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4/30/05 Titan IVB-30 Liftoff Closes Titan Era at Cape Canaveral

Titan IVB-30 (USAF TV)Titan IVB-30 ended the 46-year-long Titan program at Cape Canaveral, Florida with a successful launch from Pad 40 on April 30, 2005 (00:50 GMT). The vehicle boosted a secret NRO payload (NRO L-16) into a high-inclination low earth orbit. Observers tracked the satellite in a 57 degree inclination orbit that is consistent with a Lacrosse-type radar imaging mission.

A mission patch sporting the name "Prometheus" has been associated with the flight.

Titan IVB-30 Liftoff (USAF)The 56 meter tall
rocket, topped by a standard 20 meter payload fairing, knifed into a clear night sky on 1,500 metric tons of thrust provided by two Alliant upgraded three-segment solid rocket motors (SRMUs). Titan's core first stage engine, a twin-chamber Aerojet LR87-AJ-11, ignited 132 seconds after liftoff, 14 seconds before the SRMUs shut down and separated. Second stage ignition and staging occurred 320 seconds into the flight.


Both the accelerating second stage and the falling first stage were visible to observers as the rocket flew up the Eastern Seaboard. Orbit was achieved when the second stage shut down only 550 seconds after liftoff. The NRO payload separated about 20 seconds later.

The first stage fell into the Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland, an event that triggered concern in Canada recently due to the proximity of two oil platforms to the so-called "boat box" (stage drop zone). An unusual radome-topped ship that was reported to have harbored in Portland, Maine for several days was believed to have tracked the mission.


The launch was the last from Cape Canaveral's SLC 40 and was the next to last Titan and ICBM-based heritage launcher.


Cape Canaveral Titan PadsInternational Space Station Expedition 10 Commander Leroy Chiao took this image from the International Space Station during March 2005.  

The image captured the entire Titan IIIC/34D/IV Integrate Transfer Launch complex at Cape Canaveral.  North is toward the left of the photograph. 

The I-T-L complex consisted of the Vertical Integration Building (VIB), the original Titan IIIC/34D Solid Motor Assembly Building (SMAB), the newer Titan IVB Solid Motor Assembly and Readiness Facility (SMARF), Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC 40) where, at the time of the photograph, the last Cape Canaveral Titan was parked and enclosed by the massive Mobile Service Tower, and Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC 41). 

SLC 41 was converted for use by Atlas V beginning in 1999.   The Atlas V Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), located about one-quarter of a mile south of Pad 41, is much closer to the streamlined Atlas pad than the VIB was to the Titan pads (the VIB was more than four miles from SLC 41).  The Atlas V launch control center is in the VIB area, as is the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC, a former Titan solid motor building visible at the bottom right).  Unlike Titan, which was moved vertically by rail from the VIB to the pad, Atlas stages are trucked horizontally from the ASOC to the VIF. 

After the final Titan launch, SLC 40, the SMARF, portions of the SMAB, the VIB, and the interconnecting railroad system were mothballed.  The VIB and the SLC 40 mobile service tower were subsequently razed.

Portions of Space Launch Complex 37, a more traditional non-mobile launch site originally built for Saturn I and now used for Delta IV, is visible at top right.   A Delta IV Medium was erected on SLC 37B at the time of the photograph.

4/16/2005 Titan I-T-L Finale

ITL Aerial View From SouthThe original far-flung Titan IIIC I-T-L (Integrate - Transfer - Launch) complex, seen in the photo not long after its 1965 completion, was a rail-mobile based site that was originally designed to handle as many as 50 launches per year. But the maximum launch rate was more like 5 per year after the cancellation of the Manned Orbiting Lab (MOL) project.

Core Titan vehicles were stacked on one of several mobile launchers in the four-bay Vertical Integration Building (VIB - tallest building in photo), then rolled - pushed actually - by twin locomotives to the Solid Motor Assembly Building (SMAB - center of photo) where twin segmented solid motors were added. A new solid motor assembly building, named SMARF, was constructed during the early 1990s to process the new Titan IVB  solid motors.The final move would position the rocket either on SLC 40 (top right) or SLC 41 (top center). I-T-L was the Air Force equivalent of NASA's Launch Complex 39, but the secrecy surrounding its operations meant that it garnered little acclaim.

SLC 41 supported Titan IIIE during the 1970s, which launched the Viking and Voyager probes.  Titan IVB performed a final NASA launch when it orbited Cassini from SLC 40 in 1997.

SLC 41 was slightly more than four miles from the VIF. Most of the complex was built on 6.5 million cubic yards of landfill that was dredged from the bottom of the Banana River. A third pad (LC 42) was planned, but never built.

SLC 41 was converted for use by Atlas-V, with its own new Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) near the pad. A solid motor processing building was converted into an Atlas V checkout and launch control center.   SLC 40 is expected to host SpaceX Falcon 9 launches.