Speculation on payload of final CCAFS Titan IV

From: Ted Molczan (molczan@rogers.com)
Date: Sat Sep 25 2004 - 15:27:46 EDT

  • Next message: Bruce MacDonald: "Re: Speculation on payload of final CCAFS Titan IV"

    I caution the reader that I have a poor track record guessing classified
    payloads far in advance of launch.
    Spaceflight Now reported recently that the final T-IVB vehicle to be launched
    from CCAFS, on 2005 Feb 20, has NUS (no upper stage) and a 66 ft fairing:
    This T-IVB was originally to have been launched from VAFB, but was physically
    moved from there to CCAFS.
    Two VAFB T-IVB NUS payloads employed 66 ft fairings: KeyHoles and Lacrosses. The
    98 deg inclination of the former cannot be reached from CCAFS; the latter have
    flown into both 57 deg and 68 deg orbits.
    Lacrosse launches have alternated between the 57 deg and 68 deg inclinations:
    Spacecraft  Year  Vehicle  Site    Inc    Present status
    Lacrosse 1  1988  Shuttle  CCAFS  57 deg  de-orbited 1997
    Lacrosse 2  1991  T-IVA    VAFB   68 deg  in orbit
    Lacrosse 3  1997  T-IVA    VAFB   57 deg  in orbit
    Lacrosse 4  2000  T-IVB    VAFB   68 deg  in orbit
    So it would appear that Lacrosse 5 should be targeted for 57 deg.
    The T-IVA that launched NOSS 2-1 in 1990 from CCAFS, dog-legged into a low 61
    deg orbit, so I suspect that a T-IVB could place a Lacrosse into the 57 deg
    inclination orbit from CCAFS.
    Why divert from VAFB to CCAFS? My guess is that it was done to make room for
    what has become a rather crowded VAFB launch calendar in 2005. Moreover, there
    are three obviously new NRO payloads manifested on Delta 2 and Delta IV for
    launch in 2005 from VAFB. My guess is that at least some are developmental
    payloads associated with FIA and possibly SBIRS, in which case launching them on
    time probably has greater urgency than launching a Lacrosse, given that 3 remain
    in orbit.
    Among previously launched VAFB payloads, the only other candidate besides
    Lacrosse that might fit, is one like USA 144; however, that one reportedly
    employed a 50 ft fairing. The launch was in darkness, and as a result, none of
    the photos I have seen show the fairing in sufficient detail to judge/measure
    its length.
    USA 144 entered a low 63.4 parking orbit that might be reachable from CCAFS, but
    probably would be a stretch. The 1990 shuttle mission that launched Misty 1 into
    a 62 deg orbit, probably pushed the limit for safe launches from CCAFS headed up
    the east coast. However, USA 144 is manoeuvrable, so it may be able to make up
    any difference between the inclination reachable by the T-IVB and the desired
    final orbit.
    In any case, unless I learn that USA 144's fairing was 66 ft, not 50 ft, I will
    not seriously consider the possibility that the final CCAFS launch is anything
    other than Lacrosse 5.
    Ted Molczan
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