Friday, December 10, 2010

Next X-37B launch set for March/April

Aviation Week: Guy Norris:

LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Air Force says the second planned mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) will “expand the operating envelope” of the autonomous space vehicle, potentially increasing the orbital cross-range and capability of landing in stronger crosswinds.

Richard McKinney, Air Force undersecretary for space programs, says the second test X-37B – OTV-2 – is being prepared in Boeing’s California space facilities for transfer “soon” to Cape Canaveral. From there it will be launched on an Atlas V in the March-April 2011 time period.

Lt. Col. Troy Giese, X-37B program manager from the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office (Afrco), which manages the X-37B program, says OTV-2’s mission will focus on “expanding the operating envelope of what its capabilities are. This time, we put more restrictions on landing winds and on orbiting cross-range. We picked an orbit that was well within its ability to get back to Vandenberg Air Force Base,” he adds. The next flight may have a more exaggerated orbit to test the cross-range recovery characteristics and may end up with an attempted recovery in more marginal weather.


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