Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Secret X-37B Mini-Shuttle Launch Re-Rescheduled Again


CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, has been re-re-scheduled to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on December 11, 2012 pending confirmation from the 45th Space Wing regarding the revised range registration.


The launch was initially re-scheduled for November 27, 2012 due to a chamber pressure anomaly observed during the Delta IV medium configuration launch of a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) IIF-3 on October 4, 2012.  While the mission successfully placed the GPS satellite in a precise orbit, a lower than normal chamber pressure was observed on the Delta IV RL 10 upper stage engine.



ULA says that although the team investigating the lower-than-normal upper-stage engine chamber pressure has been making good progression reviewing and analyzing the data, ULA leadership and the Air Force have decided to post-pone the launch for two weeks to allow for additional flight data anomaly investigation activities and a thorough crossover assessment for the X-37B OTV launch vehicle to be completed.



This mission, named  OTV-3, will be a re-flight of the first X-37B OTV, which was successfully recovered at Vandenberg AFB Dec. 3, 2010, after 224 days on orbit.



OTV-2, which also launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., March 5, 2011, conducted on-orbit experiments for 469 days during its mission. 


The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.


"With the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet, the X-37B OTV program brings a singular capability to space technology development," said Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre, X-37B program manager.  "The return capability allows the Air Force to test new technologies without the same risk commitment faced by other programs."

 

Boeing says that the X-37B design combines the best of aircraft and spacecraft design into an affordable, unmanned space-based test platform. Program objectives include space experimentation, risk reduction, and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.


PHOTO: The second Boeing [NYSE: BA] X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, built for the U.S. Air Force, is shown above during encapsulation within the United Launch Alliance Atlas V 5-meter fairing at Astrotech in Titusville, Florida, on February 8, 2011 / Credit: Boeing

OTV Landing Video Taken By USAF: