ULA Launches X-37B, LightSail into Orbit

Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)
Atlas V liftoff (Credit: ULA)

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla., May 20, 2015 (ULA PR) – A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket successfully launched the Air Force Space Command 5 (AFSPC-5) satellite for the U.S. Air Force at 11:05 a.m. EDT today from Space Launch Complex-41.The rocket carried the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle or OTV, a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force.

“ULA is honored to launch this unique spacecraft for the U.S Air Force. Congratulations to the Air Force and all of our mission partners on today’s successful launch! The seamless integration between the Air Force, Boeing, and the entire mission team culminated in today’s successful launch of the AFSPC-5 mission” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president, Atlas and Delta Programs.

This Atlas V mission also includes the Aft Bulkhead Carrier (ABC) carrying the National Reconnaissance Office’s (NRO’s) Ultra Lightweight Technology and Research Auxiliary Satellite (ULTRASat).  ULTRASat is composed of 10 CubeSats managed by the NRO and NASA.

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V 501 configuration Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) , which includes a 5.4-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 the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine. This was ULA’s sixth launch of the 501 configuration, and ULA’s 54th mission to launch on an Atlas V rocket.

ULA’s next launch is the Atlas V GPS IIF-10 mission for the U. S. Air Force, scheduled for July 15 from Space Launch Complex-41 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

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.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 90 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321). Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/ulalaunch, twitter.com/ulalaunch and instagram.com/ulalaunch.

  • Michael J. Listner

    Great launch. The Atlas V always gives a spectacular launch.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Thanks to its great Russian engine.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Atlas V is a great launch vehicle. It’s just been over priced since it’s inception.

  • Michael J. Listner

    But it’s got the job done. Money well spent.

  • Snofru Chufu

    I recall (in this context) that the RD-180 – as the heart of the Atlas-V – might not the source of that “overprice”. I did not remember the exact numbers, but it seems the small RL-10 is even much more expensive as the huge RD-180. Do have somebody the exact numbers?

  • Fulvio Pregnolato

    BEAUTIFUL

  • Aerospike

    The RD-180 is most certainly not the reason for the relatively high price of the Atlas V and as far as I know, nobody ever claimed this to be the case.

    The reasons why the US is trying to replace Russian engines on their launchers are political in nature, not economical.

  • Michael J. Listner

    Correct. The RL-10 is a 60s design that uses 60s manufacturing processes, which makes it expensive to manufacture and hence cost. I saw one figure around $38 million so if a mission is using a two-engined Centaur then the engine cost alone is double.

    For the RD-180 on the other hand, I saw a figure of around $10 million per engine.

  • Larry J

    Fortunately, they have not launched any of the two-engine Centaur upper stages on EELV yet. They used to do twin-engine Centaurs a lot with earlier versions of the Atlas booster but not with the Atlas V. From what I’ve read, that will change when they launch the CST-100 on an Atlas 412 configuration.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Is not already proved that the RD-180 can be reused at least 10-times?

  • Sam Grey

    Michael, you’re so cute. RD-180 costs $23 million.

    “RD Amross buys the engines from Energomash for $20.2 million each on average, according to Amross’s current contract with Energomash, dated June 5, 2014.

    Amross adds $3.2 million to each engine, a 15 percent markup. It then sells them to ULA for $23.4 million, according to an amendment to Amross’s contract with ULA, dated Oct. 2, 2014.”

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/11/18/us-russia-capitalism-rockets-special-rep-idUSKCN0J22BQ20141118

  • Aerospike

    Your reply is pretty interesting, but was the first sentence with the insult really necessary?

  • Aerospike

    I do not know anything about a possible reusability of the RD-180. And I don’t see how this matters with regards to Atlas V launch costs. Even if the engines are reusable in theory, you’d have to redesign a big portion of the first stage to actually make use of that reusability.

  • Snofru Chufu

    Clearly, reuse would affect launch cost, but this not important in this case because there are going to develop a new launcher.

  • Sam Grey

    You can’t expect me to be a big fan of someone who is purposely lying.

  • Aerospike

    Exactly

  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    Thank you for the updated price. Like Counselor Listner, I was under the impression the engine cost was $10 million each, based on the RD-AMROSS Wikipedia article. But the citations to price on that article are broken links.

    I also found your insult unnecessary.

  • Sam Grey

    If you have seen any number of conversations revolving around either SpaceX or ULA, you’d know that he is invariably distorting the truth or just trolling.