Here is some info on the titan rocket that failed, but I didn't find any
04:28 PM ET 08/12/98
U.S Titan rocket explosion was $1 billion failure
(Updates with more comments from news conference, details.)
By Duffin McGee
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - A Titan 4A rocket carrying
a top-secret spy satellite exploded in a billion-dollar fireball
of debris and smoke just after blastoff from Cape Canaveral
Wednesday, the Air Force said.
With the rocket's value estimated at $300 million and the
satellite's at $800 million to $1 billion, the failure was one
of the costliest in the history of the U.S. space program.
The unmanned rocket, built by Lockheed Martin Corp, lifted
off at 7:30 a.m. EDT carrying the satellite for the U.S.
National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). It blew up at a height of
about 20,000 feet (6,096 metres).
The 20-story rocket was laden with 500,000 pounds of
highly toxic fuel. There were no reports of injuries.
``My initial thought is, 'we're hurt.' This is a sad day for
the United States Air Force,'' Brigadier General Randy Starbuck
told a news conference after the blast.
The Air Force said the Titan rocket began to self-destruct
40 seconds into its flight, prompting ground crews to destroy it
over the ocean two seconds later in a blaze of light and smoke.
Starbuck said there had been no indication of any problem
until the rocket pitched over just before the blast. Videotape
of the brief flight showed the Titan's nose apparently pitching
downward just before it blew.
``We had nothing leading up to that,'' Starbuck said. ``We
saw the pitch and that was the first indication we had, and then
Starbuck said the Air Force had no information on what had
caused the mishap. He warned anyone who came across shreds of
the doomed rocket or its ultra-secret cargo to keep away.
``There is debris out there in the water. It should be
considered hazardous material. If someone sees that debris out
there on the water, please don't pick it up,'' he said, and
asked anyone who saw debris to contact the 45th Space Wing at
Patrick Air Force Base, south of Cape Canaveral.
The plume caused by the rocket's load of toxic fuel drifted
out to sea and dispersed, eliminating danger to coastal
residents, officials said.
``Oh no,'' an Air Force Launch commentator said as the
rocket burst. After taking a deep breath, he said: ``At this
time it appears we have had a major malfunction of the vehicle.
We have had an explosion.''
There were two or three distinct loud bangs, setting off car
alarms and burglar alarms in nearby Cocoa Beach. Debris
continued to arc up and out before it fell into the ocean about
1 mile off shore.
A press site about 7 miles from the launch pad was hurriedly
evacuated just after the rocket blew.
Space analysts said the Titan was carrying an eavesdropping
satellite, code-named Vortex, that would have listened in on
military and government communications in world hotspots such as
the Middle East, India and Pakistan, and China.
The satellite was designed and built by the NRO, which would
have operated it had it reached orbit. A similar satellite was
launched in May on another Titan rocket.
The launch had first been scheduled for July, but was
postponed for the repair of ripped insulation on the rocket's
upper stage. On Wednesday, launch had been set for 6:02 a.m.
EDT, but was delayed because of fueling problems.
The boosters that were the only rockets firing at the time
of the explosion were made by United Technologies Corp, a
subcontractor for Lockheed Martin.
Under strict safety guidelines, the Air Force does not
launch Titans if there is any chance that propellants could be
blown toward populated areas in the event of an accident.
Starbuck said the next Titan launch is set for December and
another is to follow in January, but that schedule would depend
on results of the inquiry into Wednesday's blast.
The last Titan 4 rocket explosion was at Vandenberg Air
Force Base in California in August 1993. One of that rocket's
solid rocket boosters exploded a few seconds after liftoff.
The Titan rocket is the most powerful unmanned launch
vehicle used by the United States.
The Titan 4A that blew up Wednesday was the last of that
particular model scheduled for launch. The air force introduced
last year an improved version of the rocket, also made by