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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

50 Years Ago Today: Titan 1 Test Series Concluded

Titan 1A at launch.

Fifty Years ago the Air Force concluded its series of launches of the Titan 1 rocket from the Atlantic Test Range at Cape Canaveral. There had been 40 launches, out of which 4 had been failures. The Titan 1 was an important development in the design of multi-stage InterContinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) for America's strategic rocket forces. The launches had taken place from launch complexes LC15, LC16, LC19, and LC20.

Titan-1 had a range of 5500 miles. As an ICBM, it could carry a nuclear weapon of 3.75 megatons of TNT. It became operational in our Strategic Missile Defense System in 1962 and was active until 1964. It was the first of our ICBMs to be launched from underground silos hidden in the western USA. There were difficulties with the first silo designs, needing an elevator to lift the rocket for launch, too long a time for fueling, and the command necessity of grouping them in threes, possibly making them vulnerable to a nuclear attack. During deployment, there were about 60 missiles available for launch at any given time. In 1965, as the new Titan 2 and Minuteman 1 missiles came on line, the Titan 1's were retired.

For NASA, the tests enabled engineers to prepare for the successful Titan 2 missiles, which would be used to launch astronauts later in the Gemini series.

There were 33 Titan 1s given to museums, Air Force bases, and government installations as memorials. You can see one at the Cape Canaveral US Air Force Museum in Florida, on one of the bus tours that you can board from the Kennedy Space Center. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of it when I was there earlier this year.

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