America’s Sixth Secretive Mission in Space using reusable drones

Pablo Tucker
May 18, 2020

The Air Force, which own two X-37B vehicles, has historically been reticent to comment on the capabilities of the X-37B and what it does during its extended time in space, aside from hosting scientific experiments.

The last X-37B mission was launched September 7, 2017 and ended October 27, 2019, for 779 days, 17 hours and 51 minutes.

The X-37B, resembling a scaled-down space shuttle, measures 8.9 meters in length and 4.5 meters across at its fins.

The previous mission lasted a record two years, with a touchdown shrouded in darkness at NASA's Kennedy Space Center last year. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.

The craft launched with an extra compartment for experiments, including several for NASA and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, making it the largest load for science yet for a mission. "In a common way to a common home".

The drone, which resembles a smaller version of the manned space shuttles retired by the United States space program in 2011, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the Air Force said.

The mission will be the first time the plane uses a service module to host experiments.

"If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and 1 billion miles, so a lot of traveling by this machine", Chilton said.

Sunday's launch was dedicated to health care workers and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The precautions were less apparent along the causeways in the area, where onlookers parked to watch the Atlas rise.

The first launch of the Space Force took place in March, when a National security communications satellite took off from Cape Canaveral.

Another launch is scheduled from the Cape Tuesday, with SpaceX launching another batch of its internet satellites called Starlink.

The X-37B has a lifting body-style and landing profile that is similar to the Space Shuttle, but the vehicle is one-fourth the size.

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