Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Weather iffy for Cape launch Friday

The forecast is iffy for Friday afternoon's planned launch of an unmanned Air Force space plane from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The exact targeted launch time for the second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket will be released Friday morning. The window opens at 3:39 p.m. EST; its length has not been disclosed.

There's a 70 percent chance that gusty ground winds and cumulus clouds could prevent a launch Friday, and a 60 percent chance if an attempt is made Saturday, according to the official forecast released today.

The Atlas V is scheduled to roll from its vertical processing tower to its Launch Complex 41 pad at noon Thursday.

According to the Air Force, "The X-37B will provide a flexible space test platform to conduct various experiments and allow satellite sensors, subsystems, components and associated technology to be efficiently transported to and from the space environment where it will need to function."

Here's an Air Force fact sheet on the 29-foot vehicle, which resembles a mini-shuttle orbiter.

The first OTV mission launched on an Atlas V last April 22 and successfully completed an automated landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Dec. 3.

IMAGE: The first X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle on April 5, 2010, at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla. Half of the Atlas V five-meter fairing is visible in the background. Credit: Air Force

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