Titan 34D booster.

The Air Force reported only that the big rocket was boosting a classified payload. However, it has been widely reported that the rocket carried an advanced missile warning satellite.

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