Yikes, 3 strikes and you are out, in this case more than 3 billion dollars with a possible RTG-Plutonium on board, and they are still going at it!

Incredible, absurd and dangerous!

Any responsible public servant should now support the redirecting of the Cassini space probe away from Earth. Are there any responsible leaders with any integrity? The military has become our greatest and costly health risk in the United States and World.

We ask for any head of state to endorse the Emergency Resolution to the UN posted at: http://www.nonviolence.org/noflyby/alerts/reso1999.htm

May 1, 1999:

1. Military Satellite Titan in Trouble (AP article by Marcia Dunn)
2. Air Force Titan 4 rocket program suffers another failure (Florida Today article by Todd Halvorson)
3. Nine documented accidents releasing Plutonium into our environment

Military Satellite Titan in Trouble

.c The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- A military communication satellite worth $800 million ended up in the wrong orbit Friday, the third failure in a row for the Air Force's most powerful rocket.

The three strikes for the Air Force's Titan IV rocket have cost taxpayers $3 billion.

Everything appeared to go well as the Titan IV lifted off early Friday afternoon, delayed 1 1/2 hours by minor technical problems and overnight thunderstorms.

But seven hours later at a hastily convened news conference, Air Force officials said that the Defense Department's newest Milstar satellite was in a lopsided orbit thousands of miles below the intended 22,300-mile-high orbit.

Officials said they will try to see if they can use onboard fuel and thrusters to boost the satellite into its intended orbit, but were unsure of their chances of success.

Brig. Gen. Randy Starbuck, who is in charge of the Cape Canaveral Air Station, said it was too soon to speculate what went wrong. The first hint of trouble came about a half-hour into the flight, he said.

``When we have three failures in a row of any system ... something is not right,'' he told reporters.

Because the Milstar program is partly classified, Air Force officials have to go through security reviews before releasing any information once the satellite was in orbit.

An upper-stage Centaur rocket was supposed to boost the satellite into a 22,300-mile-high orbit, where the first Milstar was placed in 1994 and the second in 1995. In all, six such satellites were planned to provide secure, jam-proof communication between U.S. military commanders and troops in the field.

Air Force officials say that the mishap will not hamper the military's communications or the nation's security.

A different type of upper-stage motor malfunctioned three weeks ago, leaving a missile-warning satellite in a useless orbit following its launch aboard a Titan IV. In August, one of the rockets and a spy satellite were destroyed in an explosion shortly after liftoff.

Friday's mission alone cost $1.23 billion.

The Milstar program was criticized by the General Accounting Office last fall as outdated and inefficient. The satellites were conceived during the Cold War and designed to withstand the radiation from a nuclear blast.

The military is less worried about nuclear war and more worried about conflicts like the one in Yugoslavia, said Col. Mike Kelly, a deputy commander. But he said the satellites are still useful and have carried targeting information for cruise missiles.

Air Force Titan 4 rocket program suffers another failure

From Florida Today
By Todd Halvorson

FLORIDA TODAY CAPE CANAVERAL. Fla. - In a crushing blow to the Pentagon, an $800 million military communications satellite was launched into the wrong orbit Friday in the third straight failure for Air Force Titan 4 rocket missions.

The accident, following losses two weeks ago and last August, raises serious questions about the nation's ability to get critical satellites into orbit while U.S. and NATO forces are fighting in Yugoslavia. The Titan is the only rocket the military has to ferry large photo and radar reconnaissance satellites into space. Such spacecraft are crucial to conducting the escalating air war in the Balkans.

Experts also say the loss is certain to renew investigations into major quality control problems uncovered last year at Lockheed Martin, which makes the rockets and launches them for the Air Force.

In all, the three Titan failures have cost taxpayers $3 billion. Friday's loss alone was put at $1.2 billion.

"Certainly when we have three failures in a row of any system - or three failures in a row of a combination of systems - something is not right," said Brig. Gen. Randall Starbuck, commander of the 45th Space Wing, which oversees launch operations at Cape Canaveral.

Pentagon analysts, meanwhile, say one of the military's most important programs faces a difficult recovery.

"I'd hate to condemn a whole program on the basis of a single slip up, but they're having a lot of slip ups," said John Pike, director of space policy with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C. "It suggests there's some larger problem than they have identified yet, because that's just too much bad luck to be just bad luck." Standing 19-stories high, the $433 million Titan 4 blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Station at 12:30 p.m. EDT and headed toward an orbit 22,300 miles above Earth.

However, the rocket's upper stage apparently misfired. That stranded its payload - a Milstar 2 communications satellite - in an egg-shaped orbit with high and low points of 3,100 and 460 miles, respectively.

Ground controllers were trying late Friday to salvage the spacecraft, but it probably doesn't have enough fuel to maneuver into its proper orbit. Brig. Gen. Craig Cooning, the Air Force's Milstar program director, said it was too soon to tell whether the satellite could be saved.

He added the Pentagon operates a number of other satellite communications systems so the failure isn't expected to hamper missions being carried out by U.S. and allied troops around the world.

"I can assure you that our military communications today remain robust and will serve the needs of our war fighters," Cooning said. Designed during the Cold War, Milstar satellites would allow U.S. presidents and top military leaders to communicate with each other during a nuclear war. The spacecraft also can be used to support troops, tanks, ships and aircraft in the field, such as the conflict in Kosovo.

Besides Friday's failure, the other two Titan 4 losses included: A $250 million missile warning satellite that was launched into a useless orbit April 9 by a Titan rocket valued at $344 million.

The spacecraft would have used a large infrared telescope to spot missile launches anywhere in the world. Such satellites played a key role in locating Iraqi Scud missiles during the Persian Gulf War. An investigation is focusing on the possible failure of a two-stage, solid-fueled upper stage intended to loft the satellite into an orbit 22,300 miles above earth.

A $700 million National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite that was lost Aug. 12, 1998, when a Titan rocket exploded about 40 seconds into flight. The satellite was designed to eavesdrop on enemy communications, and was so powerful it could have picked up cell phone conversations and walkie-talkie chatter among enemy ground troops.

Pike said the failures will prompt the Air Force to again examine quality control at Lockheed Martin's rocket manufacturing plants as well as launch operations at Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. "They would have to look at Lockheed Martin quality assurance management if for no other reason than to reassure themselves that that is not where the problem is," he said.

An Air Force report on the August 1998 accident cited significant quality control lapses by the company at its plant in Denver. For starters, it blamed the accident on a damaged electrical wiring harness that escaped detection during preflight inspections. That caused electrical shorts to cut power to the rocket's guidance system 39 seconds into flight.

The rocket went out of control, triggering its automatic destruct system. The flaming wreckage fell into the Atlantic Ocean a few miles off Cape Canaveral. Scouring manufacturing records, Air Force investigators found a record 44 wiring defects that could have triggered electrical shorts in the guidance system on the flight. All of those were found and fixed.

However, a further examination of records dating to the mid-1980s turned up other troubling evidence: 113 cases of wiring damage that could have caused guidance system failures on 25 Titan missions flown since 1989. Most of those problems were spotted by factory inspectors, but 10 were not caught until rockets arrived at Cape Canaveral or Vandenberg for launch. The number of problems prompted investigators to begin looking at the manufacturing records of other Titan systems, such as engines and solid rocket boosters. More than 1,000 cases of wiring defects were uncovered during that search, leading to extra inspections of rockets being readied for upcoming launches. So far, Lockheed Martin has flown 27 of the 41 rockets called for in its $15.8 billion contract. Four of those missions have failed, including the August 1993 loss of three ocean surveillance satellites.

The string of failures is expected to indefinitely ground the Titan rocket fleet. The planned May 7 launch of a Titan rocket from Vandenberg likely will be postponed while the Air Force investigates Friday's mishap. That rocket reportedly is to carry a high-power radar reconnaissance satellite into orbit. Also facing delays:

The planned launch Sunday of a Boeing Delta 3 rocket and a commercial communications satellite. The rocket employs an upper stage engine similar to one suspected in Friday's failure.

The scheduled May 15 launch of a Lockheed Martin Atlas rocket with a new weather satellite the National Weather Service had been counting on for hurricane season, which starts June 1.

"We won't launch until we're confident that what we believe happened on this launch won't impact those other launches," Starbuck said.

NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for research and educational purposes.

Posted: 5/2/99 2:13:50 PM
Last revised: 5/7/99 6:29:03 PM