Air Force Launches Titan Rocket With Secret Payload into Orbit
The first of 14 Titan 2 rockets being converted from nuclear-warhead missiles into space boosters carried a classified Defense Department payload into space Monday, the Air Force said.
The Titan 2 blasted off at 2:25 a.m. from Vandenberg Air Force Base, part of a new generation of Air Force boosters that also includes the Titan 4 and Delta 2 rockets.
The Air Force gave no details of the payload, believed by experts to sonsist of four Navy spy satellites used to intercept radio and radar transmissions from Soviet ships.
The Titan 2 is a refurbished intercontinental ballistic missile in which the second stage has been modified to accommodate a payload of up to 10 feet in diameter. The nuclear warhead has been removed.
The Air Force originally built 140 Titan ICBMs as the foundation of America’s nuclear deterrent. Deactivation of the Titan 2s began in July, 1982, with the last missile removed from its Little Rock, Ark., silo in June, 1987.
The deactivation provided a stockpile of rockets available for conversion to space-launch vehicles. Modification of the 14 Titans is taking place at Vandenberg Air Force Base.