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The Titan family was established in October 1955 when the U.S. Air Force awarded the then, Martin Company, a contract to build a heavy-duty space system. It became known as the Titan I, the nation's first two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile and first underground silo-based ICBM.

The Titan launch vehicle is based on the Titan 2 intercontinental ballistic missile, which entered service in the early 1960's, as was retired from service in mid-1987. Thirteen of these ICBM's are being converted into space launch vehicles, and more of the remaining 43 ICBM's may also be converted. The Titan 3B, which is no longer operational, is similar to the Titan 2, with the addition of a small upper stage. There are also a variety of Titan space launch vehicles that use a liquid propellant core vehicle, based on the Titan 2, with the addition of strap-on solid rocket motors.

The Titan family of expendable launch vehicles gained a new lease on life in the wake of the Challenger accident. Previous plans which called for the termination of launch activity by the early 1988 were revised, and the Titan continued in operation through the middle of the next decade. The Titan 4 is a new version of the Titan with a longer liquid propellant tanks in the first stage, and with larger solid motors.

Martin Marietta Astronautics Group had actively engaged in missile and space programs since 1955. The first program was the Titan I intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a two-stage missile developed and deployed as a weapon system. Development began in 1955 and the first launch occurred in February 1959. The last launch was in March 1965.

The first significant Air Force step toward creation of a space launching system suitable for future military requirements occurred on 6 November 1959 with publication of a plan for a "Military Booster Development Program." The plan offered a projection of a theoretical launch vehicle system designated, for the sake of identification, as "Phoenix." This effort was followed, on 4 January 1960, by another study entitled, "Air Force Space Systems Program," which carried the Phoenix idea several steps forward by defining potential space systems of primary interest and projecting the precise techniques and performance capabilities needed to make these systems possible. The basic thesis of the Phoenix effort was to devise a space launching system of wide versatility and low cost. Development of segmented solid motors for first stage application and continued development of liquid engines for upper stages was the crux of the Phoenix study.

By mid-July 1961 the Large Launch Vehicle Planning Group, headed by Dr. N.E. Golovin of NASA, and including representatives from NASA, DoD and the Air Force was assigned the responsibility for developing a detailed projection of the total national space program. One of the most popular approaches to emerge was that "building blocks" might be used in suitable combinations to perform a wide variety of missions. Applying this concept to the Titan II resulted in definition of a basic "core" to which component building blocks could be added to create a high performance vehicle. In November 1961 the Golovin Committee recommended development of the Titan III for carrying out post-1963 launches for the Defense Department.

Like the Delta and Atlas, the Titan has a long history of modification and change that led to its current configuration. The Titan launch vehicle was developed under the management of the Air Force Systems Command, Space Division. The program objective was to design a launch system to cover a comprehensive spectrum of future missions without the inherent problems of a tailored launch vehicle. The solution, achieved through optimizing existing technology, was a set of building blocks that could be combined to produce a variety of useful launch vehicle configurations.

The basic element in Titan vehicles is the two-stage liquid rocket core (Stages 1 and 2). Additional thrust during the boost phase can be provided by two solid rocket motors (SRM) attached to the core (Stage 0). Various upper stages (Stage 3 and up) allow for mission and flight plan flexibility to meet specific payload requirements.


Adapted from: Robert F. Piper, History of Titan III -- 1961-1963, (Air Force Space Systems Division Historical Division, June 1964).

Martin Marietta Commercial Titan, Inc. Titan III Commercial Launch Services Customer Handbook, (Issue no. 1, December 1987, Denver, Colorado), Appendix A.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:49:16 ZULU