Thursday, April 22, 2010

Atlas V Aims To Launch Mini-Shuttle Tonight At Cape Canaveral

A next-generation spaceship that looks like a small space shuttle orbiter is set to launch today on a shakedown cruise designed to end with a California landing sometime within the next nine months.

Now nestled in the protective nosecone of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 41.

The planned liftoff time is 7:52 p.m. and the launch window will extend through 8:01 p.m.

The weather looks good for launch -- there's an 80 percent chance of acceptable conditions. When it's time for the X-37B to return, it will make an atmospheric re-entry and landing on autopilot.

"It'll be on its own all the way through entry and landing, and that's dramatically different than the way the shuttle does it," said Gary Payton, Air Force Under Secretary for Space Programs.

See the full story HERE.


LoneDog said...

Could the X-37B eventually be used to transport cargo and dock with the ISS?

Todd Halvorson said...

LoneDog: Theoretically, I suppose it could. But I think if you put a docking system in the payload bay, it would significantly limit the amount of mass that you could carry to the station, so it probably would not be the best choice for a cargo carrier to ISS....