Military spaceplane live for its sixth mission

Pablo Tucker
May 19, 2020

The rocket, which is carrying the Air Force's high-tech reusable drone X-37B, also known as an Orbital Test Vehicle, was launched at around 9:15 a.m. from Cape Canaveral in Florida for its sixth mission in space.

"We were honored to partner with the U.S. Space Force to dedicate this mission to first responders, front-line workers, and those affected by COVID-19".

Also referred to as the U.S. Air Force's mini space shuttle, the unmanned X-37B was originally designed for orbital missions lasting only 270 days but continues to break longevity records.

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

The Air Force said this mission will carry more experiments than any of the previous X-37B fights. "Therefore we have to stop the live broadcast so that we do not make it easy for adversaries to figure those things out by having that much data about the flight and deployment".

A live video stream of the launch showed the Atlas V lifting off into space and the separation of the rocket's first stage from the Centaur upper stage. The satellite will carry five experimental payloads for the academy, along with two NASA experiments.

Stocked with a series of experiments from NASA and the Space Force, the reusable unmanned ship was launched Sunday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft.

One of the experiments will test the effect of radiation on seeds and other materials, according to AFP.

Another experiment from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy, with the goal of transmitting that energy to the ground.

As of today, the total number of days spent on-orbit for the entire test vehicle program is 2,865 days.

When the X-37B completes its mission, it autonomously cruises back to Earth and lands on a runway.

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