AMERICA'S mightiest unmanned rocket thundered into space Saturday from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with a spy satellite that some believe will be used for eavesdropping.
The Air Force launched the Titan 4 at 4:58 a.m., two hours late because of thick clouds. Liftoff time was kept secret until a few hours beforehand.
Air Force officials refused to identify the satellite. But John Pike, space policy director for the Federation of American Scientists, said he believes it is a new type of electronic eavesdropping craft intended for a 22,300-mile-high orbit. Mr. Pike said such a satellite would be bigger than a football field and likely cost $1 billion or more. During launch preparations last weekend, up to 250 gallons of toxic rocket fuel spilled from a ruptured line.
It was the third Titan 4 launch this year and the 10th since the Air Force launched the first in 1989. The rockets, built by Martin Marietta Corp., were grounded for months after a Titan 4 exploded shortly after liftoff last August. Fires still challenge West
WINDS pushed a stubborn wildfire in Sams Valley, Ore. back into itself Saturday, giving firefighters their first hope of taming the blaze that has destroyed five homes and burned 7,250 acres.
People forced from their homes watched as dozens of helicopters and bombers tried to knock back the Hull Mountain fire in southwestern Oregon, about 15 miles west of Medford. Officials predicted full containment as early as today..
Across the West, 24 major fires still burning had covered 391,200 acres in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, and Montana, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.
Firefighters in California's Sierra Nevada reported progress in battling a fire that had burned 4,200 acres near Big Creek. It was 50 percent contained Saturday and lower temperatures and higher humidity were expected to help in the fire fighting effort.
The US Forest Service spent Saturday clearing campers out of one-third of central Idaho's Sawtooth wilderness area because of the 72,000-acre Rabbit Creek Fire.
Dozens of fires were burning in northwestern Montana. At the Libby complex of fires covering 10,790 acres, crews contained the edge that had been moving toward the town of Libby, said fire information officials in Missoula.
In central Washington, no containment date had been set for the 43,315-acre Hatchery Complex of fires near Leavenworth. Crews were working to clear the last five miles of fire line in the remote Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, fire information officer Rick Mueller said Saturday.
Meanwhile, tornadoes ripped through rural Wisconsin Saturday night and killed four people.
About 25 people were injured when a tornado hit Eau Claire County, about 80 miles east of Minneapolis.
The tornado toppled a trailer home into a ditch near the town of Foster, trapping three people underneath, including the 3-year-old girl. It also blew a van off Interstate 94, killing a woman inside, police said.
``There's quite a bit of damage out there,'' said Mark Briski, spokesman for the Township Fire Department, which serves several communities. ``There are houses that are pretty well damaged, cars laying on their sides, machine sheds that are down.''