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ULA launches Atlas V carrying X-37B after initial launch was scrubbed

Saturday’s launch was scrubbed due to ‘no go’ weather conditions

Sunday 9:14 a.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – The United Launch Alliance successfully launched its Atlas V rocket Sunday morning after the initial launch was scrubbed.

The rocket is carrying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle under the newly formed U.S. Space Force.

The launch marks the sixth flight of the X-37B and the fourth launched aboard an Atlas V rocket.

The X-37B serves as an experimental test platform to demonstrate technologies in space for the U.S.

The last time X-37B launched on a mission it spent 780 days in orbit, a new record for the spacecraft. The space plane has spent a total of 7 years and 10 months in space spread out between its previous five missions, according to the U.S. Space Force.


Saturday 10:30 a.m.

The secret space plane known as X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was expected to launch this weekend from Cape Canaveral on its first mission under the newly formed U.S. Space Force.

United Launch Alliance scrubbed Saturday’s Atlas 5 launch attempt and is expected to try again Sunday.

“Launch Director Paul Aragon was announced that we will not continue with countdown operations today. Another launch attempt will be possible in 24 hours,” ULA wrote on Twitter.

Sunday’s target liftoff time is set at 9:14 a.m.

SpaceX, which was scheduled to launch its Falcon 9 rocket early Sunday morning has rescheduled to Tuesday at 3:10 a.m.


Original Story

The secret space plane known as X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is expected to launch this weekend on its first mission under the newly formed U.S. Space Force from Cape Canaveral.

Although its main mission is a secret, there are some details the Space Force isn’t keeping hush-hush, including the launch date and one of its payloads.

ULA will launch the spacecraft, which resembles a small space shuttle, on an Atlas V rocket Saturday from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Air Force weather officers are predicting a 40% chance of good launch conditions. There is a system the National Hurricane Center is monitoring in the Atlantic that could produce some scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms, which is a concern. If there is a 24 hour delay conditions improve to 80% because that low will be moving up the coast, according to the 45th Weather Squadron.

The launch will mark the sixth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle and the fourth launched aboard an Atlas V rocket.

The space plane serves as an experimental test platform to demonstrate technologies in space for the U.S.

On this particular spaceflight, it will be the first time a service module will be used to host onboard experiments. The module is attached to the spacecraft and allows for more payload capability.

“This sixth mission is a big step for the X-37B program,” said Randy Walden, director and program executive officer for the Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. “This will be the first X-37B mission to use a service module to host experiments. The incorporation of a service module on this mission enables us to continue to expand the capabilities of the spacecraft and host more experiments than any of the previous missions.”

Cadets and instructors in the U.S. Air Force Academy's FalconSAT program pose for a group photograph at the Academy. They were directly involved in building a satellite scheduled to launch into space May 16 aboard the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. (U.S. Air Force Academy photo)
Cadets and instructors in the U.S. Air Force Academy's FalconSAT program pose for a group photograph at the Academy. They were directly involved in building a satellite scheduled to launch into space May 16 aboard the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. (U.S. Air Force Academy photo) (WKMG 2020)

In another first for X-37B, FalconSAT-8, a satellite designed and built by cadets with the U.S. Air Force Academy, will be on board.

Several cadets who worked on the spacecraft traveled to Cape Canaveral to deliver, test and integrate the satellite with the space plane.

“FalconSAT-8 is an educational platform for cadets," Lt. Col. Dan Showalter, assistant astronautics professor at the Academy, said in a news release. "We perform technology demonstrations for the Air Force.”

FalconSAT-8 will carry five experimental payloads, and members of the Cadet Space Operations Squadron will operate the satellite.

The last time X-37B launched on a mission it spent 780 days in orbit, a new record for the spacecraft. The space plane has spent a total of 7 years and 10 months in space spread out between its previous five missions, according to the U.S. Space Force.

As for launching amid the coronavirus pandemic, the mission has been “deemed critical to perform during this pandemic," according to the U.S. Space Force.

Personnel working during the launch are following health guidelines, including wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distance while on console and using virtual meetings when possible, according to the 45th Space Wing.


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