On March 8, 1991 at approximately 12:03pm the U.S. Air Force launched a Titan IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base. As the lead engineer, then Lt. Daniel Warren Benedict coordinated the first Titan IV launch on the west coast from SLC-4E. The entire Titan Team celebrated, along with Dan, their successful launch—“K5 Five Days Early!”
Daniel Warren Benedict was born in Oakland, California on April 5, 1958 and grew up in Humboldt county where he graduated from Fortuna High School. He worked as a pizza delivery guy while attending classes at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, CA. Later, Dan moved to Lake Tahoe to work at Harrah’s Casino as a pot washer before enlisting in the Air Force. Dan quickly rose to the rank of Staff Sargent while working as a computer technician. After being nominated to join the Bootstrap program giving enlisted soldiers the opportunity to earn a college degree, Dan moved to Austin, TX. Dan graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering with a focus on orbital mechanics. Following his graduation, Dan would marry his wife, Karin before moving to Los Angeles, California.
Dan’s first assignment as an officer in the USAF was to serve in the Titan Program Office in Los Angeles as the lead engineer responsible for evaluating booster mission readiness of the fourth Titan IV launch. At the time, the Titan IV rocket was the largest and most capable expendable launch vehicle used by the USAF. This booster system was designed and built specifically to launch classified payloads for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). On the historic mission Dan was supporting a KH-11 satellite which was successfully launched, earlier than was originally planned, from Vandenberg AFB and placed into orbit providing the United States with an invaluable real-time optical observation capability.
Dan supported sensitive breakthrough negotiations with the U.S. State Department between Russian, Norwegian, and U.S. companies for the Boeing commercial Sea Launch Program that launched payloads from a ship platform on the equator. This successful program launched 32 rockets/payloads into geostationary orbits that included communications satellites for EchoStar, DirecTV, and XM Satellite Radio.
Dan was a true expert and passionate user/instructor of the Systems Tool Kit (STK), a physics-based software package that enables analysts to perform complex analyses of ground, sea, air, and space platforms with multi-dimensional views. Dan applied his expertise to create unique visual perspectives to enable effective risk reduction assessments for Ground-Based Missile Defense Flight Test planning and post event analysis; and to assess complex algorithms used to simultaneously track air, ballistic missile and cruise missile threats for Integrated Air and Missile Defense applications.
Daniel was a person of high character and gifted intelligence, gladly willing to help others, and always making a difference wherever he was and in whatever activity he was doing. Dan loved his family, German food, the University of Texas, animals, fishing, science fiction, Stan Lee, and of course having fun!
Major Daniel Warren Benedict retired from the USAF in 2002 after 21 years of service. Moving to Huntsville, AL, Dan continued to serve his country for the next 19 years as a contractor subject matter expert supporting the Missile Defense Agency. After 40 years of his dedicated service and sacrifice, the family feels blessed to honor him in such a profound way. Through happy circumstances and the stars coming into alignment, we are sending Dan on his final mission—at Vandenberg in the exact same launch complex where his first space launch took place.
Mission Accomplished Major Benedict—Excelsior!