Titan IIIB

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Titan IIIB
File:Titan 23B.jpg
Titan 23B launching KH-8 reconnaissance satellite from Vandenberg AFB, CA. (USAF)
Function Medium launch vehicle
Manufacturer Martin
Country of origin United States
Height 45m (147.00 ft)
Diameter 3.05m (10 ft)
Mass 156,540kg (345,110 lb)
Stages 3
Payload to LEO 3,000kg (7,500 lb (23B))
Associated rockets
Family Titan
Launch history
Status Retired
Launch sites SLC-4W, Vandenberg AFB
Total launches 68
Successes 62
Failures 4
First flight 29 July 1966
Last flight 12 February 1987
First stage (Titan 23B/33B)
Engines 2 x LR87-AJ-5
Thrust 1,913 kN (430,000 lbf)
Burn time 147 seconds
Fuel A-50 hydrazine/N2O4
Second stage
Engines 2 x LR91-AJ-5
Thrust 445 kN (100,000 lbf)
Burn time 205 seconds
Fuel A-50 hydrazine/N2O4
Third stage - Agena
Engines 1 x Bell XLR81-BA-9
Thrust 71.1 kN (16,000 lbf)
Burn time 240 seconds
Fuel N2O4/UDMH

Titan IIIB was the collective name for a number of derivatives of the Titan II ICBM and Titan III launch vehicle, modified by the addition of an Agena upper stage. It consisted of four separate rockets. The Titan 23B was a basic Titan II with an Agena upper stage, and the Titan 24B was the same concept, but using the slightly enlarged Titan IIIM rocket as the base. The Titan 33B was a Titan 23B with the Agena (which had a smaller diameter than the Titan) enclosed in an enlarged fairing, in order to allow larger payloads to be launched. The final member of the Titan IIIB family was the Titan 34B which was a Titan 24B with the larger fairing used on the Titan 33B.


The Titan 23B space launch vehicle was a three-stage liquid fueled booster, designed to provide a small-to-medium weight class capability. It was able to lift approximately 3,000 kg (7,500 lb) into a polar low-Earth circular orbit. The first stage consisted of a ground ignited LR87 liquid propellant rocket, while the second stage consisted of an LR91 liquid propellant rocket. The third stage was an Agena D XLR81-BA-9 liquid propellant rocket.

Various models of this Titan/Agena D rocket were called, "Titan 23B", "Titan 24B", "Titan 33B" and "Titan 34B".


The Titan rocket family was established in October 1955, when the Air Force awarded The Martin Company a contract to build an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It became known as the Titan I, the nation’s first two-stage ICBM and first underground silo-based ICBM. More than 140 Titan II ICBMs, once the vanguard of America’s strategic deterrent force, were built. Titan IIs also were flown in NASA’s Gemini manned space program in the mid-1960s. The Titan 23B is a derivative of the Titan II vehicle with an Agena D upper stage added.

The Titan IIIB family emerged when the new KH-8 (Gambit Mark 3) photo reconnaissance satellite was being developed as the successor to the KH-7 Gambit Mark 1/2 which began flying in 1963. It was decided to switch to the Titan family over the Atlas used for KH-7 because it had substantially more lift capability and also its conventional two-stage design and hypergolic propellants made for a simpler and more reliable launch vehicle than the quirky Atlas. The KH-8 was double the size of its predecessor but still well below the Titan's lift capability.

While the KH-8 was the original raison'd'etre for the Titan IIIB's existence, as well as its primary payload, the booster was also used for Jumpseat SIGNIT satellites and military comsats. It also lived up to its promise of greater reliability than the Thor and Atlas, with only a few failures over its run.

  • Primary function: Launch vehicle used to lift medium class satellites into space
  • Launch site: Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
  • First stage: Length: 70 ft (21 m)
  • Diameter: 10 feet
  • Engine thrust: 474,000 lbf (2,108 kN) vacuum
  • Weight: 258,000 lb (117,020 kg) Fueled
    • Empty weight: 10,500 lb (4,760 kg)
  • Second stage: Length: 24 ft (7.3 m)
  • Diameter: 10 ft (3.0 m)
  • Engine Thrust: 100,000 lbf (445 kN) vacuum
  • Weight: 64,000 lb (29,030 kg) Fueled
    • Empty weight: 6,100 lb (2,760 kg)
  • Third stage: Length: 24.8 ft (7.6 m)
  • Diameter: 5 ft (1.5 m)
  • Engine thrust: 16,000 lbf (71 kN) vacuum
  • Weight: 7160 kg (15800 lb) - fueled
    • Empty Weight: 2300 lb (1045 kg)
  • Guidance: Inertial
  • Subcontractor: Delco Electronics
  • Payload fairing: Diameter: 5 ft (1.5 m)
  • Length: 20 to 25 ft (6.1 to 7.6 m)
  • Skin and Stringer Construction – Tri-Sector Design
  • Subcontractor: Boeing
  • Date deployed: July 1966

Titan 23B

Titan 23B used the basic Titan 3A core with an Agena D upper stage. The Titan 23B was launched from SLC-4W at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Its main payload was the GAMBIT (KH-8 reconnaissance) satellites, although the final two 23B vehicles carried Jumpseat SIGNIT satellites and had some minor upper stage modifications for them. 33 flights were made from 1966 to 1971, with one failure.[1]

Titan 24B

The Titan 24B differed from the Titan 23B in that the stretched Titan IIIM core was used in place of the original Titan II core. The payload remained attached to the Agena stage. 23 flights took place from 1971-84, with two failures.

Titan 33B

The Titan 33B was a Titan 23B with the entire Agena and payload completely enclosed in a shroud. It flew only three times (1971–73) with one failure and was used to launch Jumpseat satellites.

Titan 34B

Titan-34B launch

The Titan 34B was a Titan 24B, modified by the addition of the larger fairing used on the Titan 33B. 23 were launched in 1971-87 with two failures. All launches consisted of KH-8 satellites.


Titan IIIB rockets suffered four outright failures, and two partial failures. The first failure occurred on 26 April 1967 during the launch of a Gambit 3 satellite when the second stage suffered a sudden thrust decay which left it unable to achieve orbital velocity, sending the Agena and GAMBIT into the Pacific Ocean some 400 miles downrange. It was not possible to determine the cause of the malfunction with certainty, but a fuel line obstruction was believed to be the most likely explanation. Martin-Marietta had no answers except to suggest implementing better quality control measures during assembly of the Titan vehicles. The next launch, on 20 June 1967 was a partial failure; due to a problem with the protective skirt on the second stage, a lower-than-planned orbit was achieved.[2] On 24 October 1969 OPS 8455 was placed into a higher-than-planned orbit by another 23B due to an engine failing to cut off after completing its planned burn, however the payload was able to correct its own orbit.[3]

On 16 February 1972, a Titan III(33)B failed to achieve orbit carrying a Jumpseat satellite.[4] Another failure occurred later the same year, when on 20 May a Titan III(24)B failed to achieve orbit with another Gambit 3. Both of these failed due to Agena malfunctions. The launch of KH-8 #39 on 26 June 1973 ended ignominiously when the Titan's first stage fuel tank ruptured 11 seconds after liftoff.[5]A launch of a Jumpseat satellite on 24 April 1981 was a partial failure when the Agena failed to separate.

See also


  1. http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/titan24b.htm
  2. "History of Satellite Reconnaissance Volume 5, Management of NRP" (PDF). US National Reconnaissance Office. Retrieved 19 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Perry, Robert, A History of Satellite Reconnaissance (PDF), IIIA, US National Reconnaissance Office, pp. 291–2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Wade, Mark. "Titan 33B". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 19 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Wade, Mark. "Titan 24B". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved 19 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links