Falcon 9 Launches U.S. Air Force X-37B

The X-37B spacecraft after landing on May 7, 2017. (Credit: USAF)

A Falcon 9 launched the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B space plane this morning from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the fifth launch of an X-37 vehicle and the first one by SpaceX’s booster. The first stage of the Falcon 9 successfully touched down on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the 16th recovery of a first stage.

SpaceX on a Rapid Launch Cadence for 2017

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Dragon spacecraft on board, (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX’s successful launch of the Intelsat 35e communications satellite on Wednesday was the company’s third launch in 12 days and its 10th successful launch of 2017, the most the company has ever launched during any calendar year.

Just past the mid-point of the year, SpaceX has launched more times than any other company or nation in 2017. The company’s flights account for just under short of one-quarter of the 44 launch attempts this year.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 to Launch X-37B Space Plane

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

Reuters reports that SpaceX will launch the U.S. Air Force’s  X-37B space plane in August.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson made the announcement during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, the news service reports.

Four previous X-37B missions have been launched aboard ULA’s Atlas V boosters.

The U.S. Air Force has two X-37B spacecraft, which are used to test new technologies on orbit. One vehicle landed in Florida on May 7 after spending a record 718 days in space.

X-37B Space Plane Lands at Kennedy Space Center

The X-37B spacecraft after landing on May 7, 2017. (Credit: USAF)

WASHINGTON, DC (AFNS) — The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 (OTV-4), the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander. “Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”
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Video: X-37 Space Plane Lands After Nearly 2 Years in Orbit

Video Caption: The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 landed at NASA ‘s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.

NASA Flies Material Sciences Test Aboard X-37B

x37landing2_june2012
WASHINGTON
, May 6, 2015 (NASA PR)
– Building on more than a decade of data from International Space Station (ISS) research, NASA is expanding its materials science research by flying an experiment on the U.S. Air Force X-37B space plane.

By flying the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS) investigation on the X-37B, materials scientists have the opportunity to expose almost 100 different materials samples to the space environment for more than 200 days. METIS is building on data acquired during the Materials on International Space Station Experiment (MISSE), which flew more than 4,000 samples in space from 2001 to 2013.

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ULA to Launch X-37B, LightSail on Wednesday

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)
X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B spacecraft and The Planetary Society’s LightSail prototype will share a ride into space from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday aboard an United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster. NASA will also conduct a materials sciences experiment aboard the X-37B.

The launch window opens at 10:45 a.m. EDT and runs until 2:45 p.m. EDT. ULA will webcast the launch at http://www.ulalaunch.com.

The weather forecast shows a 60 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

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X-37B Lands Safely at Vandenberg, Mission Remains a Mystery

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)
X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane landed safely at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday morning, completing a record 674 days in orbit.

The unmanned winged vehicle touched down at 9:24 a.m. PDT after conducting experiments and testing out technologies for 22 months.

“The 30th Space Wing and our mission partners, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Boeing, and our base support contractors, have put countless hours of hard work into preparing for this landing and today we were able to see the culmination of that dedication,” said base commander Colonel Keith Balts, in a prepared statement. “I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing. 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.”

The Air Force is planning a fourth X-37B flight in 2015. Officials recently announced they would consolidate program operations at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the X-37 vehicles are launched.

Vandenberg Prepares for X-37B Landing

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)
X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

UPDATE: Media reports indicate a landing is likely on Tuesday.

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Oct. 10, 2014 (Vandenberg PR) — Preparations for the third landing of the X-37B, the 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.

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Boeing to Consolidate X-37B Operations at NASA Kennedy Space Center

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)
X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., Jan. 3, 2014 (Boeing PR) – Boeing [NYSE:BA] will expand its presence in Florida by adding technology, engineering and support jobs at the Kennedy Space Center. Financial and employment details are not being disclosed.

Investments will be made to convert the former space shuttle facility, OPF-1, to a facility that would enable the U.S. Air Force to efficiently land, recover, refurbish, and re-launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), a 29-foot-long, reusable unmanned spacecraft.

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Will Former Shuttle Buildings House Secret USAF Orbital Space Plane?

X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)
X-37B after landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 16, 2012. (Credit: Boeing/USAF)

It looks as if two former space shuttle structures at the Kennedy Space Center will be converted for use by the U.S. Air Force:

Space Florida on Wednesday advanced plans to renovate two former shuttle hangars that might eventually house a secretive military space plane program.

The agency’s board approved spending up to $4 million more to overhaul Orbiter Processing Facilities 1 and 2 at Kennedy Space Center, on top of $5 million committed last year from funds provided by the state Department of Transportation.

As before, the future tenant was not identified, but is believed to be the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a reusable unmanned system that resembles a small space shuttle. Previously, the Air Force has confirmed it is studying consolidation of X-37B operations at Kennedy or the Cape to save money.

The X-37Bs are launched from Cape Canaveral aboard Atlas V rockets but land in California. If operations are consolidated in Florida, the vehicles would touch down at KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility.

Read the full story.

NASA Still Reviewing Options on Shuttle Landing Facility

The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)
The Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida. (Credit: NASA)

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

NASA is still reviewing options on what to do with the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), which has been largely idle since the last space shuttle touched down 18 months ago.

“Regarding your request for the Shuttle Landing Facility, NASA is currently assessing responses to the recently published Request for Information (RFI) seeking to identify entities that may be interested in maintaining and operating this National Asset,” NASA Associate Administrator L. Seth Statler wrote in a Nov. 30 letter to Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. “A decision regarding the disposition of this asset will follow the completion of the RFI response assessment and review of the Space Florida proposal.”

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Atlas V Blasts X-37B into Orbit

Atlas V launches OTV3 into orbit from Cape Canaveral. (Credit: Pat Corkery, United Launch Alliance.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Dec. 11, 2012) – 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.

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