K-2 Heads Up

John Pike (johnpike@fas.org)
Wed, 19 Jun 1996 11:09:35 -0400

As of 30 May 96 LockMart was claiming


that the K-2 T-4/NUS was planned for a 2 July launch from CCAFS, although
the rumor mill has it that maybe this has been pushed forward to 1 July.

And not a moment too soon!! The K-2 tail number indicates that this
particular Titan has been sittin in the barn for a long long long long time,
and I don't think that it is because of glitches with the booster or
something. One may assume that for some reason or another the associated
payload experienced a major schedule slip, and this uniquely configured [ie,
hardwired to launch this one particular payload] has been sitting around
waiting for the PL to be launched.

To review the bidding, when the T-4 program got fired up back in the early
1980s, first as the Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle [CELV] program
and then as Titan 34D7, the original theory was that these 10 boosters would
all have Centaur upper stages [it now appears to accomodate some of these
ridiculously large SIGINT payloads we are now seeing, which would have been
too big for STS]. Then post Challenger, the program was expanded, both to
include more T-4s as well as to include a greater diversity of payloads.

For whatever it is worth, the K-2 tail number would suggest that this PL
because associated with this bird pretty dang early on, say around 1985ish....
The NUS designation means that it doesn't have an IUS or a Centaur [ie, it
ain't SIGINT], but it doesn't exclude the possibility of some other sorta
kick motor.

So much for the facts. Now let us turn to the far more interesting part of
the game, the wild-eyed and totally unsubstantiated speculation.

We still [to my knowledge] don't have a launch azimuth for the thing, but
normally we get these a few days before the launch, which might help
constrain things a bit.

The possibilities thus seem to include:

Keyhole -- not likely, what with the recent Dec 95 launch

Lacrosse -- a fair bet, since the constellation is starting to age a bit,
but I always have Lacrosse on the brain, and having been burned a couple of
times by this bird I am now in the habit of looking elsewhere.

SDS-HEO - I kinda doubt it, as this constellation is pretty fresh, I think.

SDS-GEO - this is my current bet, which could be readily falsified in
advance as soon as RUMINT establishes a launch azimuth. RUMINT currently has
it that K-2 is a mutant one-of-a-kind stack for a "one-of-a-kind payload"
that includes a kick stage not normally associated with T-4. This is one
reason that I am guessing SDS-GEO.

???-??? - Of course, it is possible that all the RUMINT leading me to the
SDS-GEO guesstimate is correct but that this genuinely is some sorta never
seen before kinda bird, though I am at something of a loss to image what
mission category the thing might fall in, as the list we have just walked
through comes pretty close to exhausting most of the logical categories.


John Pike
Director, Space Policy & CyberStrategy Projects
Federation of American Scientists
307 Massachusetts Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002
V 202-675-1023,   F 202-675-1024,  http://www.fas.org/