USAF to Launch Robotic Spacecraft

7 April 2010 (Last Updated April 7th, 2010 18:30)

The US Air Force will launch a robotic spacecraft this month to conduct technology tests in orbit. The X-37B is scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 19 April, according to Associated Press. The 1,000lb spacecraft is 9.5ft tall and 29ft long, and has a wingsp

The US Air Force will launch a robotic spacecraft this month to conduct technology tests in orbit.

The X-37B is scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on 19 April, according to Associated Press.

The 1,000lb spacecraft is 9.5ft tall and 29ft long, and has a wingspan of less than 15ft.

It can operate autonomously in orbit, as well as on re-entry and landing.

It will include technologies such as thermal protection systems, autonomous advanced guidance, navigation and control systems, high temperature structures, conformal reusable insulation and high temperature seals.

Once fielded, the X-37B will be the only X-vehicle capable of conducting continuous on-orbit operations for up to 21 days.

The spacecraft has been designed as a prototype of a vehicle that can carry small payloads into orbit, carry out a variety of military missions and then return to Earth.

The X-37B, which will stay in orbit for 270 days, will land north-west of Los Angeles at the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The X-37B programme is controlled by the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office.

In 1999, Nasa began the X-37 programme in cooperation with Boeing.