Author Topic: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States  (Read 1501 times)

Offline Ronpur50

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Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« on: 09/19/2017 12:19 AM »
I have built a lot of models of launch vehicles during my life.  I have observed during research that NASA payloads had flown on boosters marked "United States" regardless of the source of the boosters.  Mercury flew on Redstone and Atlas boosters that may have come from the USAF, but said United States on the side.  Same with Gemini.  I have seen the Titan with USAF for non-NASA payloads, but the Helios, Viking and Voyager flew Titan IIIE with United States.  I had assumed this would be consistent until I recently saw the Cassini Titan IV said US Air Force on its side!   

Sure, it was a USAF booster, but as had been the pattern in the past, I had assumed it would not be branded as such for a NASA mission. 

Was this ever a matter of policy for booster markings?  If it was when did it change, or how consistent has it been?

I now have to check Atlas Agena markings to see if there was a difference.
« Last Edit: 09/19/2017 12:20 AM by Ronpur50 »

Offline Jim

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #1 on: 09/19/2017 01:43 AM »
Not unusual
« Last Edit: 09/19/2017 01:23 PM by Jim »

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #2 on: 09/19/2017 03:35 AM »
Until Challenger, NASA had its own stable of launch vehicles.  They included the Shuttle, the Saturns, Delta, Atlas-Centaur, and Scout.  The words "United States" were almost always found on these vehicles. 

The words were often obscured on Delta, because they only appeared on the less-photographed downrange side of the vehicles, but they were there in black letters atop the blue fuselage paint.  They disappeared after Delta slipped from NASA's control.  Delta 187 (1989), which was labeled  "United States", may have been the last for Delta, but I'm not certain.

NASA's Atlas Centaur carried "United States" until AC 68R in 1989.  AC-69 (1990) carried the words "General Dynamics" instead, heralding the start of the commercial launch era.

"United States" appeared on Titan IIIE because Titan IIIE was a NASA Lewis Center program.  Most other Titans said "U.S. Air Force" because the Air Force ran their programs.

Atlas-Agena was a USAF launch vehicle, but "United States" appeared on the big silver Atlas tank for NASA missions like Ranger, Mariner, and the Gemini target vehicles. "United States" also appeared on the manned spacecraft launchers Redstone, Atlas, and Titan 2.  Redstone was originally Army, not USAF, BTW.

NASA's Juno 2 rockets may have been the first to carry "United States" lettering beginning in 1959.  It appeared in big red letters on the side of the shroud and upper section of the rocket.

Scout may have been the last ELV to fly with "United States" lettering, in 1994, but I haven't found a photo just yet.

There were odd exceptions to the NASA = "United States" rule.  One grainy image appears to show a secret USAF SLV-3A Atlas-Agena labeled "United States", for example.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 09/19/2017 05:19 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Rocket Science

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #3 on: 09/19/2017 05:07 PM »
Going from recollection during the "space race" there was great emphasis that all NASA mission were of a peaceful nature run by a civilian agency separate from any military launches. Thus most if not all had the United States displayed on there space craft and launch vehicles. Post space race the "politics" of the missions were no longer an emphasis and the markings were whatever was on the LV available and no longer a big deal... YMMV...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob, Physics instructor, aviator, vintage auto racer

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #4 on: 09/19/2017 05:18 PM »
Here is a recent, if not current, NASA policy on "Graphic Markings on Space Transportation Vehicles".  I would love to find one of these from, say, 1985 or earlier.
https://nodis3.gsfc.nasa.gov/npg_img/N_PD_8610_006F_/N_PD_8610_006F__main.pdf

NASA's first Administrator, T. Keith Glennan, would have been the first to approve the "United States" markings.  Hopefully there is a record of who first suggested the idea, if it was not Glennan himself.

Here are a couple of photos of "United States" lettering on NASA launch vehicles just before the dawn of the commercial launch era.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 09/19/2017 05:27 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Ronpur50

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #5 on: 09/19/2017 08:04 PM »
Thanks!  So it looks like 1994 was about the time "United States" stopped appearing and USAF could have started appearing, or it didn't matter.  And that works out with the photos Jim posted.  Those Titan II launch vehicles were the ones brought out of storage for use, correct? 

Which brings up another question.  Would active missiles in the USAF arsenal even be marked?  I have only seen test vehicle photos. 

It appears that as is usual, I will continue to search out photos of actual vehicles to make sure they are accurate.

As for policy, I have copies of the NASA Graphic Standard Manuals, but they don't have  anything on ELVs.


Offline WallE

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #6 on: 09/22/2017 02:12 AM »
I'm fairly sure that active duty missiles were not marked. For example, here we see Atlas 37E at Fairchild AFB. No visible markings on it. The second photo shows a Titan II with "US Air Force" on it, but the identity of it is unknown and it could just as easily be an operational VAFB test launch. It's most likely that USAF markings would have been added when operational missiles were modified for VABF tests (which included adding telemetry, Range Safety charges, cameras, other additional equipment, etc).

Atlas 37E was never flown either for an operational missile test or a space launch, it was apparently one of the 40 or so Atlas E/F missiles the Air Force scrapped in the '70s to cut down on storage costs.

Offline edkyle99

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #7 on: 09/22/2017 02:57 PM »
Most operational Atlas Ds appeared to have "U.S. Air Force" with the roundel and the last three numbers of the USAF serial number (not the same as the missile tail number) below.  The same appears to be true of the operational E and F missiles.  There are some variations among the photo record.  Perhaps the policy changed toward the end of the short-lived program.

Operational Titan missiles appear to have been unadorned.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 09/22/2017 04:48 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline WallE

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #8 on: 09/23/2017 12:47 AM »
Most operational Atlas Ds appeared to have "U.S. Air Force" with the roundel and the last three numbers of the USAF serial number (not the same as the missile tail number) below.  The same appears to be true of the operational E and F missiles.  There are some variations among the photo record.  Perhaps the policy changed toward the end of the short-lived program.

The Titan II in your pic is a '70s operational test, that's also later in the program and they might have also stopped putting markings on them by that point.

As for the rest, Atlas 34D and 65F both performed space launches; the first successful OV-1 flight on 10/6/65 (introduction of the famous hammerhead shroud) and Navstar 2 on 6/23/77.

Offline Ronpur50

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Re: Launch Vehicle markings: USAF vs United States
« Reply #9 on: 09/24/2017 10:54 PM »
I have to wonder if the markings were just applied for photographs.  Not every booster or launch has photos.

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