Space History Photo: Titan-Centaur Rocket Launch Test (Fail!)
The first launch test of the Titan-Centaur rocket.
Credit: KSC

This historical photo from the U.S. space agency shows the first Titan/Centaur rocket lifting off from Complex 41 at Cape Kennedy Air Force Station on Feb. 11, 1974. The Titan stages burned as programmed, but when the Centaur stage failed to ignite, the Range Safety Officer destroyed it.

The new NASA rocket was launched on a proof of concept flight designed to prepare it for twin Viking probe launches to Mars in 1975 and other missions involving heavy payloads. The 160-foot-tall rocket combined the Air Force Titan III with the NASA high-energy Centaur final stage. The twin solid rocket boosters had a combined liftoff thrust of 2.4 million pounds.

Aboard Titan/ Centaur on its proof of concept flight were a dynamic simulator of the Viking spacecraft and a small scientific satellite (SPHINX) designed to determine how high voltage solar cells, insulators, and conductors are affected by the charges particles in space. KSC's Unmanned Launch Operations Directorate conducted the launch.

Each weekday, SPACE.com looks back at the history of spaceflight through photos (archive).