Tim Furniss/LONDON

A Lockheed Martin Titan IVB booster performed a flawless launch from Cape Canaveral on 8 May. The launch follows three consecutive failed Titan IV launches from the Florida launch site in 1998 and 1999. The booster carried a Boeing-built inertial upper stage and its US Air Force DSP early warning satellite, built by TRW and Aerojet, into operational geostationary orbit 7h after lift-off.


The DSP satellite is the 20th in the series. Three more will be launched until a follow-on programme takes over in about 2004. The satellites are equipped with 6,000 infrared sensors to provide detection of missile launches and nuclear detonations.

The $882 million launch cost around $3 billion. A Titan IVA Centaur booster exploded 40s after launch in 1998 and in 1999 two Titan IVB launches failed to place their DSP and Milstar communications satellite payloads into their correct orbits after IUS and Centaur stage malfunctions.

Two more Titan IVB launches are planned this year, one from Vandenberg AFB, California, in July, carrying a polar orbiting reconnaissance satellite and the second from Cape Canaveral in the fourth quarter, carrying a Milstar.

The Titan launch on 8 May was part of a frenetic 15-day launch period at Cape Canaveral in which four launches were planned, followed by a Shuttle launch from the adjoining Kennedy Space Center on 18 May.

An International Launch Services Atlas IIA was launched on 3 May carrying the GOES L, a geostationary environmental observation satellite, for the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It was the 49th successful consecutive Atlas launch.

The GOES L launch had been delayed for a year by technical problems, but was made in time to bolster NOAA's GOES fleet for this year's hurricane season, replacing a six-year-old satellite. GOES L, to be designated GOES 11, is the fourth of a series of five Space Systems/Loral-built advanced satellites for NOAA.

Meanwhile, a Delta II with a Navstar GPS satellite was launched on 10 May, with the maiden flight of the first ILS Atlas IIIA following on 15 May, carrying the Eutlesat W4 communications satellite. The Space Shuttle Atlantis is due for launch on mission STS101 on 18 May after three thwarted launch attempts last month.

Source: Flight International