The Titan II ICBM

One of the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum's most prominent exhibits is our Titan II Rocket.

The development of the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) was the single greatest catalyst of the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

As the Cold War enemies stared each other down across the "Iron Curtain," they recalled the destructive lessons learned from World War II. Bombers could be shot down by fighters and anti-aircraft fire, but the missile remained unstoppable.

Both sides began to build missiles that could be launched at a moment's notice and deliver a knockout blow to the opponent using a nuclear warhead. To carry the large, heavy nuclear weapons over intercontinental distances, the missiles had to be extremely powerful. The ability to boost heavy payloads made them the perfect vehicles for launching capsules carrying humans into space. For the Russians, the R-7 missile, derived from the SS-6 Sapwood ICBM, was the basis for all their space launch vehicles, including the Sputnik, Vostok, Voskhod and Soyuz. On the American side, it was the Redstone, Atlas and Titan that would carry the load in both war and peace.

Titan II Launch

Of the U.S. missiles, the Titan was the largest and most powerful of the group, and featured two stages with liquid fuel engines. The first version, the Titan I, was a silo-based ICBM built by the Glenn L. Martin Company that required fueling and being raised to the surface before it was launched. Needing a faster response time, the U.S. Air Force asked Martin to develop the Titan II, which could be kept fueled for long periods of time and would be ready to launch from the silo at the push of a button. This highly capable rocket was chosen to carry the two-man Gemini spacecraft into orbit.

The Titan II on display is the last variant of the Titan II family, the Space Launch Vehicle (SLV). On these missiles, the nuclear warhead was removed and a new fairing was adapted that could carry a satellite into orbit, or in one case, the Clementine, an unmanned space probe to the moon. A total of 14 Titan IIs were converted to this role by Martin-Marietta, and all but the Museum's were used to launch satellites. Lacking a customer that required the Titan's lifting capacity, the missile was retired and turned over to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, who in turn loaned it to the Museum.

The Museum's Titan II is displayed in a launch position, with the white satellite fairing at its top. Down below, visitors can experience the control room that was used for the Titan II launches at Vandenburg Air Force Base, California. Complete down to the floor tiles, the control room allows visitors to experience the last flight of a Titan II, which took place on October 17, 2003. It was gifted to the Museum by the Lockheed-Martin company.

Please come out to see our Titan rocket and all the other great spacecraft at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum!

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