On Sunday morning, the Atlas V AV081/USSF-7 mission was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Space Launch Complex-41 at the opening of the launch window at 09:14 AM EDT. Despite challenging weather the previous day resulting in a one-day delay, the X-37B space plane payload was successfully delivered to its intended orbit within 1.4 sigma of predictions.
The big surprise of the morning came when the launch team was treated to special congratulatory remarks on the flight commentary net right after spacecraft separation – delivered by the Secretary of the Air Force and former Aerospace Board Chair Barbara Barrett, and the United States Space Force Chief of Space Operations, Gen. Jay Raymond.
Secretary Barrett hailed this as a seminal day, highlighting the innovation and partnership of the entire industry and government team. “A grateful America is celebrating with you, the Air Force, the Space Force, and all the government and industry partners that made this great achievement possible,” Barrett said. CSO Raymond, noted that, “Space is a team sport and there is no other place it comes together as visibly as in launch. This is extremely difficult work and you make it look easy. Congratulations to the whole team.”
Speaking of innovation and teamwork, Aerospace’s Spacelift Telemetry Acquisition and Reporting System (STARS) team continued to enhance the remote STARS capabilities that were demonstrated during the AEHF-6 launch to allow for remote use of telemetry, voice and video during the launch countdown. For this flight, the STARS team deployed an enhanced VCOM virtual voice intercom system that provides multi-channel full-duplex voice capabilities similar to the voice matrix capabilities inside STARS. The VCOM system also enables video capabilities to remote users. For real-time telemetry, the Atlas team employed new xRDP connectivity to provide real-time JavaSTARS to over 40 remote users in addition to the AGSPL tools that were available for AEHF-6.
The Space Force provided an unprecedented level of insight into the details of this sixth flight of the X-37B. Experiments on board included the flight of the FalconSat-8 smallsat, a joint U.S Air Force Academy/Air Force Research Lab project, as well as two NASA payloads to study space radiation effects on materials and seeds, and a Naval Research Laboratory space solar power experiment.
This launch marked the 84th successful launch of an Atlas V rocket, 139th launch for United Launch Alliance (ULA), the second launch for the U.S. Space Force and the sixth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6).
Watch the Atlas V USSF-7 below. You can learn more about the mission here:
Written by Randy Kendall, Vice President of Launch and Enterprise Operations (LEO) at The Aerospace Corporation.