Titan 34D

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Titan 34D
DF-SC-83-03173 cropped.jpeg
Launch of the Titan 34D
Function Heavy carrier rocket
Manufacturer Martin Marietta
Country of origin  United States
Associated rockets
Family Titan
Launch history
Status Retired
Launch sites LC-40, CCAFS
Total launches 15
Successes 12
Failures 3
First flight 30 October 1982
Last flight 4 September 1989

The Titan 34D was a U.S. expendable launch vehicle, used to launch a number of satellites for mostly military applications. After its retirement from military service, a small number were converted to the Commercial Titan III configuration, which included a stretched second stage, and a larger fairing. Several communications satellites, and the NASA Mars Observer spacecraft were launched by commercial Titan 34Ds.

Derived from the Titan III, the Titan 34D featured stretched first and second stages with more powerful solid boosters. A variety of upper stages were available, including the Inertial Upper Stage, the Transfer Orbit Stage, and the Transtage. The Titan 34D made its maiden flight on 30 October 1982 with two DSCS defense communications satellites for the United States Department of Defense (DOD).

All launches were conducted from either LC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station or SLC-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base. 15 launches were carried out, of which two failed. The first of these was on August 28, 1985 when the core stage suffered a turbopump malfunction and was destroyed by Range Safety. The second proved to be one of the worst space launch disasters in US history when on April 18, 1986, an attempted launch of a KH-9 photo reconnaissance satellite ended catastrophically as the right solid rocket booster ruptured and exploded only eight seconds into the flight, destroying the entire vehicle[Other sources 1] and showering SLC4E with debris and toxic propellant.[Other sources 2]

The disaster drew unfortunate comparisons to the Challenger shuttle accident three months earlier, which was also the victim of a solid rocket motor malfunction. However, the Titan incident was found to have a rather different cause as it had not suffered O-ring burn-through, but instead a failure of the joints holding the booster segments together.

SLC4E was out of commission until October 1987, after which it hosted the remaining two Titan 34D launches without incident.

Use with Vortex satellites[edit]

Artist's concept of Titan 34D

Three Vortex satellites were launched using Titan 34D vehicles between 1984 and 1989.

Date Spacecraft NSSDC ID Comments
1984-01-31 1984-009A 1984-009A also called Vortex 4
1988-09-02 USA 31 1988-077A also called Vortex 5
1989-05-10 USA 37 1989-035A also called Vortex 6

Launch history[edit]

Date/Time (GMT) Launch Site S/N Upper stage Payload Outcome Remarks
30 October 1982
CCAFS LC-40 34D-1 IUS DSCS-II-15 (OPS-9445)
20 June 1983
VAFB LC-4E 34D-5 N/A OPS-0721 (KH-9) Successful
31 January 1984
CCAFS LC-40 34D-10 Transtage OPS-0441 (Vortex) Successful
14 April 1984
CCAFS LC-40 34D-11 Transtage DSP-11 (OPS-7641) Successful
25 June 1984
VAFB LC-4E 34D-4 N/A USA-2 (KH-9) Successful
4 December 1984
VAFB LC-4E 34D-6 N/A USA-6 (KH-11) Successful
22 December 1984
CCAFS LC-40 34D-13 Transtage DSP-12 (USA-7) Successful
28 August 1985
VAFB LC-4E 34D-7 N/A KH-11 Failure First stage propellant leak caused engine to shut down.
18 April 1986
VAFB LC-4E 34D-9 N/A KH-9 Failure Solid rocket motor exploded at T+8 seconds due to booster segment joint failure.
26 October 1987
VAFB LC-4E 34D-15 N/A USA-27 (KH-11) Successful
29 November 1987
CCAFS LC-40 34D-8 Transtage DSP-13 (USA-28) Successful
2 September 1988
CCAFS LC-40 34D-3 Transtage USA-31 (Vortex) Partial Failure Transtage 3rd burn shut down early.
6 November 1988
VAFB LC-4E 34D-14 N/A USA-33 (KH-11) Successful
10 May 1989
CCAFS LC-40 34D-16 Transtage USA-37 (Vortex) Successful
4 September 1989
CCAFS LC-40 34D-2 Transtage DSCS-II-16 (USA-43)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ A. Day, Dwayne (December 15, 2008). "Death of a monster". The Space Review. 
  2. ^ Isachar, Hanan. "The Titan 34D rocket explosion at Vanderberg Air Force Base, CA". Hanan Isachar Photography. 

External links[edit]


Media related to Titan 34D at Wikimedia Commons