Monday, December 10, 2012

30% Chance Weather "GO" For X-37B Tuesday Launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, has been set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on December 11, 2012 at 1:03 p.m.

10:15 A.M. UPDATE: United Launch Alliance tweeted "Just wrapped up a weather briefing.  Weather likely to be better around the 1:03 p.m. EST launch time than later"

The most recent forecast issued by the 45th Weather Squadron says that there is now only a 30% chance of overall permissible weather conditions for launch.  In the event of a 24 hour delay, a cold front will remain near stationary over Central Florida with cloudy conditions, showers, and the threat of isolated thunderstorms. The primary concerns for a 24 hour delay are lightning, cumulus clouds, disturbed weather and thick clouds.

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.

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: