Launch of Titan IV-B rocket.
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Courtesy of the United States Air Force and Lockheed Martin
Titan Rocket Finally Completes First Mission
News story originally written on May 24, 1999
The new Titan IV-B rocket finally completed a successful mission today
after months of failure. The Lockheed Martin missile carried a classified
payload for the United States Air Force. It launched on May 22, 1999 at
5:36 Eastern Standard Time from Space Launch Complex Four East at
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
On board the vehicle was a secret spy satellite for the National
Reconnaissance Office. An earlier mission was supposed to launch a similar
satellite into orbit, but the Titan rocket blew up after liftoff,
destroying the $1 billion satellite.
"We always feel relief at the point in the mission when we have a
successful payload separation and the satellite gets into orbit," said
Air Force Major John Cherry.
The Titan IV is the nation's largest unmanned rocket, but it has a
terrible record. The rocket failed to launch in two previous attempts and
blew up in another. A planned mission to send NASA's Quickscat weather
satellite into orbit has been delayed because the Titan IV isn't ready for
"Today's successful Titan 4B mission was critical for our customers,"
said G. Thomas Marsh, president of Lockheed Martin Astronautics. "We are
proud to team with the Air Force in launching these large and important
payloads that contribute directly to our national security."
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