USAF prepares for fifth mission to launch X-37B OTV spacecraft


The US Air Force (USAF) Rapid Capabilities Office is preparing the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) for its fifth mission on 7 September.

The Rapid Capabilities Office has entered final launch preparations ahead of the scheduled X-37B OTV launch on-board a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

As part of the mission, the X-37B OTV will carry small satellite ride shares and perform on-orbit testing of emerging space technologies.

The spacecraft will also test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment through the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader payload.

The fifth OTV mission will mark the X-37B programme’s first launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

It will be launched into a higher inclination orbit than prior missions to further expand the X-37B’s orbital envelope, the USAF stated.

USAF Rapid Capabilities Office director Randy Walden said: “The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the programme.

"The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the programme."

“It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community.”

The fourth X-37B mission was conducted on 7 May.

Boeing has designed X-37B OTV for vertical launch to low-Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long-duration space technology experimentation and testing.

The unmanned OTV is capable of autonomously re-entering the atmosphere, descending and landing horizontally on a runway.


Image: The USAF’s fourth X-37B OTV mission was conducted on 7 May. Photo: courtesy of the USAF.