The U.S. Space Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane successfully launched on its sixth mystery mission

The U.S. Space Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane successfully launched on its sixth mystery mission

The U.S. Space Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane successfully launched on its sixth mystery mission

Written by Staff Writer

18 May, 2020 | 3:30 pm

The U.S. Space Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane successfully launched on its sixth mystery mission from Florida yesterday (May 17).

Riding atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, the clandestine craft blasted off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The on-time liftoff occurred just 24-hours after poor weather conditions at the Florida launch site forced ULA to scrub its original launch attempt, Saturday morning.

While the X-37B’s exact purpose is a secret, Space Force officials have revealed that the craft is packing numerous experiments on this trip to test out different systems in space. Some of those experiments include a small satellite called FalconSat-8, two NASA payloads designed to study the effects of radiation on different materials as well as seeds to grow food, and a power-beaming experiment using microwave energy.

The U. S. Space Force and Air Force Rapid Response Capabilities Office have two of the miniature shuttle-like X-37B space planes (also known as Orbital Test Vehicles, or OTVs) that it uses for classified military missions in low-Earth orbit. They have flown five missions since 2010, four of them on ULA Atlas V rockets and the fifth on a SpaceX Falcon 9.

Today’s launch occurred just six months after the most recent mission, OTV-5, landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 2, 2019, completing a record-setting 780 days (just over two years) sojourn in space.

Boeing built the X-37B space planes for the U.S. Air Force. The two vehicles have spent more than seven years in orbit across their missions. (Command of the mission and other space related activities transferred to the Space Force after its creation in 2019.)

Latest News