After a day of delays due to weather and a pressure valve change, the U.S. Air Force’s second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) was successfully launched at 5.46pm EST Mar 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, marking the start of a demanding classified mission that could extend into November.
The vehicle was launched from Space Launch Complex-41 on an Atlas V rocket and will return to Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., where it will be recovered by the 30th Space Wing. The Air Force says the mission will “build upon the OTV-1 on-orbit demonstration, validate and replicate initial testing and fine tune the technical parameters of the vehicle tests.” However, all pertinent details of the testing, and what will be performed on-orbit, remain classified.
Lift off of OTV-2. (ULA)
Assuming all goes well with the vehicle check out process, once delivered to its correct orbit, the OTV-2 is expected to remain in space until at least mid-October. A landing around Oct 15 will equal the 224 day mission of the first OTV-1. Given the 270-day mission endurance limit of the X-37B, today’s launch means the landing at Vandenberg must be conducted on or before Nov 30.