I got home just in time to catch the liveblogging of the Atlas V STP-1 launch tonight. As several others have already pointed out, this launch was fairly important because it carried the Orbital Express satellite into orbit. Orbital Express is a DARPA project being led by Boeing, that will test out several autonomous on-orbit operations, such as rendezvous and docking, and non-cryogenic propellant transfer. While fully autonomous operations aren’t the only way to do rendezvous and docking, or even propellant transfer, it’s not a dumb approach, and it’ll be interesting to see how things turn out.
Anyhow, congrats to the Atlas V team, who have now had 80 consecutive successes in a row. Watching one of those big vehicles fly is always impressive, though definitely a nail-biter, even with the Atlas team’s relatively impressive track record.