A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 501 rocket is scheduled to launch the USSF-7 mission for the U.S. Space Force from Space Launch Complex-41 of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 16, 8:24 a.m. EDT.
This mission is a collaborative salute to honor front-line responders and those affected by COVID-19. This launch will mark the sixth flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) and the second mission for the U.S. Space Force.
“Despite unprecedented circumstances, we continue to launch critical missions,” said Gary Wentz, ULA vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. “We are honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force and Air Force to recognize healthcare workers, first responders and other essential personnel affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Along with OTV-6, the mission will deploy FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) to conduct experiments on orbit. The mission also carries two NASA experiments, including a material sample plate to determine the results of radiation and other space effects on various materials. Another NASA experiment will assess the space effects on seeds used to grow food. Another experiment sponsored the Naval Research Laboratory will examine the ability to transform solar power into radiofrequency microwave energy which could be transmitted to the ground.
An Atlas V 501 configuration rocket, which includes a 5-meter-diameter payload fairing, will launch the USSF-7 mission. The Atlas booster for this mission is powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage is powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine. This will be the 84th launch of an Atlas V rocket and the seventh launch of the 501 configuration. The Atlas V 501 has been used exclusively for national security missions.
To date, ULA has a track record of 100 percent mission success with 138 successful launches.