Titan IV payload launched and in orbit - may not be a Lacrosse

Ted Molczan (molczan@home.com)
Sat, 22 May 1999 05:59:48 -0400

Florida Today reports that the Titan IV was launched as scheduled on 22 May
99 at 9:36 UTC, and that payload separation has been confirmed:


On the same page, Florida Today also casts doubt on the theory that the
payload is Lacrosse:

"Over the past weeks and months, analysts had said it was the fourth in a
series of $1 billion radar intelligence satellites. Previously, the
spacecraft have been known as LACROSSE and VEGA. The current codename isn't
known. However, such satellites have needed 66-foot long payload fairings
for launch aboard Titan 4B rockets. Today's launch features a 50-foot long
fairing, according to the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, Los
Angeles Air Force Base.

Experts believed a new radar imaging satellite was being launched because
the oldest one currently in orbit, deployed in March 1991, probably had
reached its life expectancy. This launch would allow for a routine
replacement. In addition, the known orbital plane of the aging satellite
will make a south-bound pass over Vandenberg during the launch period.

But the Air Force on Friday confirmed the rocket would use a 50-foot fairing
for the first time. The fairing is the smallest available.

What top secret cargo is hidden within the shroud has stumped the military
space analysts. Earlier Titan 4 rockets from Vandenberg have been thought to
have carried imaging satellites, earlier LACROSSE birds and clusters of
ocean surveillance spacecraft. However, those payloads have used 56- and
66-foot fairings.

So by speculating, what could it be? Possibilities include a next-generation
cluster of ocean surveillance satellites, which in earlier launches also
featured secondary payloads and used a 56-foot fairing. By removing the
extra cargo and flying the satellites solo, is could yield a 50-foot
fairing. Or a "super-secret-who-knows-what" satellite. The Air Force has
never flown this Titan 4 configuration before and it is believed by military
watchers that the NRO has a few new test platforms floating around. It could
even be an SDS-type communications satellite."

Ted Molczan