FWD: [UASR] Military Satellite Titan in Trouble
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Military Satellite Titan in Trouble
.c The Associated Press
By MARCIA DUNN
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
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
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
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fall as outdated and inefficient.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.
Copyright 1998 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without prior written authority of The Associated Press.