The 45th Space Wing successfully launched an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, built by United Launch Alliance, at 1:03 p.m. EST today from Space Launch Complex 41 here. The rocket launched in the 501 vehicle configuration with a five-meter fairing, no solid rocket boosters and a single-engine Centaur upper stage.
The Atlas V rocket carried into Low Earth Orbit an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), which is beginning its second flight following refurbishment, which spent 224 days, 9 hours and 24 minutes in orbit between April and December 2010 on the inaugural OTV launch.
A second OTV mission spent 468 days, 13 hours and 2 minutes on a voyage from March 2011 to this past June that circled the earth more than 7,000 times.
A combined team of military, government civilians and contractors from across the 45th Space Wing provided vital support to this third OTV mission, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety and public affairs.
The wing also provided its vast network of radar, telemetry, optical and communications instrumentation to facilitate a safe launch on the Eastern Range.
Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander, 45th Space Wing, who also served as the Launch Decision Authority, said this was a very historic and important launch for the Air Force and the entire team should be commended for their first-rate, professional work that ensured another successful mission.
"We are indeed fortunate to have a very talented "launch team" that works so well together," said Gen. Cotton.
"The teamwork across Air Force Space Command and with our "Team Patrick / Cape" mission partners made this launch a success and is another example of how our Air Force delivers assured space launch, range and combat capabilities for the nation," he added.
The X-37B provides a flexible "on-orbit laboratory" test environment to prove new technology and components in space, before those technologies are committed to operational satellite programs. Technologies on the vehicle are expected to make access to space more responsive and conducting experiments in space more affordable.
Upon command from the ground, the OTV autonomously re-enters the atmosphere, descends and lands horizontally on a runway located on Vandenberg AFB, Calif.