X-37B Undergoing Assessment

Since its return to Earth earlier this month, engineers have been pouring over the Air Force’s X-37B orbital test vehicle (OTV-1) to glean lessons for the maiden launch of the second X-37 (OTV-2) next spring. “We’ve got to examine this vehicle that just landed and see if there’s anything in there that would [tell us] we’re not ready to go launch yet,” stated Richard McKinney, USAF’s deputy under secretary for space programs, reports Spaceflight Now. Inspection of OTV-1 has revealed several areas of damage by space debris. One of the vehicle’s tires also ruptured during its Dec. 3 landing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Boeing is preparing to ship OTV-2 to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for its mission. Like OTV-1’s time on orbit, OTV-2’s flight will focus on evaluating the vehicle itself as opposed to focusing on payloads. (See SAF/PA report by TSgt. Amaani Lyle) (See also FlightGlobal report)