ACCESS: Above Top Secret
- Jan 21, 2015
- Reaction score
Peterson Air and Space Museum
ON THIS DAY, in 1971, the first Martin-Marietta Titan III-D space booster launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. It was a two-stage liquid-fueled, core vehicle with two additional outboard strap-on thrust pods of solid propellant.
Titan IIID was flown 22 times with KH-9 and KH-11 reconnaissance satellites between 1971 and 1982, all successful launches. It was designed for heavy low Earth orbit payloads.
It was retired from service in 1982, and replaced by the upgraded Titan 34D. All launches occurred from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
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Newly declassified documents from the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) have revealed a previously unknown member of the Gambit reconnaissance satellite family. This was referred to as the Advanced Gambit-3 (AG3), though it is quite different from the standard Gambit-3 vehicles. It is so different from previous models that it could, and should, be referred to as Gambit-4. The AG3 included a camera that resembled the KH-10 from the Dorian Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program.
One is left to ponder the logic that led to the AG3 proposal. The NRO documents indicate that the project was started in 1973 with the first mission scheduled for mid-1978. This new series would have begun with mission #55 in the Gambit-3 series (the last Gambit-3/KH-8 mission was #54). At this time, the Hexagon KH-9 spacecraft was just entering service and the KH-11 was still a few years in the future.