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  U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)

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Author Topic:   U.S. Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)
Danno
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posted 09-20-2004 12:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Danno   Click Here to Email Danno     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Aviation Week & Space Technology: Darpa Takes Over X-37
NASA has transferred leadership of the X-37 program to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), after finding that the reusable launch vehicle technology demonstrator does not fit agency goals. In particular, NASA is no longer focused on reusable launch vehicles, an agency official said.

Darpa plans two captive-carry and three gliding drops of the X-37 approach and landing test vehicle (ALTV) in early to mid-2005. The NASA scheme was to drop the X-37 ALTV from an agency B-52H carrier aircraft at 40,000 ft., but Darpa will use a carrier provided by Scaled Composites, a NASA official said.

NASA's Office of Exploration Systems started a review of all programs in December 2003, which ended in late spring. It concluded that the X-37 no longer supported the agency's vision for space exploration, the official said. At that point NASA started talks with Darpa about taking over the program. "Darpa had interest in completing ALTV through a cooperative effort," he said. The ALTV will demonstrate autonomous landing of a gliding entry configuration that flies like a rock with stub wings. The X-40, an 80%-scale version of the X-37 designed to also explore the low-speed envelope, had landing speeds around 175 kt.

Danno
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posted 06-24-2005 11:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Danno   Click Here to Email Danno     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boeing photo release:
The X-37 Approach and Landing Test Vehicle is shown here mated to its Scaled Composites carrier aircraft, the White Knight. The two vehicles took off from Mojave, Calif., airport at 6:04 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday and flew for 81 minutes, reaching a maximum altitude of 37,800 feet and an airspeed of 160 knots. The vehicles then returned to land at the Mojave airport.

Credit: Boeing

DavidH
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posted 08-23-2005 11:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From about a year ago:
NASA has transferred its X-37 technology demonstration program to the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which plans to go ahead with atmospheric drop tests of the prototype space plane next year.

NASA spokesman Michael Braukus said Sept. 15 the U.S. space agency would remain involved in the X-37 program, but that DARPA would now be running the show.

Danno
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posted 11-20-2006 12:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Danno   Click Here to Email Danno     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
...and it looks like X-37 will fly again, to space:
The U.S. Air Force said today that it will develop an unmanned, long-duration, reusable space plane that is based on the X-37 demonstrator that was largely developed at Boeing's Seal Beach and Huntington Beach plants.

The so-called Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) will be used for "space experimentation and risk reduction," said Major Regina Winchester, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Plans tentatively call for launching an OTV aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla, in 2008.

Danno
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posted 11-20-2006 03:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Danno   Click Here to Email Danno     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They are calling it the X-37B.
The U.S. Air Force has decided to continue full-scale development and on-orbit testing of an unmanned long-duration, reusable space vehicle.

The new [Orbital Test Vehicle] OTV effort dovetails off of industry and government investments by Air Force, NASA, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The OTV effort will be led by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and includes partnerships with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. Boeing is the prime contractor for the OTV program--the same firm that was lead on the old NASA X-37 technology demonstrator.


Credit: U.S. Air Force

Robert Pearlman
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posted 07-30-2008 11:02 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Aviation Week & Space Technology: USAF Sets Orbital Spaceplane Test Flight
The U.S Air Force and Boeing are preparing for the first flight test of an unmanned military space plane.

Launch of the first mission of the USAF/Boeing X-37B space maneuvering vehicle is scheduled for liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in November on an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. A landing at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., would follow.

The mission concept has been under development for decades as a way to broaden U.S. military space access with a winged vehicle that could perform a multitude of missions before returning to Earth for a runway landing.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-25-2009 08:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Air & Space Magazine: Space Shuttle Jr.
It's been a long wait -- in some ways, more than 50 years -- but in April 2010, the U.S. Air Force is scheduled to launch an Atlas V booster from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the newest U.S. spacecraft, the unmanned X-37, to orbit. The X-37 embodies the Air Force's desire for an operational spaceplane, a wish that dates to the 1950s, the era of the rocket-powered X-15 and X-20. In other ways, though, the X-37 will be picking up where another U.S. spaceplane, NASA's space shuttle, leaves off.


Credit: U.S. Air Force/Air & Space

With a wingspan of 15 feet and a length of 27.5 feet, the X-37 looks like a tiny space shuttle. It has a blunt (though windowless) nose, and one rocket engine bell instead of the shuttle's three. Two cargo doors open just as the shuttle's do, revealing a four- by seven-foot bay. Like the shuttle, the X-37 was designed for low Earth orbits -- in the latter's case, altitudes of 125 to 575 miles. And the craft will fly like a shuttle, reentering the atmosphere with the orbiter's 40-degree nose-high attitude. After reentry, it will change to a 20-degree nose-down glide and, flying at up to 220 mph, land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with Edwards Air Force Base as an alternate.

But as for the period between launch and landing, no one, save for a select few in the Department of Defense, knows exactly what the little Boeing-built spaceplane will do, or for how long. The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is running the program, says only that the orbital test version, the X-37B, will take a suite of next-generation technologies to orbit and will break new ground in the realm of launch, recovery, and reuse, all with an unmanned twist that the shuttle never offered...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-15-2010 10:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle waits in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle April 5, 2010, at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla. Half of the Atlas V five-meter fairing is visible in the background.

Credit: U.S. Air Force

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-23-2010 07:42 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Patrick Air Force Base release
45th Space Wing Launches Atlas V Carrying X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

The 45th Space Wing launched a United Launch Alliance-built Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Space Launch Complex 41 at 7:52 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, April 22, 2010.


Credit: ULA/Pat Corkery

The Atlas V carried the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), making its first space flight. The X-37B will provide a flexible space test platform to conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently transported to and from the space environment where it will need to function. A number of new technologies will also be tested on the OTV itself.

"If these technologies on the vehicle prove to be as good as we estimate, it will make our access to space more responsive, perhaps cheaper, and push us in the vector toward being able to react to warfighter needs more quickly," said Mr. Gary Payton, Air Force Deputy Under Secretary for Space Programs.

"This launch helps ensure that our warfighters will be provided the capabilities they need in the future," said Col. André Lovett, 45th Space Wing vice commander, Launch Decision Authority for the mission. "The 45th Space Wing is proud to launch this historic mission and continue our commitment to assuring access to the high frontier."


Credit: United Launch Alliance

The mission marked a number of important firsts.

"As the first U.S. unmanned reentering space vehicle, the first of its kind, it has been remarkably easy to work with," said Lt. Col. Erik Bowman, 45th Launch Support Squadron Commander. "Processing and preparations went extremely smooth, and there were absolutely no delays in the vehicle processing. Overall there was great cooperation between the Air Force and industry teams of Boeing, ULA, and Astrotech, where we processed the spacecraft, to make sure everything went smoothly."

The mission was also the first-ever launch of an Atlas V with the 501 configuration, requiring no solid rocket motors, and the first launch in some five years to involve a 5-meter class fairing, said Colonel Bowman. "This vehicle is light enough to launch without the solid rocket motors even with the larger fairing, making this a rather unique configuration."

The X-37B program directly supports the Department of Defense's technology risk reduction efforts for new satellite systems. It will provide an "on-orbit laboratory" test environment to prove new technology and components before those technologies are committed to operational satellite programs.


Credit: ULA/Pat Corkery

cspg
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posted 05-28-2010 02:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to the latest issue of Jonathan's Space Report (#628):
One month after it was launched, hobbyist observers Kevin Fetter and Greg Roberts have located the secret X-37B spaceplane in a 399 x 419 km x 40.0 deg orbit.

cspg
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posted 09-16-2010 11:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apparently the orbit has been raised.
The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane apparently boosted itself into a new orbit Aug. 9, according to reports from seasoned satellite trackers around the world, Space.com has learned.

The orbit-raising maneuver was first noticed Aug. 14 by amateur skywatcher Greg Roberts of Cape Town, South Africa, when the object failed to appear as predicted by the last known orbit. After several nights of searching, Roberts found it again on Aug. 19, which enabled the new orbit to be estimated with sufficient accuracy to easily locate the X-37B space plane on subsequent nights.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-10-2010 03:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceWeather.com reports that the X-37B has gone missing:
The US Air Force's X-37B space plane has gone missing. Amateur satellite watchers who routinely monitor the secret mini-shuttle failed to sight it at expected times on Oct. 7th and 9th. It's possible that the X-37B has landed. More likely, the space plane has maneuvered into a new orbit and will be recovered again in the nights ahead. Stay tuned for updates.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-14-2010 01:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceWeather.com reports that the X-37B has been found:
The US Air Force's X-37B space plane, which disappeared last week, has been found again. Satellite watcher Greg Roberts sighted the secret mini-shuttle flying over Cape Town, South Africa, on Oct 12th. An analysis of the sighting by satellite expert Ted Molczan suggests that the X-37B has maneuvered into an orbit 54 km lower than before.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-30-2010 07:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
30th Space Wing Public Affairs
Preparations underway for first landing of X-37B

Preparations for the first landing of the X-37B are now underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force's first X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur between Friday, December 3, and Monday, December 6, 2010.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-02-2010 08:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to the official Air Force Space Command Twitter account:
X-37B still on to land at Vandenberg tonight!
30th Space Wing Public Affairs (Dec. 2, 2010)
Vandenberg ready for X-37B landing

After more than a year of extensive preparation, Vandenberg is ready to host the landing of the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle scheduled to occur here between Friday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 6.

The X-37B is the latest and most advanced re-entry space vehicle capable of being launched into low Earth orbit altitudes and is able to endure extended periods of time performing space technology experimentation and testing.

"This is a historical first, not only for Vandenberg Air Force Base, but for the Air Force and our nation to receive a recoverable spacecraft here and really take a step forward in advancing unmanned space flight," said Col. Richard Boltz, 30th Space Wing commander.

On April 22, a United Launch Alliance-built Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle carrying the X-37B was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Prior to the X-37B's East Coast departure, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is leading the Department of Defense's Orbital Test Vehicle initiative, needed the assurance before launching the vehicle that Vandenberg was prepared for the landing of the spacecraft. Following a request, preparation for landing became a high priority at Vandenberg, which required a cumulative effort of base personnel in order for approval of the X-37B landing here.

In one instance, a team of about 80 people from the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron, 30th Launch Group, 581st Missile Maintenance Squadron, 30th Operations Support Squadron's airfield operations flight and Vandenberg's Training Device Design and Engineering Center assembled to replaced 658 plates along the flightline's centerline to increase the levelness of the airstrip and to prevent a puncturing hazard to the X-37B's landing wheels.

In another example, Vandenberg's mission flight control officers have been preparing for the landing of the spacecraft by practicing various scenarios that could occur during a landing attempt and the procedures to complete the task of monitoring the vehicle from its de-orbit stage to its landing on flightline.

"I am as prepared as I am for every mission; we have seen every case and have talked about cases that we haven't seen," said 1st Lt. Pierre Gregoire, 2nd Range Operations Squadron mission flight control officer. "We are looking at every possible situation that can occur to the vehicle and what we're going to do in that situation."

Receiving a vehicle as opposed to launching one from Vandenberg has challenged the MFCOs to slightly modify their approach to their normal mission preparation.

"The procedures and terminology have changed a little bit, but as you can imagine, the one thing that hasn't changed is the focus on public safety," Lieutenant Gregoire said. "How we train for the mission really hasn't changed except for the fact that we have a little bit less of an archived history to go off of and it adds a little more excitement to be doing something for the first time."

The excitement has been mounting at Vandenberg as the historical landing of the Air Force spacecraft approaches.

"With it being such a unique mission for the base, it is exciting to be a part of this historic landing," said Capt. Dariusz Wudarzewski, 2nd ROPS range operations commander. "For how long we have been working on it, I think everyone is really excited to see it culminate."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-03-2010 06:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
30th Space Wing Public Affairs
X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle lands at Vandenberg AFB

The U.S. Air Force's first unmanned re-entry spacecraft landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:16 a.m. [PST] today.

The X-37B, named Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1), conducted on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during its maiden voyage. It fired its orbital maneuver engine in low-earth orbit to perform an autonomous reentry before landing.

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

"Today's landing culminates a successful mission based on close teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, Boeing and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office," said Lt Col Troy Giese, X-37B program manager from the AFRCO. "We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission."

OTV-1's de-orbit and landing mark the transition from the on-orbit demonstration phase to a refurbishment phase for the program.

The Air Force is preparing to launch the next X-37B, OTV-2, in Spring 2011 aboard an Atlas V booster.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-03-2010 02:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Video stills from an Air Force video (see above) of the X-37B during post-landing operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Personnel in SCAPE suits (Self-contained atmospheric protective ensemble) are conducting initial checks on the vehicle and ensuring the area is safe.

Robert Pearlman
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Boeing photo release
Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Successfully Completes 1st Flight

Boeing today announced the successful de-orbit and landing of the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), also known as the X-37B, for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO).

The X-37B is shown here after landing at 1:16 a.m. Pacific time today, concluding its more than 220-day experimental test mission. It was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on April 22.

Robert Pearlman
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Spaceflight Now reports about the preparations to launch the second X-37B... and the potential re-launch of the first OTV on its own second mission.
Two months after a sister ship successfully concluded a demo flight, the U.S. military's second robotic X-37B space plane is in Florida preparing for blastoff March 4 on another secret mission, according to an Air Force official.

The 29-foot-long, 14-foot-wide space plane is being readied for flight in a processing facility near its launch site at Cape Canaveral, Fla., according to Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the X-37B program manager in the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

Like its predecessor last year, the X-37B will lift off inside the nose cone of an Atlas 5 rocket. The flight is scheduled for March 4, but the Air Force has not released a time for the blastoff.

...[Lt. Col. Troy Giese, the X-37B program manager in the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office] said he anticipates a third X-37 flight some time in the future, but the Air Force has not decided when it would launch. The X-37 craft that just returned to Earth in December would be assigned to fly a third OTV mission, according to Giese.

"The refurbishment of that vehicle will play a major part of that decision," Giese said.

Robert Pearlman
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Patrick Air Force Base release
Air Force to launch second orbital test vehicle

Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office officials announced the launch of the second X-37B March 4 with a back-up launch opportunity March 5.

AFRCO is leading the Defense Department's orbital test vehicle initiative, by direction of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and the secretary of the Air Force.

For the first X-37B OTV mission, Air Force officials focused on testing and evaluating the performance capabilities of the vehicle. This second mission will build upon the OTV-1 on-orbit demonstration, validate and replicate initial testing and fine tune the technical parameters of the vehicle tests.

Launch specialists at the Air Force Space Command's 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., will launch the vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41. The vehicle will land at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., and will be recovered by technicians from the 30th Space Wing.

The launch window for the mission opens at 3:39 p.m. EST. Visit United Launch Alliance's website for live streaming of the launch.

Robert Pearlman
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Patrick Air Force Base release
Atlas V X-37B OTV-2 launch scrubs, set March 5

The launch attempt of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V with the Air Force's second Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) was scrubbed Friday for weather. Thick cumulus clouds, which could produce triggered lightning, were within 10 miles of Space Launch Complex 41, violating launch criteria during scheduled launch windows.

The Atlas V vehicle and OTV-2 are safe and secure at this time. The launch is rescheduled for Saturday, March 5 at 4:09 p.m. EST.

The X-37B will provide a flexible space test platform to conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently transported to and from the space environment where it will need to function.

Robert Pearlman
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Patrick Air Force Base release
Air Force launches second unmanned spacecraft

In the latest step to improve space capability and further develop an affordable, reusable space vehicle, Air Force technicians launched the second X-37B here March 5, officials said.

The Orbital Test Vehicle-2 launch comes on the heels of the successful flight of OTV-1, which made an autonomous landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Dec. 3 after 224 days in space.

According to officials, post-flight analysis of OTV-1 revealed OTV-2 needed no significant changes, but detailed assessments of the first mission are ongoing.

"Launch is a very demanding business and having what appears to be a successful launch is always welcome news," said Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs Richard McKinney, adding he is pleased with the vehicle's initial status reports. "It is important to remember that this is an experimental vehicle; that this is just the second launch; and that we have just started what is a very systematic checkout of the system."

Mr. McKinney explained the second X-37B flight will help Air Force scientists better evaluate and understand the vehicle's performance characteristics and expand upon the tests from OTV-1.

One performance test, for example, will evaluate a change following the flight of OTV-1, which showed potential for greater flexibility in the landing parameters.

"We look forward to testing enhancements to the landing profile," said Lt. Col. Troy Giese, X-37B program manager for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which leads the Department of Defense OTV program.

Colonel Giese added that program officials want to test landing capabilities in stronger wind conditions.

"The X-37B really is a remarkable scientific and aerospace achievement," he said. "We'll also be looking at the performance of its advanced thermal protection systems and tiles, solar power systems and environmental modeling - all important system capabilities for a space vehicle that we want to be able to bring back and then re-launch quickly."

Power and environmental protections are also important to one of the most promising capabilities of the vehicle: its orbit duration, which is much longer than a manned mission like NASA's space shuttle, Colonel Giese said.

Similar to OTV-1, OTV-2's actual mission duration will depend on the vehicle achieving its test objectives, but he expects it to remain on orbit for approximately 270 days.

"We may extend the mission to enhance our understanding of the OTV capabilities," Colonel Giese said, "especially since the performance data from the first flight suggest that the vehicle could have gone beyond the 270-day requirement."

Air Force officials assert the X-37B program has the potential to make space experiments more affordable, which would allow future experiment designers to focus resources and dollars on technology and innovation rather than on basic services, layers of redundancy, or ground operations.

"This program provides a test capability that was difficult to achieve through other means, the ability to examine how highly complex technologies will perform in space before they are made operational," Mr. McKinney said, "But right now our focus is on the X-37B itself, and this second flight is important to our further understanding of its capabilities."

Air Force officials anticipate multiple missions will be required to satisfy the X-37B program test objectives, but a third mission has not yet been scheduled.

The OTV is the United States' newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft and is the first vehicle since NASA's Shuttle Orbiter with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis.

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United Launch Alliance release
United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches Second OTV Mission

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the second Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) for the U.S. Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office (AFRCO) at 5:46 p.m. EST March 5 from Space Launch Complex-41.

The OTV, also known as the X-37B, supports space experimentation, risk reduction, and concept of operations development for long duration and reusable space vehicle technologies.


Credit: ULA

The first OTV mission was also successfully launched by a ULA Atlas V from Space Launch Complex-41, on Apr. 22, 2010. It later landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Dec. 3.

"The ULA team is proud to have played a critical role in successfully launching both of these important missions of the Orbital Test Vehicle for the Air Force RCO," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. "It took a tremendous amount of teamwork to successfully launch both vehicles in less than a year. I am confident that the information collected by the Rapid Capabilities Office from these missions will lead to even bigger and bolder missions in the future. Congratulations to the combined Air Force and ULA launch team and our many mission partners that made today's successful launch possible."

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V 501 vehicle configuration, which includes a 5.4m diameter payload fairing. The booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10A engine.


Credit: ULA/Pat Corkery

Robert Pearlman
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U.S. Air Force release
Preparations underway for X-37B landing at Vandenberg AFB

Preparations for the second landing of the X-37B, the Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur during the early- to mid-June timeframe. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission, called OTV-2.

The X-37B launched March 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Since then, Vandenberg crews have conducted extensive, periodic training in preparation for landing. "The men and women of Team Vandenberg are ready to execute safe landing operations anytime and at a moment's notice," Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander, said.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

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collectSPACE
Air Force's secret X-37B space plane lands after 15 months circling Earth

A secret unmanned space plane landed in California on Saturday (June 16), after circling the Earth for one year and 104 days on a clandestine mission.

The United States Air Force's Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), also known as the X-37B, touched down at 8:48 a.m. EDT (1248 GMT) at Vandenberg Air Force Base, approximately 150 miles (241 kilometers) northwest of Los Angeles. It rolled to a halt on a 3-mile (5-kilometer) concrete runway.

"Team Vandenberg has put in over a year's worth of hard work in preparation for this landing and today we were able to see the fruits of our labor," said Col. Nina Armagno, commander of the 30th Space Wing. "I am so proud of our team for coming together to execute this landing operation safely and successfully."

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posted 06-17-2012 03:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Boeing photos

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-20-2012 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The launch of the third Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3) flight has been rescheduled from Oct. 30 to Nov. 13. United Launch Alliance statement:
The launch of an Atlas V carrying the OTV-3 payload for the U.S. Air Force is rescheduled for Nov. 13.

United Launch Alliance continues to collect and analyze data observed during the recent Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) IIF-3 launch. While the mission successfully placed the GPS satellite in a precise orbit, a lower than normal chamber pressure was observed on the Delta IV RL10 upper stage engine.

Although the Atlas V that will launch OTV-3 utilizes a different model of the RL10 engine, ULA leadership and the Air Force have decided to postpone the currently scheduled launch to allow an additional two weeks for the flight data anomaly investigation to progress to a point that will enable a thorough crossover assessment for the OTV launch to be completed.

ULA is in close communication with the Air Force regarding the flight data anomaly investigation and will continue to ensure that a complete review is completed to reliably launch our customer's mission.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-08-2012 08:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance release
United Launch Alliance Clears X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle for Dec. 11 Launch

Today, United Launch Alliance (ULA) cleared the next launch of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) for Dec. 11, after a thorough flight clearance process was executed following a flight data anomaly that occurred on the Global Positioning System (GPS) IIF-3 launch on Oct. 4.

"Although the GPS mission was successful and the satellite was delivered to a precise orbit, ULA and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) are executing an extremely robust investigation into the cause of the reduced engine performance on the recent Delta IV mission," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. "Our 50-year heritage of launch experience and decades of launch data have enabled the robust investigation processes we perform for any flight conditions that differ from our nominal predictions, in order to continue the critical focus on mission success that our customers demand."

The ULA investigation has concluded that a fuel leak occurred in a specific area of the interior of the thrust chamber, and that this leak started during the first engine start sequence. Although the investigation into the flight data anomaly continues, all credible crossover implications from the Delta anomaly for the OTV-3 Atlas vehicle and engine system have been thoroughly addressed and mitigated, culminating in the flight clearance decision for the OTV-3 launch.

"Our flight data anomaly investigation includes substantial involvement and oversight from senior industry technical advisors, as well as our Air Force OTV customer, Air Force EELV customer, and NASA customers," said Sponnick. "We thank the OTV customer for their patience and participation throughout the flight clearance process for this important mission."

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 12-11-2012 01:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
United Launch Alliance release
United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket Successfully Launches OTV-3 for the U.S. Air Force

First Spacecraft to Launch on an Atlas, Return to Earth and Launch Again

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the third Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-3) for the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office (AFRCO) at 1:03 p.m. EST today from Space Launch Complex-41. The OTV, also known as the X-37B, supports space experimentation, risk reduction, and concept of operations development for long duration and reusable space vehicle technologies. The first two OTV missions also were successfully launched by ULA respectively on April 22, 2010 and March 5, 2011.


Credit: United Launch Alliance/Pat Corkery

"The ULA team is proud to have played a critical role in successfully launching these three important Orbital Test Vehicle missions for the Air Force RCO," said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Mission Operations. "This is a unique spacecraft since it is the first to launch on an Atlas V, return to Earth landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and then fly again on this mission."

This launch completes the most aggressive campaign in the history of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program with 10 missions launched during 2012, including eight launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and two from Vandenberg Air Force Station in California.

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V EELV 501 configuration vehicle, which includes a 5-meter diameter payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine and the Centaur upper stage was powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) RL10A-4 engine.

"I sincerely congratulate our OTV customer on today's successful launch as well as our integrated team of mission partners that successfully accomplished ten critical one-at-a-time launches in 2012," said Sponnick.


Credit: United Launch Alliance/Pat Corkery

The EELV program was established by the United States Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV Program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

ULA's next launch is the Atlas V TDRS-K mission for NASA scheduled Jan. 29, 2013 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-10-2014 07:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Vandenberg Air Force Base release
Preparations Underway for X-37B Landing

Preparations for the third landing of the X-37B, the U.S. Air Force's unmanned, reusable space plane, are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations.

"Team Vandenberg stands ready to implement safe landing operations for the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, the third time for this unique mission" said Col. Keith Baits, 30th Space Wing commander.

Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force's X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle mission 3 (OTV-3).

Since the third launch of the X-37B, Dec. 11, 2012, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., Vandenberg crews have conducted extensive, periodic training in preparation for landing.

More information will be released as it becomes available.

Robert Pearlman
Editor

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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-17-2014 05:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
collectSPACE
X-37B military space plane lands after 22-month secret mission

The U.S. Air Force's secretive X-37B space plane has returned to Earth after nearly two years in orbit.

The unmanned mini space shuttle, which is also referred to as an Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), landed on Runway 12 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday (Oct. 17) at 9:24 a.m. PDT (1624 GMT).

"I am extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing," Col. Keith Balts, commander of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, said in a release. "Everyone from our on console space operators to our airfield managers and civil engineers take pride in this unique mission and exemplify excellence during its execution."

Launched on Dec. 11, 2012, the winged spacecraft logged 675 days orbiting the Earth. What the X-37B was doing for all that time however, has been kept secret.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-17-2014 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Photos of the OTV-3 landing, Oct. 17, 2014 (credit Boeing):

Robert Pearlman
Editor

Posts: 30686
From: Houston, TX
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posted 10-17-2014 07:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

See here for discussion of the Air Force's X-37B and its orbital test missions.

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