Atlas V Launch Tonight!

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch this evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


The launch is set to go at 9:37 EST; the launch window extends until 11:42 EST. The 45th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force will be handling launch operations, and the weather forecast (opens in PDF) looks good, if a little gusty. A live webcast can be found here.

The always-convenient worldwide launch schedule details the payload: 

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket (AV-013) will carry six satellites during a complex launch of the Air Force’s Space Test Program-1 mission. The payload list is led by the Orbital Express in-space refueling demonstration mission consisting of the Autonomous Space Transfer and Robotic Orbiter, or ASTRO, prototype servicing satellite and the NextSat serviceable spacecraft. has more on the Orbital Express: 

Built for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Orbital Express vehicles are aimed at demonstrating autonomous spacecraft refueling and servicing techniques [video, image].

For military uses, such capabilities would allow reconnaissance satellites to keep station over specific areas of interest and tank up on vital propellant later, though the technology could also aid general-use spacecraft in need of periodic equipment repairs, replacements or an orbital boost, mission managers said.

Additional information on the mission can be found on DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office website. Also be sure to check out this series of pictures of the Atlas 5’s pad rollout on the Spaceflight Now website.

And if you’re online later this evening for the live webcast — please share your reactions to the launch in the comment thread below.