Air Force News

Air Force sets Titan IV launch record

Released: Nov 10, 1997

Air Force News Photo
An Air Force Titan IV sits poised on Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla., awaiting its record-setting launch, which took place Nov. 7 at 9:05 p.m. EST. It was the third successful launch of a Titan IV within 23 days. (Courtesy photo)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR STATION, Fla. (AFNS) -- The Air Force set a new mark with its Titan IV Nov. 7 at 9:05 p.m. EST with a third successful launch of America's heavy lift booster within 23 days. The payload was a satellite from the National Reconnaissance Office.

"We're very proud of our new Titan IV launch record and all the members of the launch teams who made this happen," said Gen. Howell M. Estes III, commander of Air Force Space Command. "Cooperative efforts with Air Force Materiel Command's Space and Missile Systems Center, the contractor teams led by Lockheed Martin, our payload customers, and the hard work of dedicated men and women at our launch bases on both coasts made this achievement possible."

This record demonstrates the Air Force's continued commitment to routine operations in space, according to Air Force officials.

"By rapidly launching successive, highly-complex missions we've moved one step closer to the Air Force's dream of routine access to space," said Brig. Gen. Randy Starbuck, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.'s 45th Space Wing commander. "The 45th has worked very hard to make this dream a reality."

The new Titan IV record eclipses the one set only last year. The previous record for three Titan IV launches was 65 days, when the Air Force launched April 24 and July 2 from Cape Canaveral, and May 18 from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

The record set Nov. 7 began with the Titan IV/Cassini mission that lifted off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Oct. 15. A second launch followed Oct. 23 with the launch of a NRO payload from Space Launch Complex 4-East at Vandenberg.

"Team Vandenberg is proud to have been a part of this historic, record-breaking Titan launch effort," said Col. C. Robert Kehler, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg. "This is an excellent example of industry and the government working together for America."

The three recent Titan IV missions represent the 14th, 15th, and 16th in a string of successful Titan IV launches. The Titan IV has a 95.7 percent success rate since it launched its first of 23 mission payloads into space in June 1989.

The Titan IV launch vehicle, built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver, is the United States' largest unmanned space booster, providing assured capability for launch of space shuttle-class payloads. The Titan IV is capable of lifting 47,800 pounds into low-Earth orbit, or more than 12,700 pounds into geosynchronous orbit. The vehicle is flexible in that it can be launched with one or two optional upper stages for greater and varied carrying ability.

The Titan IV launch vehicle was acquired for AFSPC by the Space and Missile Systems Center's Launch Programs Office, Los Angeles AFB, Calif. It also ensures flight-ready hardware is available at the launch sites.

The Titan first flew in February 1959 as the Titan I, the nation's first two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile and first underground silo-based ICBM. The Titan ICBM evolved into a spacelift vehicle in the mid-1960's when it was used to send two astronauts at a time into orbit in Gemini space capsules. Later, solid rocket boosters were added to the Titan core creating the Titan IIIC, Titan 34D, and now the Titan IV family of heavy lift launch vehicles.