Cape Canaveral rocket launch: Watch liftoff for the X-37B mystery mission
May 21 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.
At 9:14 AM EDT, United Launch Alliance successfully launched an Atlas V rocket, lofting the X-37B spaceplane into orbit for the U.S Space Force. According to people aware of the update, officials of Space Force have claimed that the craft is undergoing a myriad of experiments on the trip to check various systems in space, including two NASA payloads innately created to assess the impact of radiation on various materials; seeds to grow food; a small satellite, FalconSat-8; and a power beaming experiment with the help of microwave energy. The aircraft spent more than seven years into space.
For some, the duration of the flight may be the real mystery. It will be SpaceX's last flight before its first astronaut launch, scheduled for May 27 from next-door Kennedy Space Center. It's not certain if this sixth sortie will challenge that record.
According to Boeing, OTV-6 is the first time the X-37B has been equipped with a service module, allowing it to carry additional payloads.
The X-37B is an autonomous reusable spaceplane sent to low Earth orbit for long missions that can last up to two years.
One of the experiments will test the effect of radiation on seeds and other materials.
"The X-37B has shifted the paradigm and redefined efficiency in space development", says Jim Chilton, Boeing Space and Launch senior vice president. Note, the Atlas V 501 configuration has been used exclusively for national security missions.
This launch was dedicated to the front line workers and to those who were affected by the pandemic.