Science

US Space Force launches mystery space plane from Cape Canaveral

US Space Force launches mystery space plane from Cape Canaveral”

The Air Force said this mission will carry more experiments than any of the previous X-37B fights.

The US Air Force on Sunday successfully launched its high-tech drone X-37B, placing the reusable vehicle into orbit for its sixth secretive mission in space.

Built by Boeing, the plane uses solar panels for power in orbit, measures over 29ft (9m) long, has a wingspan of almost 15ft and a weight of 11,000lbs (4,989 kg). The one just launched features an extra compartment for experiments, including several for NASA and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, making it the biggest science load yet for an X-37B.

Atlas V 501 rocket carrying the USSF-7 mission for the U.S. Space Force lifted off on May 17, 9:14 a.m. EDT, from Space Launch Complex-41.

"You could say that the X-37B stands on the shoulders of the space shuttle", Chilton said. The program later was transferred to the Defense Department as is now managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

The Boeing-made X-37B is an unmanned, reusable spacecraft that takes off vertically and lands horizontally on a runway.

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Saturday's launch was the second-ever by the U.S. Space Force and the 80th under the National Security Space Launch effort. The spaceplane is featured in the U.S. Sign up to receive the week's news in space.

Barrett told reporters that the X-37B is "worthy of disclosure" and a capability with which the American public should be familiar.

The X-37B runs various missions for the USA, though its specific aims are actually classified. "We have to stop the live broadcast early so we don't provide adversaries too much data about the flight".

"America Strong" is the tagline for this mission, with Space Force and ULA emblazoning it on the side of the Atlas V rocket along with the message: "In memory of COVID-19 victims and tribute to all first responders and front-line workers". At about 11,000 pounds and almost 29-foot long, the X-37B is large enough that it requires a big rocket like the Atlas 5 to get to orbit but not heavy enough to need extra solid boosters.

This was the 84th flight for an Atlas rocket since 2002. The satellite will carry five experimental payloads for the academy, along with two NASA experiments.

Among the experiments: testing the effect of radiation on seeds and other materials, and transforming solar power into radio-frequency microwave energy that could be transmitted to the ground.



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