Atlas V Cleared to Launch X-37B After Anomaly Investigation Ends

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

Centennial, Colo., Dec. 7, 2012 (ULA PR) -– 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.”

Following the OTV-3 launch, ULA’s next launch is the TDRS-K mission for NASA, which is planned for Jan. 29, 2013.

ULA program management, engineering, test, and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo.  Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., and Harlingen, Texas. Launch operations are located at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., and Vandenberg AFB, Calif.

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