Thursday, March 03, 2011

Atlas V Rocket Rolls Out For Friday Launch

An Atlas V rocket with a mini military shuttle onboard rolled out to its oceanside launch pad today, but the weather forecast for Friday calls for conditions that could force a delay.

The United Launch Alliance rocket and its payload -- the second Air Force X-37B spacecraft -- is scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station sometime after a launch window opens at 3:39 p.m. Friday. An exact time likely will be announced early Friday.

The weather forecast calls for a 70 percent chance gusty ground winds or thick, electrically charged clouds will cause a launch postponement. There is a 60 percent chance that conditions would force a delay Saturday and a 70 percent chance of a weather-related delay Sunday.

The X-37B is a pilotless craft that will be flying a shake-down cruise in low Earth orbit. The first X-37B was launched aboard an Atlas V last April and made an unprecedented auto-pilot atmospheric reentry and landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base late last year.

ABOUT THE IMAGE: Click to enlarge the United Launch Alliance image of the Atlas V on the pad at launch Complex 41 after rolling out from the Vehicle Integration Facility at the complex. Photo Credit: Pat Corkery/United Launch Alliance.

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