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Atlantis on the pad
Space shuttle Atlantis is delivered to Kennedy Space Center's launch pad 39B on August 2 to begin final preparations for blastoff on the STS-115 mission to resume construction of the International Space Station.

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Atlantis rollout begins
Just after 1 a.m. local time August 2, the crawler-transporter began the slow move out of the Vehicle Assembly Building carrying space shuttle Atlantis toward the launch pad.

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ISS EVA preview
Astronauts Jeff Williams and Thomas Reiter will conduct a U.S.-based spacewalk outside the International Space Station on August 3. To preview the EVA and the tasks to be accomplished during the excursion, station managers held this press conference from Johnson Space Center in Houston.

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STS-34: Galileo launch
The long voyage of exploration to Jupiter and its many moons by the Galileo spacecraft began on October 18, 1989 with launch from Kennedy Space Center aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. The crew of mission STS-34 tell the story of their flight to dispatch the probe -- fitted with an Inertial Upper Stage rocket motor -- during this post-flight presentation film.

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Atlantis on the move
Space shuttle Atlantis is transported to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building where the ship will be mated to the external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters for a late-August liftoff.

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Discovery ride along!
A camera was mounted in the front of space shuttle Discovery's flight deck looking back at the astronauts during launch. This video shows the final minutes of the countdown and the ride to space with the live launch audio included. The movie shows what it would be like to launch on the shuttle with the STS-121 crew.

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Shuttle from the air
A high-altitude WB-57 aircraft flying north of Discovery's launch trajectory captures this incredible aerial footage of the space shuttle's ascent from liftoff through solid rocket booster separation.

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Launch experience
This is the full launch experience! The movie begins with the final readiness polls of the launch team. Countdown clocks then resume ticking from the T-minus 9 minute mark, smoothly proceeding to ignition at 2:38 p.m. Discovery rockets into orbit, as seen by ground tracker and a video camera mounted on the external tank. About 9 minutes after liftoff, the engines shut down and the tank is jettisoned as the shuttle arrives in space.

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Delta 2 launches MiTEx
MiTEx -- an experimental U.S. military project to test whether the advanced technologies embedded in two miniature satellites and a new upper stage kick motor can operate through the rigors of spaceflight -- is launched from Cape Canaveral aboard a Boeing Delta 2 rocket.

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Test team breaks its own record with C-17 drop
SPACE AND MISSILE SYSTEMS CENTER NEWS RELEASE
Posted: August 9, 2006

A government and industry test team broke their own record in late July by releasing a full-scale simulated 72,000-pound rocket from an unmodified C-17A aircraft at the operational launch altitude of 32,000 feet and an air speed of 200 knots.


Simulated QuickReach rocket in flight with parachute released. Credit: Air Force photo by Jim Shryne
 
This feat marked the largest single object to be dropped from that particular type of aircraft since June, when a 65,000-pound simulated rocket was released in a similar test.

The tests were conducted as part of the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle Program. Members of the test team were comprised from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Development and Test Wing (formerly SMC Detachment 12), the Air Force Flight Test Center, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and AirLaunch LLC.

The combined government and industry team worked to accurately predict the performance of AirLaunch's 65.8-feet-long simulated QuickReach rocket to assure crew and system safety.

Administered by DARPA and SMC, this program's goal is to develop a vehicle that can launch a 1,000-pound satellite to low earth orbit for less than $5 million within 24 hours of notice.

This most recent record-breaking drop was third in a series of envelope expansion tests to verify the ability of the C-17 to safely deliver a full-scale, full-weight rocket to its operational launch altitude. This drop used an aircraft from the 62nd Airlift Wing, McChord Air Force Base, Wash., to support the test flown by the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.

By using three separate C-17 aircraft in the drop tests, the team has demonstrated that any C-17 can be used for these air launch drops and ultimately the SLV program, according to Space Development and Test Wing officials. These tests may lead to a new spacelift role for the C-17 and a new asset for Air Force Space Command the aircraft could potentially deliver troops and humanitarian aid one day and launch a satellite the next.

The Falcon SLV Program is developing operational responsive space launch vehicles as called for in the U.S. Space Transportation Policy. Responsive space would allow the government to react quickly and use small satellites equipped with sensors to monitor and provide communication for urgent military needs.

"Having a quick reaction launch system that can launch specialized small satellites will provide the warfighter with real-time data and communication during time-urgent situations," said Dr. Steve Walker, DARPA program manager. "This test also demonstrates that small companies can successfully work with government agencies to produce low cost, innovative solutions for the warfighter."

DARPA has requested SMC and the Space Development and Test Wing continue its support of the test program in the next phase.

The next major milestone will be an initial critical design review in November. If successful, the program will continue with flight tests as early as next year.

The SMC test team consists of Dale Shell, test manager; Maj. Gregg Leisman, Test Pilot School graduate and flight test engineer; Capt. Timothy Ferlin, test engineer; and test support from 2nd Lt. William Palm.

The SMC Space Development and Test Wing's mission is to serve as the primary provider of launch capability, spaceflight and on-orbit operations demonstrating transformation technologies for the American warfighter. Its legacy continues in advancing the development of new space technology and spacelift capability.

The Space and Missile Systems Center is the U.S. Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, Military Satellite Communications, Defense Meteorological Satellites, Space Launch and Range Systems, the Air Force Satellite Control Network, Space Based Infrared Systems, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Systems and Space Situational Awareness capabilities. SMC manages more than $60 billion in contracts, has an annual operating budget of $7.8 billion (FY 06) and employs more than 6,800 people worldwide.