UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


The Cape, Chapter 2, Section 6

TITAN and Shuttle Military Space Operations

TITAN 34D Military Space Operations and Facilities at the Cape

As the last TITAN IIIC thundered skyward, Martin Marietta and the Test Group were completing their second year of preparations for the TITAN 34D's first launch. The effort began in earnest when the first TITAN 34D core vehicle (D-01) arrived at the Cape in March 1980. Baseline CSTs were completed in September 1980, and, apart from a brief roundtrip ride to the SMAB on November 11th, the core vehicle remained in storage at the VIB until 18 May 1981. Preparations for subsystem testing extended from late March through early June, and the Primary Acceptance CST was accomplished toward the end of June 1981. The core vehicle was accepted in August 1981, and it was moved to the SMAB on 18 January 1982. The core and solids were mated, and the launch vehicle was moved to Complex 41 pending cleanup on Complex 40 after the TITAN IIIC launch on March 6th. Launch Vehicle D-01 was moved to Complex 40 on March 24th, and it was powered up and mated to the IUS Pathfinder Test Vehicle (PTV-C) on April 1st. The PTV-C was utilized in conjunction with the D-01 launch vehicle in a Baseline CST, four umbilical drop tests, a two-week-long series of electromagnetic compatibility tests and a launch readiness verification test. Following the initial tests, aft/forward fairings and a model spacecraft were installed to permit a payload fairing electromagnetic compatibility CST on June 22nd. The PVT-C was demated from the launch vehicle on July 22nd, and it was disassembled and returned to the contractor. In the meantime, the TITAN 34D's operational IUS (IUS-2) arrived at the Cape on 22 December 1981. It was taken to the SMAB, and its assembly was completed there on 8 June 1982. Though the IUS' preplanned acceptance testing was completed on August 19th, its formal acceptance was delayed pending additional tests required by Space Division. The IUS was mated to the launch vehicle on 1 September 1982, and it was mated to the vehicle's DSCS II/III payload on September 29th. Acceptance testing was completed on October 2nd, and the vehicle was prepared for launch.55

Launch Vehicle D-01's first Launch CST was aborted on 20 October 1982, but its second Launch CST was completed successfully on October 21st. The countdown was picked up smoothly on October 29th at 2055Z (Greenwich Mean Time), and the first TITAN 34D lifted off Complex 40 at 0405:01Z on 30 October 1982. The TITAN's flight was virtually flawless, and the IUS placed both DSCS satellites into near-perfect equatorial orbits. With the completion of this first highly successful launch operation, the Cape moved solidly into the TITAN 34D era.56

Figure 69: First TITAN 34D Launch Vehicle at Complex 40

The next TITAN 34D core vehicle (34D-10) was equipped with a transtage, and it arrived at the Cape on 14 October 1982. It was erected in Cell #2 of the VIB by 12 November 1982, and its Acceptance CST was completed on 14 February 1983. Following hardware acceptance on March 2nd, the vehicle remained in storage in the VIB through 10 July 1983. Core Vehicle D-10 was moved to the SMAB on July 11th. Following the core/solid rocket motor mate, Launch Vehicle D-10 was moved out to Complex 40 on 18 July 1983. The countdown was picked up at 1948Z on January 30th, and the vehicle was launched at 0308:01Z on 31 January 1984. Due to the classified nature of the mission, we may only note that: 1) the countdown was performed without any unscheduled holds, and 2) all flight systems (e.g., electrical, guidance, flight controls, hydraulics, ordnance, solid and liquid propulsion, and payload fairing) performed properly. The launch was successful.57

The third TITAN 34D launched from Complex 40 arrived at the Cape on 2 March 1983. That core vehicle (D-11) was equipped with a transtage, and it was erected in Cell #1 of the VIB between 14 and 17 March 1983. Following a successful Acceptance CST on June 24th, the vehicle was accepted formally on 12 July 1983. The vehicle was placed in storage in Cell #2 until it was moved to the SMAB on 10 February 1984. After the core vehicle was mated to its solid rocket motors, Launch Vehicle D-11 was moved out to the launch pad on 18 February 1984. During a Baseline CST at the pad, a Stage I engine squib firing circuit fired late due to a faulty resistor pack, and all resistor packs of the same type had to be replaced with a newer type of resistor pack on the core vehicle and payload fairing. That problem aside, the payload was mated to the vehicle shortly thereafter. Following a successful Launch CST, the vehicle was readied for its classified mission. The countdown on April 14th went well, and there were no unscheduled holds. Launch Vehicle D-11 lifted off the pad at 1652:02Z on 14 April 1984, and all flight systems performed properly. The launch was a success.58

One more TITAN 34D/transtage vehicle was launched from the Cape before TITAN launch operations ground to a halt in April 1986. That launch vehicle (D-13) arrived at the Cape on 30 August 1983. The core vehicle was erected in Cell #1 of the VIB by 15 September 1983, but D-13's acceptance testing was delayed pending replacement of its first stage in the early months of 1984. Subsystem testing finally got underway on 3 May 1984, and the Acceptance CST was completed on May 31st. Core Vehicle D-13 was formally accepted on June 8th, and the vehicle was moved to the SMAB for its solid rocket mate on 14 June 1984. Launch Vehicle D-13 was moved to Complex 40 on June 19th, but a schedule change prompted a return trip to the SMAB on July 14th. The vehicle was demated there by the end of July, and it was moved back into storage in Cell #1 of the VIB. The vehicle was reconfigured for a new battery in September 1984, and a Reacceptance CST was accomplished in October. Following the core vehicle/solid rocket remate at the SMAB, Launch Vehicle D-13 was moved out to Complex 40 and prepared for its classified mission. The countdown was picked up at 1702Z on December 21st, and it proceeded normally to vehicle lift-off at 0002:03Z on 22 December 1984. All flight systems performed properly, and the launch was successful.59

Figure 70: Colonel Charles A. Kuhlman
Figure 71: Colonel Dominick R. Martinelli
Figure 72: NDT Facility under construction
Figure 73: Raising a Component
Figure 74: Lowering a Component into an X-Ray Cell

All TITAN 34D launch operations at Vandenberg and the Cape were suspended following the TITAN 34D-9 launch failure in April 1986, but it would be wrong to conclude that the suspension allowed the 6555th Aerospace Test Group and the Air Force's TITAN contractors to lapse into a period of inactivity. On the contrary, the space launch recovery effort and TITAN IV program initiatives kept the Test Group's agenda full. Under the command of Colonel Dominick R. Martinelli, the Test Group supervised the initial recovery effort at the Cape. As part of that program, a Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) X-Ray facility was constructed in the ITL Area for the purpose of inspecting TITAN solid rockets for flaws in propellant, restrictors, insulation and podding compounds. Construction of the NDT facility began on 1 October 1986, and solid rocket motor testing was conducted there as part of the TITAN 34D recovery effort from 23 December 1986 through 12 June 1987. During that period, 29 TITAN components were x-rayed on a 24-hour per day schedule. Other non-destructive tests (e.g., ultrasonic testing, laser imaging, thermography and visual inspection with feeler gauges) were accomplished in the ITL Area's Receive and Inspect (RIS) storage building. Rounding out the recovery program, over one hundred TITAN core vehicle components were sent back to Martin Marietta or other vendors for vibration, thermal and acoustic shock testing. The initial NDT effort was concluded in June 1987, but the facility was used later to test other components.60

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

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list