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Space Science

Last Titan Launch from Florida 174

The Breeze writes "Driving along San Diego's freeways, I often passed a large Lockheed Martin facility that had big ATLAS and TITAN logos on them - it looked like it was still operating, even though I thought the Titan missile had been retired years ago. Well, according to CNN, the last Titan to be launched from Florida just took off with a classified military payload. I had no idea that they were still using 50-year old technology to launch stuff into space. If you are not adverse to MS Word documents, Patrick AFB, (the Air Force station at Cape Canaveral) has some press releases about the launch. Interested parties might want to click here for more info on Titan, along with links to the Titan Missile Museum where you can actually see a Titan in a silo -- and where Zeframe Cochrane launched his first warp ship from."
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Last Titan Launch from Florida

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  • Good by Titan, and thanks for all the memories.
    • It was fun watching it streak up the east coast. I saw it clear as day from Massachusetts, watched one of the stages separate and fall away, and watched the main part of the rocket eject extra unburnt fuel.

      -Jesse
  • Not so outdated (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eric Smith ( 4379 ) * on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:36PM (#12394355) Homepage Journal
    I had no idea that they were still using 50-year old technology to launch stuff into space.
    It's not 50-year-old technology. At least not all of it. There have been many updates to the Titan since it was originally developed; portions of it have been completely redesigned.
    • by reporter ( 666905 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:53PM (#12394458) Homepage
      Rockets are similar to cars. The choice is between a car that is in the 4th year of its production run and a car that has been redesigned new from the ground up. Completely new cars tend to have numerous problems, which are fed back to the engineers who then make the necessary modifications for next year's production run.

      Even Hondas suffer from this problem. If I must have the most reliable vehicle, I would choose a Civic model in its last year of production over a brand new, completely redesigned Civic.

      Since the Titans have been in use for a long time, the engineers have already fixed any outstanding, serious problems. The Titan is a reliable workhorse and should be the delivery vehicle for a military payload. Such payloads are vital to the national security of the United States, and we absolutely must avoid mishaps, especially given the emerging threat from China [phrusa.org].

    • There have been many updates to the Titan since it was originally developed; portions of it have been completely redesigned.

      Yeah, the payload keeps changing...
    • Re:Not so outdated (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spetiam ( 671180 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @07:18PM (#12394623) Journal
      Even if it were all 50-year-old technology, if it's still effective, why not use it? People still use hand-held hammers...
    • Re:Not so outdated (Score:3, Interesting)

      by demachina ( 71715 )
      As others have noted its not exactly the same technology, its just the same name a company and team used over decades for a family of launchers as are Delta and Atlas.

      And as others have noted much of the technology really was good and didn't need to evolve.

      But it should also be noted there is a good reason expendable booster evolution has been slow in the U.S.

      In particular the Space Shuttle completely decimated and paralyzed expendable booster development in the 70's and early 80's and set it back for at
    • In 1955, there were no space rockets at all. Sputnik was not even launched until 1957, and the US had to struggle for years to catch up. I think the submitter may be exaggerating a bit when he says the technology is 50 years old.
  • Even more... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PresidentKang ( 846333 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:38PM (#12394369)
    from Florida Today [flatoday.com].

    But it's not the last Titan, just the last to launch from Cape Canaveral. According to the article on Florida Today: "This Titan is the last of a family of 168 to be launched from Cape Canaveral. One last flight is scheduled to take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California."

    Quite the powerhorse. Congrats to all who worked on it over the years for jobs well done.

  • Remember? (Score:3, Funny)

    by SethD ( 42522 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:39PM (#12394377) Homepage
    Why does this make me think of "Remember the Titans?"
  • by FrostedWheat ( 172733 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:40PM (#12394383)
    The last Skylark rocket is to be launched on Sunday [bbc.co.uk]. It's also a 50 year old rocket!

    Amazing to think there was a British space program once!
  • Why can't you? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chess_the_cat ( 653159 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:43PM (#12394408) Homepage
    I had no idea that they were still using 50-year old technology to launch stuff into space.

    Have physics and the law of gravity changed in the last 50 years?

  • Older but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:45PM (#12394416)
    sometimes older and simpler is better than supersuper complicated stuff. Soyuz puts the shuttle to shame in the reliability department for example.

    So I'd say if Titan rockets worked, why change them?
    • Thats easy: about $480 Million Per Launch. The entire EELV program was basically to half the cost of the the Titan IV
    • Re:Older but (Score:1, Informative)

      by simonbp ( 412489 )
      Because the Atlas V and Delta IV EELV's (Evolved Expendible Launch Vehicle) put the old Titans to shame; they are are chaeper per kilo to LEO and can be clustered together to form a Saturn I-class LV....

      Simon ;)
    • Re:Older but (Score:3, Insightful)

      Soyuz puts the shuttle to shame in the reliability department for example.

      Not unless they're using them in some fashion I'm not aware of.

      A Soyuz--or any other similar design--is used once. Then the car-sized bit that you have left is either given to a museum or sold for scrap, and you make yourself a new one.

      The Shuttle isn't less reliable than the Soyuz--it's just far more usable, and hell of a lot bigger.

      (FWIW, the way of the future is amazingly like what the shuttle should have been--a resuable per
      • The Shuttle isn't less reliable than the Soyuz--it's just far more usable, and hell of a lot bigger.

        A near-100% successful space program in 2005 involves (a) unmanned heavy-lifters like the Ariane, Delta,... rockets to haul stuff up in orbit, and (b) Soyuz or other simple space vehicles with Soyuz-like track records to carry people up there.

        What good is the Shuttle if it requires crews of 7, costs a fortune to launch and - more importantly - regularly kills its occupants, gets grounded for months or year
      • Re:Older but (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RollingThunder ( 88952 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @07:32PM (#12394706)
        I'm not so sure your comparison is fair.

        Reliability is all about meeting your design goals without fail when in operation.

        The Soyuz was always designed to be single use, and to work for that single use. It meets that criteria and I'd call it reliable.

        The Shuttle was designed for multiple use on a reasonable turnaround. Since two have been destroyed, and the others take a very long time between launches due to safety concerns and reviews, I would say it's not reliably meeting it's design goals.
        • How much good does that reusability do us? If a reusable rocket is as much or more costly to launch than a disposable then what is the point? If it takes longer between missions and is more dangerous for manned flight then it looks even worse. The only thing the shuttle really has going for it is that it can throw a lot of weight into orbit. We need to design something more along the lines of the old Saturn V. That would be a true "space truck".
    • "So I'd say if Titan rockets worked, why change them?"

      Speaking naievely here, consider some of the cool Shuttle designs we've seen in Popular Science. I think a lot of us would like to see what a new modern rocket would be like.

      Don't get me wrong, I think you're right. Nobody wants to gamble with payloads. But I do think there's a sense of stagnation in the development of orbital technology. I mean, 96 was almost 10 years ago and we still haven't had the Eugenics wars!

    • Yeah, isn't it great how expendable rockets burn up on re-entry every time? Man, if only the shuttle had that kind of record.

    • Older but sometimes older and simpler is better than supersuper complicated stuff. Soyuz puts the shuttle to shame in the reliability department for example.

      Completely wrong on both counts.

      • The Soyuz TMA flying today has very little in common with it's 60's era progenitor. It's a much modified machine that is in the main actually of the same era as the Shuttle.
      • As I explain in this post [slashdot.org] the "safety and reliability" record of the Soyuz is largely illusory.
  • Replacement? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by flydude18 ( 839328 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:46PM (#12394419)
    What will the Air Force use now?
  • Not Old at all! (Score:5, Informative)

    by mikejz84 ( 771717 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:49PM (#12394440)
    The Booster that flew was a Titan 4B (and is not the last Titan-4B to fly, just the last at the Cape--One more will fly from Vandenberg) The Titan 4B first flew in 1997 and was an upgraded verson of the Titan 4 that first flew in the mid 80s. The Titan 4 was primarly used as a replacement for Mil Payloads after Challenger. The Titan 3 was a workhorse of launchers during the 70s (Including Voyager and Viking). The Titan 2 serverd as the bases of the following lines and was an ICBM and booster for Gemini. The Titan Rocket that flew is not old tech wise, its old in the same sense as the cars we drive today being based on improved designs of the past. Please google before you post something without knowing all the facts.
  • I hope they'll keep one or two handy. You never know when you can use Warp technology, and I'd hate disapointing Captain Picard.
    • Well it WAS a titan rocket that launched Zeffren Cochran into space for his first warp drive test =)
    • Well...it IS a classified military payload. Maybe they know something we don't.
    • Don't worry. The Phoenix was built out of an ICBM in Montana. There'll be plenty of those left over when the time comes.
    • "I hope they'll keep one or two handy. You never know when you can use Warp technology, and I'd hate disapointing Captain Picard."

      Oh boy, my nerd side's coming out. Just a week ago I watched First Contact with Okuda's text commentary. He talked about the fictional Titan used in the movie. It was, if memory serves, a type VII. (Note: If it wasn't a 7, then it was a model that hasn't been built yet, at least by the time the movie was made.)

      The actual rocket they used was one that was disarmed due to th
      • Yeah, the govt didn't loan them the site - they filmed it in the Titan Missile Museum by Tucson - I posted the link in the article. A neat place. Everything's on springs to ride-out a nuclear near-miss.

        -Steve
  • Titan launch (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CdrTostada ( 770627 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:53PM (#12394461)
    Last night I was at disney's grad nite, and we saw the rocket and at first we thoguht it was like a plane with sparks coming off the end or something, I dont know, it didnt look like anything we had seen, except for a shuttle, but we knew they werent launching a shuttle. But now I know it was the titan. Its pretty cool to have seen what was probably the last titan to ever be launched.
  • 50 years old.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wpiman ( 739077 ) * on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:55PM (#12394477)
    50 year old technology is proven technology. If you are going to risk a multi-billion dollar satelitte- something that has had thousands of launches under its belt sounds good to me.
      • 50 year old technology is proven technology. If you are going to risk a multi-billion dollar satelitte- something that has had thousands of launches under its belt sounds good to me.

      Yeah, sure. I'm sure they used a horse-drawn cart to get it to the launch site. After all, if you are going to risk a multi-billion dollar satellite something that has thousands of years of proven use is much better than a car (a mere century).

    • Older tech is proven, but someone's got to make it. If your suppliers end-of-life on you, you're out of luck.

  • Launched? (Score:5, Funny)

    by brycef ( 866665 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @06:57PM (#12394492)
    "...and where Zeframe Cochrane launched his first warp ship from."

    No. It's where Zeframe Cochrane WILL launch his first warp ship from. Get your facts straight.
    • No, it is "Launched". There's been another temporal anomaly, and the warp ship was launched over 1,500 years before it was meant to.. completely destroying causality, and making a lot of Enterprise fans very annoyed. Fortunately by inverting the BS-field emitters we may be able to be able to save life as we know it.

      Ah well, I guess it's nice to see that old space science still works even as old space science fiction seems to be running out of steam.. or hyperdrive, or whatever.

    • >> "...and where Zeframe Cochrane launched his first warp ship
      >> from."
      > No. It's where Zeframe Cochrane WILL launch his first warp
      > ship from. Get your facts straight.

      Something I've always wondered. Cochrane went into space in a titan rocket - and warped. All cool.

      How did he get back to earth?
      • Re:Launched? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by istewart ( 463887 )
        I assumed it would be some sort of splashdown. There's got to be a lake of some kind in Montana or a bordering state, even though that might be a hard target to hit. He could've made a ground landing, but we have to assume that the Phoenix was intact since Picard says it was later placed in the Smithsonian.

        The crew compartment could've detached and splashed down a la Apollo, but that doesn't make much sense to me. It would probably be uneconomical to discard all the warp technology in the main body of the
    • Will have lanuched. Time travel is going to have already ruined verb tenses.
    • Re:Launched? (Score:4, Informative)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:53PM (#12395174) Homepage Journal
      "No. It's where Zeframe Cochrane WILL launch his first warp ship from. Get your facts straight."

      Well, if we're going to argue 'facts', the Titan referred to in First Contact has not been built yet. They very specifically referred to a model that has not been built yet. The main reason for this is that the Titan they used could not get into orbit. So they incremented the number a few times and made implications that there was a nuclear war. The idea there was that one day there would be a Titan developed that could, in theory, get a warp ship into orbit to test drive. (Basically, it was a pre-emptive move to shut up the nitpickers.)
      • Yes, launched, in that although the movie says he launched / will launch from Montanna, the movie was actually FILMED in Tucson, at the Titan museum - so, if you refer to the making of the movie as the "launch", then the past tense is indeed correct.
  • How is it that a guy from Alpha Centauri could do that on Earth?

    Sounds to me like someone's lying.

    Jesus ain't down with that...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 30, 2005 @07:02PM (#12394518)
    Beautiful launch on a beautiful launch and a fitting end to a legacy and a tradition in space.

    A memorable night there for those who attended and worked many years at the Cape.

    Parent is right AND wrong about 50-year old technology. The basic premise is the same in processing but the avionics and software are FAR from ancient and are in fact very recent. Titan is too expensive however now because of the previous use of hypergolics transitioning to newer and safer fuels as well as refinements in processing and launching that were implementing in the Atlas V.

    Long live the Titan.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Reliable rocketry hasn't advanced far since Goddard's time. The Titan is a perfect example of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" technology.
  • by hedley ( 8715 ) <hedley@pacbell.net> on Saturday April 30, 2005 @07:08PM (#12394558) Journal
    Titan II: A History of a Cold War Missile Program
    by Jay W. Kelley

    I have this book. Its heavy on the detail of the missile silo development and the cold war time it was developed.

    There was no other missile in the US arsenal that could loft the 9MT warhead it carried. Still to this day it is the heavyweight leader.

    Hedley.
    • Kelley wrote the forward. David Stumpf was the author.

    • I recommend another book if you can get a copy:

      To Defend and Deter: The Legacy of the United States Cold War Missile Program

      by Lonquest and Winkler
      USACERL Special Report 97/01

      It covers Nike, Safeguard, BOMARC, Atlas, Titan, Minuteman, Jupiter, Thor and Snark. That's a lot of history, but they managed to put together very reliable systems.
    • Remember just a couple of years ago when possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction, especially fictitious ones, was justification for starting a war? Now we're back to the Good Old Days, when Weapons of Mass Destruction are a *good* thing, protecting our country from the *bad* people, making us *safer*....
  • Long lead times (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Herr_Jones ( 880324 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @07:17PM (#12394615)
    I worked on my first Titan-Centaur in 1989, and at that point there were already end-items assigned out 10+ years. Launch vehicles are based on methodical and tested revisions to proven platforms. Mistakes are expensive. For context, I got the task to replace a program that managed end item change tracking. I was given the original source code on green-bar; the change note entries were in double letters by 1959.
  • they have been following a story about a boat parked in maine with some weird looking antennas on it. apparently, it is going to be used to track the launch. the urls to the first [boingboing.net] and second [boingboing.net] story.

    according to what I read, some dude from space.com seems to know all about it and says nasa isn't doing any other space launches and the satellite launch is the only thing it could be.

  • Tried and true (Score:2, Informative)

    While the Titan's might be '50 year old technology' they are much better at launching payloads into space than the much newer shuttles. In fact, there has been a lot of criticism about America's unhealthy focus on reusable vehicles i.e. the shuttles. They are relatively wimpy in the payloads they can lift (they can barely get satellites to geosynchronous orbit and don't go there themselves). So, newer is not necessarily better.
    • Titan's WHAT might be '50 year old technology'???? Titan's guidance systems? Titan's software? Please either specify or watch your use of the posessive. ;)
    • Re:Tried and true (Score:3, Informative)

      by zippthorne ( 748122 )
      Until the delta IV heavy, there was no American launch system that could match the Shuttle for payload. (30,000 lbs) Unless you count the discontinued Saturn line. In fact, I haven't heard of many Proton launches lately...

      Since the only RLV in existence is also the undisputed heavy lifter for something like two decades, I'd say the lack of demand for real heavy lifters is the reason they all seem to top out at 30klbs to LEO.

      Of course I say this grudgingly as I'd like to see either new RLV's to prove the
    • While the Titan's might be '50 year old technology' they are much better at launching payloads into space than the much newer shuttles.

      To start with, the Titan IV is 80's tech, mainly younger than the Shuttle. Secondly, out of 168 flights, somewhere around 8 have failed utterly (.04), where the Shuttle has lost 2 out of 113 (.01). (Not to mention the fact that all of the Titan payloads were lost - the Shuttle has had four failures that caused loss of mission, and all of them were reflown without requi

  • Nitpicking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tilleyrw ( 56427 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @07:57PM (#12394835)

    I live in Titusville, FL and work in Cocoa Beach as a subcontractor to the military. Patrick Air Force Base is a different and separate entity to Cape Cavanaveral Air Force Station.

    As a badged and cleared employee, I've walked around the base of the gantries from which they launch Titans, after attaching the boosters, the payload, then the command (autopilot, etc.) module on top.

  • I know that it can be tough to know what tense to use given that there was a temporal cold war and all that, but it should be:

    where Zeframe Cochrane will launch his first warp ship from.

    and not:

    where Zeframe Cochrane launched his first warp ship from.

    Then again...
    if you were there when it happened before, but in the future, then I guess you could use the past tense.
  • by Ancient_Hacker ( 751168 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @08:34PM (#12395050)
    IIRC the Titan boosters used the rather poisonous Nitrogen Tetroxide as the oxidizer. That stuff is mighty bad for human lungs if it gets into your air. Also the computer was cooled by liquid mercury.

    Also I had the pleasure of taking apart an one of these Titan guidance computers. It was about the size of a big suitcase. Built to take many G's-- it had a aluminum case about 3/4 inch thick. All thge modules inside were potted in a tough pink styrofoam.

    An amazing device with about 300 credit-card sized PC boards all plugged in and soldered into a backplane. Each PC board had what looked like four to six Westinghouse flat-pack IC's, probably DTL logic, maybe four gates max per chip. Amazing what they could do with that little hardware. The memory was some PC-board version of magnetic wire memory, as cores probably couldnt take the g's and vibration. Sobering to be poking through a device designed to land 9 Megatons on the Ruskies.

    • Wow. "PC". My mind keeps wanting to think personal computer, or even "PC[MCIA] card". I have to force myself to remember printed circuit boards, like the hobby crud we did in the 70s where you'd drop on a dozen do-dads or so (and then proceed to burn them up, if you are me in junior high, heh heh)

      Somehow, it seems much more appropriate to have big-iron-ish parts on a beast like this, rather than grafting on somebody's Palm-Pilot or iPod :-)
    • Why would you cool a computer with a conductive liquid?
      • > Why would you cool a computer with a conductive liquid? The coolant ran through pipes, not freely over the components. One might suspect mercury has some property that's lacking in the other obvious choices. Maybe they couldnt stand to have the coolant boiling and generating bubbles, which would make the center of gravity unpredictable.
      • You've never heard of water cooling? Water is conductive also, you know.

        The advantages of using mercury over water are twofold - first it is a better conductor of heat so it makes a more efficient cooling solution.

        The second advantage is that mercury doesn't expand when it freezes the way water does. While the coolant shouldn't ever freeze it is damn cold in space and things go wrong. If mercury solidifies (freezes) for a few minutes it can be thawed out with no damage to the equipment. If water freezes i

  • A friend and I were on our way to Orlando and accidentally drove around 70 miles too far West. While we were driving back north east to find our way back onto the turnpike we saw the whole launch. At first we thought it was a really bright light above a farm house in the distance, until we got out of the car and saw the trail of smoke. The rocket appeared to break off into 3 pieces near the end of it's visibility. I am assuming these were some of its lower stage boosters? An unbelievable thing to see by
  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Saturday April 30, 2005 @09:27PM (#12395373) Homepage Journal
    The US Military promised to blow up the rocket should it veer off course and potentially endanger Canadians off the coast of Newfounland.

    http://www.cbc.ca/story/canada/national/2005/04/30 /titan-missile050430.html [www.cbc.ca]
  • a) This was not quite 50 yr old tech - it was a Titan IV (a *big* sucker).
    b) Other than the Shuttle, this has been our heavy lifter.
    c) the launch...(as seen from 17 mi. from the pad): huge flame, and the details from my wife, the former NASA engineer and hypergol expert, says Titans are straight hypergols, no solids or cryogens. Seperation...then, about the time it hit mach 2, it went through a high cloud layer, and it looked as though it had blown up, a white-ish ring suddenly and rapidly expanding around

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