Cape's next-to-last Titan 4 rocket moved to launch pad
BY JUSTIN RAY
Posted: October 6, 2003
Standing about 120 feet tall on its mobile launching platform, the "headless" rocket was backed out of the Solid Motor Assembly and Readiness Facility, or SMARF, for the one-mile trek to the Complex 40 pad.
The move represented a key milestone in preparing the Lockheed Martin-built rocket for its U.S. national security mission. But with just two Titan 4 launches remaining at the Florida spaceport, the moment reminded everyone that the heavy-lifting rocket's era is nearing an end.
"This is a very cool day and ever more significant because it is going to be one of the last times...that we move one out," said Col. Jimmy Comfort, commander of the 3rd Space Launch Squadron at Cape Canaveral.
After arriving at the Cape in May 2002, the core stages were erected on the launch platform in the Vertical Integration Building. The locomotives, which stay in synch with each other thanks to a 15-foot interconnecting control boom, moved the platform to the SMARF where the solid boosters were added.
In the coming months at the pad, a Boeing-made Inertial Upper Stage -- the last one slated to fly -- and the Defense Support Program-22 spacecraft cargo will be mounted atop the Titan 4 rocket.
"It may look mostly complete now, but there is still a lot of build up that we do on the pad," said Col. Comfort.
The IUS upper stage motor, which propels the satellite from the low-Earth orbit achieved by the Titan 4's core stages to geostationary orbit, will go to the pad in November. DSP-22 will be fueled and then transported to the pad in mid-December to be attached with the launcher.
The 56-foot long nose cone is then installed to encapsulate the $250 million satellite for ascent.
"Things are going very well. We are right on schedule," Col. Comfort said.
Built by Northrop Grumman, formerly TRW, the DSP-22 is destined to orbit 22,300 miles above the equator to detect enemy missile launches and nuclear detonations on Earth. The spacecraft features a sophisticated infrared telescope that sees the heat from missile and booster exhaust plumes against the Earth's background.
The satellite arrived at the Cape in mid-August to begin its pre-launch campaign inside a building neighboring the SMARF. The craft and its sensors are currently being checked out by Northrop Grumman and Aerojet technicians.
"So far, so good," said Maj. Joe Coniglio, chief of launch operations for DSP.
"We've got two separate crews responsible for each of their piece of the pie, both working together in integrated system testing to check out all systems."
The final Titan 4 mission is scheduled for February 2005 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, also loaded with a classified NRO spacecraft. It will mark the 12th Titan 4 launched from the West Coast.
Flight data file
Vehicle: Titan 4B (B-39)
Upper stage: IUS-10
Launch date: Feb. 14, 2004
Launch window: 1:21 to 5:21 p.m. EST (1821-2221 GMT)
Launch site: Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Satellite broadcast: Telstar 6, Transponder 15, C-band
Launch timeline - Chart with times and descriptions of events to occur during the launch.
Weather forecast - The latest forecast for launch day conditions.
Launch hazard area - A map of the restricted area during liftoff.
DSP satellite - An overview of the Defense Support Program spacecraft being launched.
Titan 4B - Description of rocket being used in this launch.
Titan 4 history - Chart with listing of previous Titan 4 flights.
Titan 4 directory - See our coverage of previous Titan 4 rocket flights.
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