The Cape, Chapter 2, Section 7

TITAN and Shuttle Military Space Operations

TITAN IV Program Activation and Completion of the TITAN 34D Program

Thanks to the Air Force's initial commitment to the TITAN IV program, Martin Marietta was also in the midst of a $56,900,000 renovation project for the Cape's ITL Area facilities in 1986 and 1987. Under an Air Force contract awarded in February 1985, Martin had hired approximately 50 local area subcontractors to refurbish Launch Complex 41's Mobile Service Tower (MST), its Umbilical Tower (UT) and other facilities in preparation for the new TITAN IV launch vehicle. The VIB, SMAB and other ITL facilities would also be modified and upgraded to support TITAN IV launch operations. Work on Complex 41 began in January 1986 and continued into 1988. The SMAB was modified between November 1986 and the spring of 1987, and work on the VIB was completed between March and October 1987. Work on Transporters #1 and #4 got underway in September 1986 and continued well into 1988.61

By the middle of 1988, the first phase of the Cape's TITAN IV program activation was well on its way to completion. In October and November 1987, Complex 41's MST was moved several times to test its operation. By late April 1988, Martin Marietta was ready to turn the MST over to the Air Force for routine maintenance. This is not to say that problems did not remain to be resolved in 1989 and 1990-corrosion was discovered on the recently-refurbished UT in the fall of 1987, and there were a large number of "punchlist" items remaining to be resolved by Martin Marietta and its primary subcontractor, Sauer Construction. Nevertheless, processing of the first TITAN IV hardware began in January 1988, and Martin was already suggesting that Launch Complex 40 be modified to accept TITAN IV vehicles as well as the company's new commercial TITAN III vehicles.62

In addition to changes in existing TITAN facilities, two new acquisitions were added to the Test Group's list of TITAN resources as part of the Air Force's commitment to the TITAN IV program: NASA's CENTAUR Payload Operations Control Center (CPOCC) and the ITL Area's Solid Motor Assembly Readiness Facility (SMARF). Following cancellation of the Shuttle/CENTAUR project on 19 June 1986, the CPOCC was transferred to ESMC on 30 January 1987. The Test Group became responsible for the facility, and it began converting the two-story building into a control center for the TITAN IV/CENTAUR program. The CPOCC designation was deleted, and the facility became simply "Building 27200" until it was renamed the Launch Operations Control Center (LOCC) in 1988. The Test Group had the second floor redesigned to monitor DELTA II operations as well as TITAN IV/CENTAUR operations, and it installed a Launch Management Control Center (LMCC), Command Management Control Center (CMCC) and Spacecraft Control Center (SCC) on that floor. The first floor of the LOCC was designed to serve as a nerve center for TITAN IV/CENTAUR operations in the 1990s.63

The Test Group's other new TITAN facility was drawn on a clean sheet of paper. In 1988, Martin Marietta proposed the SMARF as the best of three alternatives for supporting the TITAN IV's new Solid Rocket Motor Upgrade (SRMU) design. The 320 x 185 x 250-foot facility would need a building site, and the old hydrazine tank car storage area, north of the SMAB, was proposed. The Air Force accepted both of those recommendations in the latter part of 1988, and it got together with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to finalize the floor plan and stacking cell platform elevations in February 1989. Following the final 100 Percent Design Review in September 1989, more than 50 prospective contractors attended the SMARF site visit and pre-proposal conference at the Cape on 11 October 1989. The contract award was delayed for several months due to the facility's probable threat to the Florida Beach Mouse (a recent addition to the endangered species list), but the $39,976,984 contract for the project was awarded to Frank J. Rooney, Inc. on 18 April 1990. Site preparation was underway by the end of May 1990, and the SMARF was essentially complete by the end of 1991. Unfortunately, crane problems plagued the SMARF in 1992, and they continued to delay operations in 1993.64

Figure 75: Launch Operations Control Center (LOCC)
Figure 76: LOCC first floor
Figure 77: LOCC second floor
Figure 78: SMARF under construction in January 1991

As construction and renovation at the Cape continued, the Test Group prepared for the return of TITAN 34D launch operations and the debut of TITAN IV launch operations. Vandenberg had the honor of launching the first post-recovery TITAN 34D mission on 26 October 1987, but the next TITAN 34D mission was launched from the Cape on 29 November 1987. The launch vehicle (D-8) for that classified mission was equipped with a transtage, and it flew from Complex 40 almost three years after it arrived at the Cape. The countdown was picked up at 1849:00Z on November 28th. Despite two unscheduled holds, the final count went smoothly. The vehicle lifted off Complex 40 at 0327:20Z on November 29th. All flight systems performed properly, and the launch was a complete success.65

Figure 79: SMARF completed in December 1991

The next TITAN 34D launch at the Cape involved a classified payload and Launch Vehicle D-3. Like Launch Vehicle D-8, D-3 was equipped with a transtage, and its launch had been held up by the TITAN 34D recovery effort in 1986 and 1987. Stages I and II of Core Vehicle D-3 arrived at the Cape on 7 August 1985, and Stage III arrived on 4 September 1985. The core vehicle was erected on Transporter #3 in Cell #1 on 7 September 1985, and the Acceptance CST was completed on 7 February 1986. The vehicle remained in storage on its transporter in the VIB from March 1986 to April 1987. Stages II and III were disassembled so Stage II could be sent back to Martin Marietta for an engine upgrade on 23 April 1987. Stage II was upgraded, and it was returned to the Cape on 28 July 1987. Following re-erection of the core vehicle on August 5th, power was restored to D-3 on 15 January 1988 for extensive retesting in the VIB. A Retest CST was run on 11 February 1988, and the vehicle was moved to the SMAB for solid rocket mating on February 17th. Launch Vehicle D-3 was moved out to Complex 40 on 20 February 1988. Testing continued at the launch site over the next six months. The countdown for the launch was picked up at 0405Z on 2 September 1988. Lift-off was recorded at 1205:02Z, and the first part of the flight went well. Unfortunately, the transtage failed to boost the payload to mission orbit. Subsequent investigations by Space Systems Division and the TITAN 34D Program Office could not pinpoint the exact cause of the anomaly, but a highly technical analysis of telemetry data revealed that the transtage lost pressure through a small hole in its fuel tank feed system before the transtage's first burn. The investigators concluded that there had been enough pressure for the transtage's first burn, but not enough pressure for its second burn. Space Systems Division's two remaining TITAN 34D/Transtage vehicles were thoroughly inspected to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.66

As TITAN 34D launch operations continued, Colonel Robert B. Bourne assumed command of the 6555th Aerospace Test Group near the beginning of the TITAN IV era at the Cape. The first TITAN IV liquid rocket engines were installed on the TITAN IV "pathfinder" vehicle at the end of January 1988, shortly before the core vehicle was erected in the VIB. Four TITAN IV solid rocket motor segments were received at the SMAB by the middle of February 1988, and two electrical functional tests were conducted in early March. As "bugs" were worked out of various systems, the core vehicle had its first successful CST on 11 May 1988. The vehicle was moved to the SMAB around the middle of May. Following a successful mate with two five-segment stacks of solid rocket motor segments, the pathfinder vehicle was moved out to Complex 41 on Saturday, May 21st. The sixth segment was added to both stacks on May 22nd, and the seventh segment was added to the "north" stack on May 23rd. Communications problems and high winds over the Cape delayed IUS mating for a short time, but the IUS was mated to the vehicle on 16 June 1988. A dummy TITAN IV spacecraft was mated to the IUS a few days later, but the Baseline CST was attempted three times before it was completed successfully on July 12th. The payload fairing was mated to the vehicle during the first week in August, and electromagnetic compatibility tests were completed on 23 August 1988.67

The Launch Readiness Verification (LRV) for the pathfinder was attempted twice in September 1988, but lousy weather, fire alarm indications and a balky Mobile Service Tower stymied those efforts. The most serious obstacle was the MST: the tower could not be jacked up high enough to clear the pad's launch piers, and further investigation revealed cracks in three strongbacks supporting the jacking system. The LRV was suspended while the strongbacks were repaired, tested and repainted. The MST was exercised successfully on 25 November 1988. A bridge crane required adjustments in December 1988, and Complex 41's Umbilical Tower and 1750-kilowatt generator were out of service at the end of March 1989. Those problems aside, preparations for the first TITAN IV launch continued.68

Figure 80: TITAN 34D Core Vehicle Erection
Figure 81: TITAN 34D Solid Rocket Motor Mate
Figure 82: First TITAN IV Core Vehicle arrives at the Skid Strip
January 1988
Figure 83: Capping off a Solid Rocket Motor at the Pad
Figure 84: Colonel Robert B. Bourne

The first TITAN IV vehicle supported a classified mission. Its launch had been scheduled for 7 June 1989, but the lift-off was pushed to June 14th due to a range timing generator problem and a computer malfunction. The countdown was picked up at 0254Z on June 14th. Two unscheduled holds were called to let the launch team catch up on checklist items that were behind schedule, and another hold was called for a high temperature reading on the vehicle's S-Band transmitter. Following the last unscheduled hold, the countdown proceeded uneventfully, and the TITAN IV lifted off Complex 41 at 1318:01Z on 14 June 1989. While the launch was successful, an anomaly occurred approximately 130 seconds into the flight: a failure in a thrust chamber regenerative tube caused one of the first stage's two liquid rocket nozzles to gimbal to the limit of its travel. Luckily, there was sufficient control in the other engine to maintain the launch vehicle's stability, and the flight was successful.69

Though the first TITAN IV mission ended well, Space Systems Division was very concerned about the TITAN IV-1 flight anomaly. The TITAN IV Program Office, Martin Marietta, the rocket engine manufacturer (Aerojet Tech Systems) and the Aerospace Corporation conducted an exhaustive investigation of the incident. A component defect was not ruled out, but the investigators concluded that the most probable cause for the failure was contamination in the tubes composing the combustion chamber nozzle. The contamination probably restricted the cooling flow of fuel to the tubes, and one of the tubes burned out as a result. In the short term, contractors intended to pay more attention to signs of contamination. In the long term, design modifications, better process control and more non-destructive testing were planned to detect and eliminate all potential sources of contamination.70

As the Air Force closed out its TITAN 34D program in favor of the TITAN IVs, the last two TITAN 34D flights (D-16 and D-2) were launched from Complex 40 in May and September 1989. Core Vehicle D-16 arrived at the Cape on 28 April 1988, and it was erected on Transporter #3 in May. Unfortunately, the vehicle's transtage had to be sent back to Martin Marietta's plant in Denver, Colorado for some modifications on 12 November 1988. The transtage was returned to the Cape on 24 January 1989. The Acceptance CST was completed on March 10th, and the core vehicle was mated to its solid rocket motors around 20 March 1989. Launch Vehicle D-16 was moved out the Complex 40 shortly thereafter. Following payload mate, fairing installation and a good Launch CST, a launch was attempted on 9 May 1989. It had to be scrubbed due to an "incompatibility" between the Range Sequencer and the TITAN program's new Programmable Aerospace Control Equipment, but the problem was corrected quickly. The countdown was picked up again on May 10th, and it proceeded smoothly until an 11 minute hold was called for weather at T minus five minutes. The countdown resumed, and TITAN 34D-16 lifted off with its classified payload at 1947:01Z on 10 May 1989. According to the Martin Marietta test report on the vehicle, all TITAN systems performed normally in flight.71

Figure 85: First TITAN IV launch from Complex 41
14 June 1989

The last TITAN 34D launched from the Cape had an extensive processing history between the time it first arrived at the Cape (e.g., 19 August 1981) and the time it was erected for the final time on Transporter #3 in Cell #1 on 13 December 1988. In the last series of processing operations, the core vehicle (D-2) was transferred to storage in Cell #4 on 16 December 1988. Core Vehicle D-2 was moved back to Cell #1 after the transtage arrived in mid-March 1989. The transtage was erected on the core vehicle on 28 March 1989. The Acceptance CST was completed successfully on 23 June 1989. Core Vehicle D-2 was moved to the SMAB for solid rocket mating on July 2nd, and Launch Vehicle D-2 was moved out to Complex 40 on 5 July 1989. The vehicle was mated to a classified payload and prepared for launch. Though the first Launch CST failed on August 21st, the Launch CST on August 27th was completely successful. A balky Mobile Service Tower delayed pre-launch activities on September 4th, but a 22-minute-long user hold brought operations up to speed at T minus 30 minutes. After the countdown resumed at 0524Z, it proceeded without incident to vehicle lift-off at 0554:01Z on 4 September 1989. Once again, Martin Marietta's test report confirmed that all TITAN systems performed normally in flight.72

Figure 86: Last TITAN 34D launch from Cape Canaveral
4 September 1989

The Cape: Miltary Space Operations 1971-1992
by Mark C. Cleary, Chief Historian
45 Space Wing Office of History
1201 Minuteman Ave, Patrick AFB, FL 32925