Titan IV

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Titan IV
Titan4B on Launch Complex 40.jpg
A Titan IV-B rocket carrying the Cassini-Huygens space research mission before takeoff from Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral, 12 October 1997 (NASA)
Function Heavy-lift launch vehicle
Manufacturer Lockheed Martin
Country of originUnited States
Cost per launch$432 million (USD)
Height50-62 m (164-207 ft)
Diameter3.05 m (10 ft)
Mass943,050 kg (2,079,060 lb)
Payload to LEO
Mass21,680 kg(47,790 lb)
Date /
Time (UTC)
Launch SiteS/NTypePayloadOutcomeRemarks
14 June 1989
CCAFS LC-41 K-1402A / IUS USA-39 (DSP-14)Success
8 June 1990
USA-59 Satellite Launch Dispenser Communications (SLDCOM)
13 November 1990
CCAFS LC-41K-6402A / IUS USA-65 (DSP-15)Success
8 March 1991
VAFB LC-4E K-5403AUSA-69 (Lacrosse)Success
8 November 1991
28 November 1992
VAFB LC-4EK-3404AUSA-86 (KH-11)Success
2 August 1993
VAFB LC-4EK-11403A NOSS x3
FailureSRM exploded at T+101s due to damage caused during maintenance on ground.
7 February 1994
CCAFS LC-40 K-10401A / Centaur USA-99 (Milstar-1)Success
3 May 1994
CCAFS LC-41K-7401A / Centaur USA-103 (Trumpet)Success
27 August 1994
CCAFS LC-41K-9401A / Centaur USA-105 (Mercury)Success
22 December 1994
CCAFS LC-40K-14402A / IUS USA-107 (DSP-17)Success
14 May 1995
CCAFS LC-40K-23401A / Centaur USA-110 (Orion)Success
10 July 1995
CCAFS LC-41K-19401A / Centaur USA-112 (Trumpet)Success
6 November 1995
CCAFS LC-40K-21401A / Centaur USA-115 (Milstar-2)Success
5 December 1995
VAFB LC-4EK-15404AUSA-116 (KH-11)Success
24 April 1996
CCAFS LC-41K-16401A / Centaur USA-118 (Mercury)Success
12 May 1996
VAFB LC-4EK-22403AUSA-120 (NOSS)
USA-121 (NOSS)
USA-122 (NOSS)
USA-123 Tethers in Space Physics Satellite (TiPS)
USA-124 (TiPS)
3 July 1996
CCAFS LC-40K-2405AUSA-125 (SDS)Success
20 December 1996
VAFB LC-4EK-13404AUSA-129 (KH-11)Success NROL-2
23 February 1997
CCAFS LC-40B-24402B / IUS USA-130 (DSP-18)Success
15 October 1997
CCAFS LC-40B-33401B / Centaur Cassini
24 October 1997
VAFB LC-4EA-18403AUSA-133 (Lacrosse)Success NROL-3
8 November 1997
CCAFS LC-41A-17401A / Centaur USA-136 (Trumpet)Success NROL-4
9 May 1998
CCAFS LC-40B-25401B / Centaur USA-139 (Orion)Success NROL-6
12 August 1998
CCAFS LC-41A-20401A / Centaur NROL-7 (Mercury)FailureGuidance system short-circuited at T+40s due to frayed wire, vehicle lost control and destroyed by range safety.
9 April 1999
CCAFS LC-41B-27402B / IUS USA-142 (DSP-19)FailureSpacecraft failed to separate from IUS stage.
30 April 1999
CCAFS LC-40B-32401B / Centaur USA-143 (Milstar-3)FailureCentaur software database error caused loss of attitude control, insertion burns done incorrectly. Satellite deployed into useless orbit.
22 May 1999
VAFB LC-4EB-12404BUSA-144 (Misty)Success NROL-8
8 May 2000
CCAFS LC-40B-29402B / IUS USA-149 (DSP-20)Success
17 August 2000
VAFB LC-4EB-28403BUSA-152 (Lacrosse)Success NROL-11
27 February 2001
CCAFS LC-40B-41401B / Centaur USA-157 (Milstar-4)Success
6 August 2001
CCAFS LC-40B-31402B / IUS USA-159 (DSP-21)Success
5 October 2001
VAFB LC-4EB-34404BUSA-161 (KH-11)Success NROL-14
16 January 2002
CCAFS LC-40B-38401B / Centaur USA-164 (Milstar-5)Success
8 April 2003
CCAFS LC-40B-35401B / Centaur USA-169 (Milstar-6)Success
9 September 2003
CCAFS LC-40B-36401B / Centaur USA-171 (Orion)Success NROL-19
14 February 2004
CCAFS LC-40B-39402B / IUS USA-176 (DSP-22)Success
30 April 2005
CCAFS LC-40B-30405BUSA-182 (Lacrosse)Success NROL-16
19 October 2005
VAFB LC-4EB-26404BUSA-186 (KH-11)Success NROL-20

Launch failures

The Titan IV experienced four catastrophic launch failures.

1993 booster explosion

Titan IVA K-11 moments before the August 1993 failure Titan IVA K-11 failure (August 1993).jpg
Titan IVA K-11 moments before the August 1993 failure

On August 2, 1993, Titan IV K-11 lifted from SLC-4E carrying a NOSS SIGNIT satellite. Unusually for DoD launches, the Air Force invited civilian press to cover the launch, which became more of a story than intended when the booster exploded 101 seconds after liftoff. Investigation found that one of the two SRMs had burned through, resulting in the destruction of the vehicle in a similar manner as the earlier 34D-9 failure. An investigation found that an improper repair job was the cause of the accident. [24]

After Titan 34D-9, extensive measures had been put in place to ensure proper SRM operating condition, including X-raying the motor segments during prelaunch checks. The SRMs that went onto K-11 had originally been shipped to Cape Canaveral, where X-rays revealed anomalies in the solid propellant mixture in one segment. The defective area was removed by a pie-shaped cut in the propellant block. However, most of CSD's qualified personnel had left the program by this point and so the repair crew in question did not know the proper procedure. After replacement, they neglected to seal the area where the cut in the propellant block had been made. Post repair X-rays were enough for CC personnel to disqualify the SRMs from flight, but the SRMs were then shipped to Vandenberg and approved anyway. The result was a near-repeat of 34D-9; a gap was left between the propellant and SRM casing and another burn-through occurred during launch.

1998 IV-A electrical failure

1998 saw the failure of Titan K-17 with a Navy ELINT Mercury (satellite) from Cape Canaveral around 40 seconds into the flight. K-17 was several years old and the last Titan IV-A to be launched. The post-accident investigation showed that the booster had dozens of damaged or chafed wires and should never have been launched in that operating condition, but the Air Force had put extreme pressure on launch crews to meet program deadlines. The Titan's fuselage was filled with numerous sharp metal protrusions that made it nearly impossible to install, adjust, or remove wiring without it getting damaged. Quality control at Lockheed's Denver plant, where Titan vehicles were assembled, was described as "awful".

The proximal cause of the failure was an electrical short that caused a momentary power dropout to the guidance computer at T+39 seconds. After power was restored, the computer sent a spurious pitch down and yaw to the right command. At T+40 seconds, the Titan was traveling at near supersonic speed and could not handle this action without suffering a structural failure. The sudden pitch downward and resulting aerodynamic stress caused one of the SRMs to separate. The ISDS (Inadvertent Separation Destruct System) automatically triggered, rupturing the SRM and taking the rest of the launch vehicle with it. At T+45 seconds, the Range Safety Officer sent the destruct command to ensure any remaining large pieces of the booster were broken up. [25]

An extensive recovery effort was launched, both to diagnose the cause of the accident and recover debris from the classified satellite. All of the debris from the Titan had impacted offshore, between three and five miles downrange, and at least 30% of the booster was recovered from the sea floor. Debris continued to wash ashore for days afterward, and the salvage operation continued until October 15.

The Air Force had pushed for a "launch on demand" program for DOD payloads, something that was almost impossible to pull off especially given the lengthy preparation and processing time needed for a Titan IV launch (at least 60 days). Shortly before retiring in 1994, General Chuck Horner referred to the Titan program as "a nightmare". The 1998-99 schedule had called for four launches in less than 12 months. The first of these was Titan K-25 which successfully orbited an Orion SIGNIT satellite on May 9, 1998. The second was the K-17 failure, and the third was the K-32 failure.

Stage failure to separate

After a delay caused by the investigation of the previous failure, the 9 April 1999 launch of K-32 carried a DSP early warning satellite. The IUS second stage failed to separate, leaving the payload in a useless orbit. Investigation into this failure found that wiring harnesses in the IUS had been wrapped too tightly with electrical tape so that a plug failed to disconnect properly and prevented the two IUS stages from separating.

Programming error

The fourth launch was K-26 on April 30, 1999, carrying a Milstar communications satellite. During the Centaur coast phase flight, the roll control thrusters fired open-loop until the RCS fuel was depleted, causing the upper stage and payload to rotate rapidly. On restart, the Centaur cartwheeled out of control and left its payload in a useless orbit. This failure was found to be the result of an incorrectly programmed equation in the guidance computer. The error caused the roll rate gyro data to be ignored by the flight computer. [26]

See also

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