Headlines > News > Titan 4 delay bumps Falcon

Titan 4 delay bumps Falcon

Published by Robin on Mon Jul 4, 2005 4:54 pm
More share options

By Janene Scully – Associate Editor, The Lompoc Record

7/3/05 A delay for the nation’s final Titan 4 rocket launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base is bumping the Falcon booster’s inaugural blastoff to a tropical island.

Air Force officials blamed the Titan 4 postponement on a problem with the top-secret spy satellite that will ride the behemoth launch vehicle to orbit. The National Reconnaissance Office remains mum about its satellites.

Titan’s delay means more of a wait for a start-up firm, Space Exploration Technologies, and its low-cost rocket being developed to get satellites to space cheaply.

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder, said military officials have banned his rocket from flying while Titan 4 and its costly payload sit on a nearby launch complex due to concerns about a catastrophic failure.
continued at The Lompoc Record

“There’s some risk of Falcon 1, if Falcon 1 were to go off track, some risk of damaging the Titan 4,” Musk said. “I think it’s a very tiny risk, but they’re unwilling to take even a tiny risk.”

The scheduled July 10 launch of the Titan 4 – set to lug a spacecraft cargo estimated at $1 billion and deemed critical to national security – has moved to Sept. 9 at the earliest, military officials said.

“We’re still sitting here hoping to launch and we just can’t afford to sit here for six months,” Musk said. “Then, of course, we could be told in November that there’s another problem, it’s going to take another three months.”

Knowing that there’s a delay, the firm decided instead to make its first mission from Omelek, part of the Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean’s Marshall Islands. That rocket will carry an Air Force Academy science satellite, FalconSat-2.

“We’re somewhat at the mercy of the range so it’s really the first available date after Titan 4 flies, but they won’t give us a date until it flies. It’s sort of a Catch-22,” Musk said.

That means the Falcon mission once planned for Vandenberg, to ferry a Defense Department’s TacSat research satellite to orbit, now becomes the second mission.

Omelek, a seven-acre island owned by the company, has a pier, loading dock and helicopter pad.

SpaceX had had to repour cement and spruce up buildings – for instance toilets were in “nasty condition” and are now usable, Musk said.

The rocket will travel by sea, leaving near the end of July for its month-long voyage.

Several huge loads of equipment – launch mount, propellant tanks, tent to serve as Falcon’s hangar – have made the oceangoing trek to ready for blastoff.

Once there, the rocket will be checked out on the new launch site, with hopes of a late-September blastoff.

“It was really unfortunate because we’d worked all the bugs out at our launch site at Vandenberg and we’re all ready to go, and unfortunately we can’t,” he said. “We’re going to have to do that same process in Kwajalein. So I’m hopeful we won’t encounter too many issues but you never know.”

Musk, an Internet pioneer who founded the PayPal electronic payment system, said he was disappointed at learning of the Vandenberg’s delay.

Janene Scully can be reached at 739-2214 or at janscully@santamariatimes.com.

© Copyright 2005 Lee Central Coast Newspapers. All Rights Reserved.

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2018 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use