Spaceflight Now: B-41 Launch Report

Grissom 'flies' one last time at Cape Canaveral
Posted: February 26, 2001

Through the vision of Capt. Reece Stephenson and the artistic talents of Michele Tate, Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom, one of our nation's first astronauts, will once again fly from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Grissom's "flight" is possible because the Titan 4B booster, awaiting launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at the cape, has been named "Gus" in honor of him.

An illustration of the Apollo 1 memorial artwork completed by Michele Tate. Photo: Air Force
Stephenson finished a mission patch he designed in August 1999 and Tate developed artwork that integrates images of Grissom and his Apollo 1 crewmates and the Titan 4B booster that carries his name.

"He was one of the original Mercury 7 and the first Air Force astronaut to fly," Stephenson said. "That's why I nicknamed the Titan booster after Lieutenant Colonel Virgil "Gus" Grissom.

"When I decided to nickname the booster 'Gus,' I thought it would be great to present the original patch to Mrs. Betty Grissom -- his widow," Stephenson said. "The patch contains a lot of symbology revolving around his career as an astronaut."

When Stephenson heard of the Apollo 1 memorial ceremony at the Cape on January 27, he knew that was the perfect opportunity. The ceremony marked the 34th anniversary of the tragedy at Space Launch Complex 34 in 1967 that took the lives of the three-person Apollo 1 crew, which included Grissom, Lt. Col. Edward H. White and Lt. Cmdr. Roger Chaffee.

"I thought of honoring the three astronauts' sacrifice by presenting their families with an original piece of artwork, to include the patch," Stephenson said. He asked his friend Capt. Glynn Tate, if his wife, Michele, would do the artwork and she accepted.

Her drawing depicts the spirits of the Apollo 1 astronauts looking at the Titan 4B booster blasting off and illustrates how they continue to watch over America's space program.

"I've done a number of collages in the past for Air Force organizations," Michele Tate said. "At first, I thought this project would be a small, behind-the-scenes presentation to the families, but it became a much larger, symbolic gesture on behalf of the Air Force to say to the astronauts' families that we appreciate them, that they're not forgotten. The collage honors the crew of Apollo 1, as well as the men and women in the space program today."

The widow of Lt. Col. Virgil "Gus" Grissom accepts the Apollo 1 memorial artwork from Capt. Reece Stephenson during a ceremony at Cape Canaveral on January 27. Photo: Air Force
The mission patch commemorates Grissom with, "GUS," embroidered at the top in gold, surrounded by black, depicting the black and gold colors of the 3rd Space Launch Squadron.

The black border signifies the blackness of space, the final frontier. The blue is the sky through which the astronauts fly and the green represents the Earth and all the people who support the launch program. There are 20 stars encircling the Titan 4B rocket, representing the previous Titan 4B missions. The one lone star represents those who have fallen in defense of the country.

Other symbology includes a capsule with the No. 7 on it representing the original Mercury 7 astronauts. The name "John" is also embroidered to recognize John Young, Grissom's crew partner on the first manned mission of the Gemini Program, Gemini/Titan 3. The Military Strategic and Tactical Relay System satellite depicted is the payload Titan 4/B-41 will carry into orbit.

"It was an honor for us to present the original patch and drawing to Mrs. Grissom at the ceremony," Tate said.

The White and Chaffee families were unable to attend the ceremony this year, but will also receive similar gifts. Mrs. Grissom, who attended with her son, Mark, said she's very pleased the Air Force continues to formally recognize the crew, celebrate their lives and honor their sacrifice.

Flight data file
Vehicle: Titan 4B/Centaur
Payload: Milstar 2-F2
Launch date: Feb. 27, 2001
Launch window: 1857-2257 GMT (1:57-5:57 p.m. EST)
Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida

Pre-launch briefing
Launch timeline - Chart with the key events to occur during the launch.

Titan 4B - Description of America's most powerful unmanned rocket.

Milstar satellite - A look at the Military Strategic and Tactical Relay satellite program.

Communications - Overview of Boeing's Medium Data Rate and crosslink payloads on Milstar.

Antennas - Technical description of Milstar's medium data rate nulling antennas made by TRW.

DPS - TRW's digital processing subsystem on Milstar is key to payload.

Restricted zone - Map outlining the Launch Hazard Area where mariners should remain clear for the liftoff.