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The Mission




Rocket: Titan 4B (B-26)
Payload: Classified
Date: October 19, 2005
Period: 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. PDT (12-4 p.m. EDT; 1600-2000 GMT)
Site: SLC-4E, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Broadcast: Intelsat Americas 6, Transponder 5, C-Band, 93° West

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BY JUSTIN RAY

Follow the countdown and launch of the final Titan 4 rocket. Reload this page for the very latest on the mission.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 2005

The mighty Titan -- a pillar in American rocketry for five decades -- flew into orbit for the final time Wednesday, capping a distinguished career of heavy-lifting that has spanned the nation's space age. Read our launch story.

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Additional coverage for subscribers:
VIDEO: WEDNESDAY'S TITAN ROCKET LAUNCH QT
VIDEO: LAUNCH PAD CAMERA VIEW OF LIFTOFF QT
VIDEO: INFRARED CAMERA CAPTURES LIFTOFF QT
VIDEO: POWERFUL TRACKING CAMERA QT

VIDEO: FOOTAGE OF PAST TITAN LAUNCHES FROM 1950S TO TODAY QT
VIDEO: THE CAPE'S LAST TITAN 4 ROCKET BLASTS OFF QT
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1945 GMT (12:45 p.m. PDT)

We've posted more launch pictures taken from the south Vandenberg Air Force Base gate. See the images here.

1845 GMT (11:45 a.m. PDT)

A photo of the rocket soaring into the California morning sky is available here.

1816 GMT (11:16 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 11 minutes, 27 seconds. SPACECRAFT SEPARATION! The Titan 4 rocket has released the top-secret National Reconnaissance Office satellite into space, completing today's ascent. The era of Titan rockets has ended.

Second stage cutoff occurred, followed a few seconds later by deployment of the payload.

1815 GMT (11:15 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 10 minutes. We're awaiting word on second stage shutdown and payload release.

1813 GMT (11:13 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 8 minutes, 37 seconds. Standing by to enable the engine shut down systems on the second stage.

1812 GMT (11:12 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 7 minutes. About two minutes of propulsion remain for the second stage to reach the intended orbital altitude. Lockheed Martin has not reported any problems during ascent.

1811 GMT (11:11 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 6 minutes, 15 seconds. The liquid-fueled second stage engine continues to fire, producing just over 100,000 pounds of thrust.

1810 GMT (11:10 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 5 minutes, 38 seconds. The first stage has shut down and the spent stage has dropped away to fall into the Pacific Ocean. And the second stage liquid-fueled engine has now ignited to accelerate the payload into orbit!

1809 GMT (11:09 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 4 minutes, 50 seconds. Confirmation has been received that the 48-foot long payload fairing enclosing the NRO spacecraft atop the Titan 4B rocket separated. First stage continues to fire.

1808 GMT (11:08 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 3 minutes. First stage continues to burn.

1807 GMT (11:07 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Solid rocket booster separation! The spent motors will fall into the Pacific below.

1807 GMT (11:07 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 2 minutes, 12 seconds. First stage main engine start. The liquid-fueled engine package is up and burning. The first stage produces about 550,000 pounds of thrust. Engine ignition is a precursor to burnout and separation of the twin solid rocket boosters that have propelled the Titan 4 rocket to this point in the flight.

1806 GMT (11:06 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 90 seconds. A good flight for the Titan 4 so far.

1806 GMT (11:06 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 60 seconds. The twin solid rocket motors continue to fire normally.

1805 GMT (11:05 a.m. PDT)

T+plus 15 seconds. The Lockheed Martin Titan 4B rocket is performing its pitch and roll programs to achieve the southerly heading to carry its classified National Reconnaissance Office payload into Earth orbit.

1805 GMT (11:05 a.m. PDT)

LIFTOFF! Liftoff of the final Titan rocket carrying a classified national security payload to conclude five decades of flight.

1804 GMT (11:04 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 30 seconds.

1804 GMT (11:04 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 1 minute. The Range has issued its final "go" for launch.

1803 GMT (11:03 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 2 minutes. Sequence start. Computers are now controlling the remainder of the countdown to ready the Titan 4 rocket and ground systems for the liftoff.

1802 GMT (11:02 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 3 minutes. All issues have been resolved and the Titan is ready to fly.

1801 GMT (11:01 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 4 minutes. The final "clear-to-launch" poll has been conducted with no problems reported!

1759 GMT (10:59 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 6 minutes.

1758 GMT (10:58 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 6 minutes, 30 seconds. The spacecraft team has just declared the classified National Reconnaissance Office payload atop the Titan 4B rocket is "go" for launch.

1758 GMT (10:58 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 7 minutes and counting. A final readiness check of the Titan 4 rocket's systems has been conducted and all was reported "go."

1757 GMT (10:57 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 8 minutes and counting.

1755 GMT (10:55 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 9 minutes, 30 seconds. The "clear-to-proceed" poll of senior management has been completed. No constraints were reported.

1755 GMT (10:55 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 10 minutes and counting.

1753 GMT (10:53 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 12 minutes and counting.

1750 GMT (10:50 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 15 minutes and counting. Upper-altitude winds have been deemed acceptable today.

1747 GMT (10:47 a.m. PDT)

The launch team checklist to prepare the Titan rocket for final count is reported complete.

1746 GMT (10:46 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 19 minutes and counting. Clocks are running again for liftoff at 11:05 a.m. PDT (2:05 p.m. EDT; 1805 GMT).

1745 GMT (10:45 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 19 minutes and holding. The countdown has been stopped for 60 seconds to sync up with the new launch time.

1742 GMT (10:42 a.m. PDT)

NEW LAUNCH TIME! The target liftoff time is being adjusted one minute to 11:05 a.m. PDT (2:05 p.m. EDT; 1805 GMT).

1735 GMT (10:35 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 29 minutes and counting. The launch weather officer just reported that all conditions at Vandenberg and along the Titan 4B rocket's southerly flight path are acceptable.

1730 GMT (10:30 a.m. PDT)

The "problem resolution team" is still doing its work to analyze some issues that have arisen in this morning's launch countdown.

1719 GMT (10:19 a.m. PDT)

T-minus 45 minutes. Engineers continue to discuss some technical issues, details of which haven't been announced. But the countdown is continuing.

1712 GMT (10:12 a.m. PDT)

Lockheed Martin says the launch team has been working some issues with the countdown computer system and one of the first engine nozzle covers that came loose.

1704 GMT (10:04 a.m. PDT)

Now one hour away from the scheduled liftoff time for this final Titan rocket.

1702 GMT (10:02 a.m. PDT)

Work to secure the Space Launch Complex-4 East pad is reported complete. The warning system at the pad has gone to "red" as the countdown enters the final phases. The team has been given a "go" to begin first and second oxidizer tank pressurization for the Titan 4B rocket.

1640 GMT (9:40 a.m. PDT)

We've posted a couple of pictures taken earlier this morning when the 300-foot tall mobile service tower was rolled back for launch, revealing the Titan rocket. You can see the images here.

1630 GMT (9:30 a.m. PDT)

The very quiet countdown is proceeding at Vandenberg. Clocks are still ticking to liftoff at 11:04 a.m. PDT (2:04 p.m. EDT; 1804 GMT).

Unlike other rockets that are fueled during the final hours before launch, the Titan 4's core stages were loaded with storable hypergolic propellants more than a week ago. That makes for a less hectic launch morning.

1612 GMT (9:12 a.m. PDT)

Launch pad securing work has wrapped up, crews report.

1545 GMT (8:45 a.m. PDT)

Technicians continue to work their their way through all of the steps to configure and secure launch pad systems and equipment for today's liftoff of the 16-story Titan 4 rocket.

1534 GMT (8:34 a.m. PDT)

Now two-and-a-half hours from the scheduled launch time. The Air Force is not reporting any significant problems in the countdown.

1522 GMT (8:22 a.m. PDT)

Retraction of the mobile service tower has been completed as the countdown continues at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The Titan 4B rocket is now exposed on the launch pad in preparation for today's 11:04 a.m. PDT (2:04 p.m. EDT; 1804 GMT) liftoff. Crews at the pad are beginning tower and launch pad securing chores.

1456 GMT (7:56 a.m. PDT)

The tower is resuming its rollback now after ensuring clearance with the umbilical booms.

1440 GMT (7:40 a.m. PDT)

The tower paused its movement a short time after the retraction began. Only the right-hand solid rocket booster has been exposed so far, photographers at the pad say.

1425 GMT (7:25 a.m. PDT)

The behemoth 30-story mobile service tower has begun rolling into its launch position for today's liftoff of the Titan 4B rocket from Space Launch Complex-4 East at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The tower is a building on wheels, serving as a protective structure during assembly of the rocket stages on the pad, while providing workers access to all areas of the vehicle and giving the Titan 4 shelter from the weather.

Technicians have spent the morning disconnecting various electrical, water and other lines to allow the tower to be retracted. The actual roll moves the tower 300 feet east of the table where the Titan 4 sits.

The SLC-4E pad also features a fixed umbilical tower, which feeds power and conditioned air to the rocket and its top-secret satellite cargo during today's countdown.

1330 GMT (6:30 a.m. PDT)

Preparations continue at Space Launch Complex-4 East for retraction of the mobile service tower from around the Titan 4 rocket. News media representatives are en route to the pad right now for a photo opportunity of tower rollback.

1220 GMT (5:20 a.m. PDT)

Today's launch countdown has entered the final six hours for liftoff of the Lockheed Martin Titan 4B rocket at 11:04 a.m. PDT (2:04 p.m. EDT; 1804 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2005
1930 GMT (12:30 p.m. PDT)


America's Titan rocket makes its final launch Wednesday, blasting off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base to haul a top-secret reconnaissance satellite into orbit.

Liftoff is set for 11:04 a.m. PDT (2:04 p.m. EDT; 1804 GMT).

"We expect tomorrow's mission to be a flawless conclusion to a program that has supported the nation for pretty much half a century," Col. Pat Smith, the Air Force's Titan program manager, told reporters at today's pre-launch news conference.

"We know how important this mission is, we understand that. It has been a long time coming but I can assure you that the team is dedicated. We're ready," added Walt Yager, Lockheed Martin's vice president of the Titan program.

The rocket was powered up for the final time this morning at the Space Launch Complex-4 East pad.

"We brought guidance power up. The countdown is right on plan. It is very nominal to this point. We are prepared to launch tomorrow morning at 11:04," Yager said.

The mobile service tower enclosing the rocket is scheduled to be rolled back to its launch position at about 7 a.m. PDT tomorrow, exposing the $411 million Titan 4B vehicle.

Nearly 4,000 invited guests are expected in attendance to witness the last Titan rocket fly.

The only concern going into the final countdown is the weather. Air Force meteorologists will be keeping a close eye on the strength of northerly winds, which could blow the rocket into its launch pad umbilical tower at liftoff.

But the forecast has improved, the weather team said this morning. There is now a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions for launch. Earlier odds put good weather at 60 percent.

"Recent model runs show northerly flow at the surface with a loosened gradient, leading to slightly weaker winds," the latest forecast said.

The launch time outlook calls for some low stratus clouds at 400 feet, high cirrus clouds at 27,000 feet, visibility of 7 miles, a temperature between 59 and 64 degrees, ground winds of 5 to 10 knots from the north between 340 and 020 degrees and maximum high-altitude winds of 65 knots at 45,000 feet from the west-northwest.

If the winds are deemed out of limits, the countdown clock will hold at the T-minus 2 minute, 15 second mark to await improved conditions. Once the clock passes that point, the Terminal Countdown sequence is initiated to govern the final steps to ready the vehicle for liftoff.

The rocket is sporting an unusual 48-foot long nose cone to protect its clandestine National Reconnaissance Office payload during the ascent through the atmosphere. The fairing started as a standard 76-foot shroud but was modified to the shortened length, Smith said.

Watch this page for live updates during the countdown and launch.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2005
2345 GMT (4:45 p.m. PDT)


Wednesday's launch time has been declassified. Liftoff of the Titan 4 rocket is scheduled to occur at 11:04 a.m. PDT (2:04 p.m. EDT; 1804 GMT).

MONDAY, OCTOBER 17, 2005

A program born 50 years ago this month to develop a two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile, later morphing into a launcher for astronauts and satellites, winds down this week when the final Titan rocket roars into space history.

More than 500 missiles and space rockets carrying the name Titan have been built in the past five decades. The last stands on its launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a top-secret spy spacecraft tucked inside its nose cone. Blastoff comes Wednesday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. PDT (12-4 p.m. EDT; 1600-2000 GMT).

Read our launch preview story.

Copyright 2005 SpaceflightNow.com, all rights reserved.


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