Rocket Explodes Carrying $1 Billion Satellite

A Titan IV-A rocket explodes on the morning of August 12, 1998, spectacularly lobbing a billion-dollar, top-secret "Mercury" spy satellite into the Atlantic just off the Cape Canaveral beach. The explosion occurred 40 seconds after launch at an altitude of about 20,000 feet and was loud enough to set off car alarms 20 miles away. Investigations are focusing on a failure in a solid rocket booster. The salvage operations were the largest ever except for those for the Challenger disaster. Several pieces washed up on Space Coast beaches. More information can be found here at


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