Titan 34D

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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 a launch of a KH-11 photoreconnaissance satellite on August 28, 1985 when the core stage suffered a turbopump malfunction and was destroyed by Range Safety. The flight proceeded normally until core engine start at T+102 seconds. Engine 1 experienced below-normal performance and after SRM separation at T+117 seconds, the engine completely shut down, followed by loss of vehicle attitude control. The onboard computer then shut off Engine 2 and began a premature separation and ignition of the second stage. With the Titan now tumbling and headed back towards land, the destruct command was issued at T+272 seconds and the KH-11 ended up in the Pacific Ocean. In addition, during Stage 1's powered flight, the oxidizer tank began leaking N2O2 which was thought to have resulted in loss of lubrication to the Engine 1 turbopump and breakdown of the pinion gear. A piece of cork insulation also broke off of the right SRM at liftoff, however this was not believed to to be a factor in the accident. In the end, the exact reason for the loss of lubrication to the turbopump could not be determined.

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]

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