Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tornadoes Possible During 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.

 

However, there was a tornado touchdown last night about 30 miles north of Space Launch Complex 41 that damaged over 40 homes and the National Weather Service forecasts that Tornadoes are possible for East Central Florida again today.


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: