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ICBMs to Space

by Greg Freiherr.

ICBMs to Space

n the mid 1960s, Titan II was the preferred launch vehicle for the Gemini program, the linchpin between Mercury and Apollo. Some 20 years later, on January 25, 1994, a surplus Titan II intercontinental ballistic missile made possible America's return to the moon, as part of the unmanned Clementine lunar mapping mission. Today these missiles, which once served on the front line of America's deterrent to nuclear war, are being proposed as one answer to the question of how to cheaply launch payloads into space . Since 1986, 14 Titan IIs have been converted by their maker, Lockheed Martin, into Titan II SLVs (Space Launch Vehicle) for launch at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Their success in this configuration has led to proposals to use Minuteman missiles for suborbital and possibly orbital launches beginning as early as next year. The Russians are also considering such a refurbishment program for their SS-19 ballistic missiles."The fact of the matter is that the earth is awash in military rockets that could be turned into launch vehicles," says Hans Mark, former deputy NASA administrator and secretary of the air force, now a professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Texas. "There are folks in the launch vehicle industry who are unhappy about that. But if you want to reduce the cost of getting into space, better to use what we have. It's cheaper to refurbish launch vehicles than buy new ones."

(Photo of Gemini launch courtesy Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space; photo of Clementine launch courtesy Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC.; photo of Titan II launch courtesy Lockheed Martin)

Acknowledgment: Much of the information and many of the contacts leading to these images and accompanying text were obtained at the 12th National Space Symposium, held April 9 to 12, 1996 in Colorado Springs, CO.


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