Racing to beat hurricane Irma looming offshore, SpaceX successfully launched the Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane on its fifth mission on September 7. Carried onboard a Falcon 9 rocket, the Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5) mission blasted off at 10 am from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39-A.
SpaceX Falcon 9 / OTV-5 Launch, Boostback And Landing Video
Nine minutes later, the rocket’s first stage touched down at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral after a routine but still dramatic descent and landing accompanied by the cacophany of triple sonic booms.
Within hours of launch, workers tucked another Falcon 9 first stage in the integration facility at LC-39A and quickly switched gears, along with all personnel at KSC and Cape Canaveral, to prepare for the arrival of the monster hurricane Irma barreling toward Florida.
“This phenomenal team makes the impossible possible,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th SW commander. “We are now preparing to evacuate just one day after we had our 15th launch this year when we got SpaceX’s Falcon 9 with the X-37B off the pad successfully on our first attempt.”
“We have now launched one-quarter of the space lift missions in the entire world,” he continued. “But now it is time for us to change our focus to preparing for Hurricane Irma.”
SpaceX Falcon 9 / X37 OTV-5 Launch Remote Camera View
The OTV-5 mission was the program’s first launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The X-37B is flying a different trajectory to a higher inclination orbit than previous missions, continuing to expand the X-37B’s orbital envelope and operational capabilities.
The fifth OTV mission continues to advance the X-37B’s performance and flexibility as a space technology demonstrator and host platform for experimental payloads. This mission carries small satellite ride shares and will demonstrate greater opportunities for rapid space access and on-orbit testing of emerging space technologies.
“The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the program,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. “It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community.”
Building upon the fourth mission and previous collaboration with experiment partners, this mission hosts the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader payload to test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long duration space environment.
(Matthew Travis / Zero-G News)
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