When Titan IV B-39 rolled out of the Lockheed Martin Space Systems Astronautics Operations facility here April 11, it signified the end of an era.

The last Titan IVB to roll off the production line, B-39 marks over 15 years of heavy spacelift capability.

Mr. Peter Teets, Undersecretary of the Air Force for Space and former Lockheed Martin employee, paid tribute to the Titan line.

“This group has made so many huge contributions to the Titan family over the years,” Teets said. “When I think about Titan, I instantly connect two words, mission success.”

The Titan IV, with its heavy lift capacity, was built to augment the Space Shuttle fleet. Development began in 1984 under the U.S. Air Force Complementary Expendable Launch Vehicle program. In 1985 Lockheed Martin was chosen as the primary contractor to build 10 rockets and a year later the Air Force expanded the order to 23.

After the Challenger loss and subsequent stand down of the Space Shuttle program, the AF sought to secure its access to space. By 1988 the Air Force had the program modified to increase payload capability and purchased an additional 18 rockets.

On June 14, 1989, the first launch of the Titan IV fleet was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first newly configured Titan IVB was launched in 1997 and improved reliability and increased lift capability by 25 percent.

At the end of its production it was an expansive program with five vehicle configurations, three launch sites and a potential mission rate of up to eight launches per year, according to a Titan IV fact sheet.

“Today’s event represents the end of an era,” said Col. Mike Dunn, Director of Launch Programs for SMC. “Lockheed Martin has performed a mission critical service for the warfighter in the field and the American taxpayer.”

There are five remaining Titan IVB launches scheduled. Titan IV B-39 is slated to carry the Defense Support Program Flight-22 payload into orbit in April 2003 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The last Titan IVB to fly will be B-26. It will loft an NRO payload from Vandenberg Air Force Base in FY04.