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Air Force Launches Titan Rocket

May 8, 2000

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ The Air Force on Monday launched a critically needed defense warning satellite after three consecutive failures of the troubled Titan rocket.

``It’s got to be the most beautiful sight I’ve seen in 16 years in this business,″ said Maj. Todd Ganger, deputy chief for missile warnings at the U.S. Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The Air Force and contractors Lockheed Martin and Boeing were harshly criticized by Congress after $3 billion in rocket losses, including a Milstar military communications satellite, a spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office and a previous Defense Support Program satellite.

If all continues to go well, the $250 million DSP satellite the rocket is carrying will enter orbit and become operational in about 30 days. The satellite is lined with more than 6,000 small infrared sensors used to provide beyond-the-horizon detection of missile launches and nuclear detonations.

The 2 1/2-ton satellite is the 20th in the system series, with three more scheduled annually until a new system is introduced in 2004.

The 19th DSP satellite was stranded in a useless orbit after a Titan launch April 9, 1999. Other Titan failures occurred April 30, 1999 and Aug. 12, 1998.

The first DSP satellite was launched in November 1970, and the last was successfully deployed in February 1997. The current model DSP satellites have a design life of five years, but many last longer, according to the Air Force.

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