US Military X-37B rolls out to Atlas Launch Pad poised for March 4 launch – Photo Album

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The second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-2) built for the US Air Force was rolled out today (March 3) to the Atlas rocket launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41(SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The experimental OTV-2 is poised to blast off on Friday, March 4 on an Atlas V rocket in a launch window that extends from 3:39 pm to 5:39 p.m. EST. The X-37B is encapsulated in a 5 meter fairing.

The secret cargo and experiments loaded aboard are shrouded behind a veil of military security.

UPDATE: Due to weather concerns, the launch has been postponed until Saturday, March 5. Weather is predicted to improve to 40% favorable for launch.

Air Force technicians are completing final preparations for the late afternoon blast off of the bronze colored rocket topped by the extra long payload fairing to accommodate the OTV-2.

The rocket is sitting atop the mobile launch platform and was pushed about 1800 feet from the 31 story Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to launch pad 41 by twin diesel powered trackmobiles. See my photo album of today’s X-37B rollout and close up visit to the Atlas rocket at SLC-41.

“No major changes were required from the OTV-1 flight based on post-flight assessments, but we did make a few minor modifications based on lessons learned from the first flight,” Tracy Bunko, Maj, USAF of the Air Force Press Desk told me in an interview.

“We’re pleased with what we’ve seen so far. Technology assessments are ongoing in areas including re-entry guidance, navigation, and control, thermal protection systems, and flight actuation systems.”

“We want to potentially test the landing capabilities in stronger wind conditions,” Bunko explained.

Read the mission preview and launch report by Jason Rhian

X-37B at Space Launch Complex 41 slated for March 4, 2011 launch after rollout of Atlas V rocket
from Vertical Integration Facility (left) pad 41 (right) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer
Atlas V rocket with X-37B bolted atop at pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida poised for March 4 launch. Credit: Ken Kremer
The X-37B is poised for launch on March 4, 2011 after rollout to pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer
X-37B is encapsulated in a Swiss made five meter fairing.
Credit: Ken Kremer
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) and Atlas V rocket bathed in xenon lights after March 3 rollout at Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Launch scheduled for March 4. Credit: Ken Kremer
Photo taken from roof of CBS News building at KSC press site

Sequence of Photos showing rollout of Atlas V rocket, from right to left

March 3 rollout of X-37B Vertical Integration Facility (right) to Launch Pad 41 (left) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer

March 3 rollout of X-37B Vertical Integration Facility (right) to Launch Pad 41 (left) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer
March 3 rollout of X-37B Vertical Integration Facility (right) to Launch Pad 41 (left) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer
Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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