The US Air Force successfully launched a Lockheed Martin Titan IVB booster from Cape Canaveral on 6 August carrying a TRW-built Defence Support Programme (DSP) early warning satellite.


The Titan's Boeing-built inertial upper stage (IUS) was due to place the DSP craft into geostationary orbit using burns of its first and second stages.

DSP satellites use infrared sensors to detect heat from ballistic missile and booster plumes against the Earth's background. The craft are operated by the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, California, which reports warning information to the US Space Command early warning centre in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado.

The latest DSP satellite model is the seventh in a series of fifth-generation DSP satellites which were first launched in 1989. The first Block 1 series DSP satellites were launched in 1970. The next DSP launch is set to be aboard a Boeing Delta IV evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) next year.

Data from the DSP satellites, which scan most of the Earth's surface every 10s, has also been used as an early warning system for natural disasters, such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.

The 6 August launch was the thirty-first by a Titan IV booster, which first flew in 1989. There are three IVA and three IVB models, all of which have made at least one flight. Titan IVs can be equipped with no upper stage or either IUS solid propellant or Centaur liquid propellant upper stages. The programme has had 26 successful launches and five failures.

The Titan IV Centaur can place 5,775kg (13,000lb) into geostationary orbit. The role of the Titan IV will eventually be taken by the Boeing Delta IV Heavy, due to make its first flight late next year.

Source: Flight International