US spy satellite blows up on launch
Thursday 13 August 1998
The unmanned Titan 4A rocket, built by Lockheed Martin, lifted off at 7.30am carrying the satellite for the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). There have been no reports of injuries and the cause of the explosion is not known.
Television images broadcast showed the rocket was over the ocean when it exploded. "Oh no," the commentator said as the rocket blew up 40 seconds after lift-off. "At this time it appears we have had a major malfunction of the vehicle. We have had an explosion."
There were two or three distinct loud bangs, setting off car alarms and burglar alarms in nearby Cocoa Beach.
Space analysts said they believed the Titan was carrying an eavesdropping satellite which would have listened in on military and government communications in global hotspots such as the Middle East, India and Pakistan, and China. Together, the rocket and the satellite, reportedly code-named Vortex, were believed to have cost about $1bn (pounds 620,000).
The 20-story rocket was laden with nearly 500,000lbs of highly toxic fuel. But the USAF said there was no danger to nearby residents, as fumes blew out to sea and dispersed.
Under launch rules, the air force does not launch Titans if there is any chance that propellants could be blown towards populated areas in the event of an accident. A similar satellite was launched in May, also on a Titan rocket.
The last Titan 4 rocket explosion was at Vandenberg air force base in California in August 1993. The Titan 4A that blew up yesterday was the last of that model scheduled for launch. The air force last year introduced an improved version of the rocket, also made by Lockheed Martin.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£20000 - £25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Internal Sales Executive ...
£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises in the installa...
£30000 - £35500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Provisioning Specialist is required to join ...