The US Air Force’s (USAF) 45th Space Wing successfully launched the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on 7 September.
The latest launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A marks the fifth space flight for the X-37B programme.
The Falcon 9 rocket first-stage booster landed at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, around 8min after the launch.
Commenting on the launch, USAF 45th Space Wing commander brigadier general Wayne Monteith said: “This marks the fifth successful launch of the OTV and its first onboard a Falcon 9. A strong relationship with our mission partners, such as the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, is vital toward maintaining the Eastern Range as the World’s Premiere Gateway to Space.”
Carrying small satellite ride shares, the X-37B OTV will perform on-orbit testing of emerging space technologies as part of the mission.
It 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.
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The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office-led X-37B OTV’s operations are monitored by Air Force Space Command’s 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron.
USAF stated that the spacecraft has been designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operate experiments.
Boeing has designed the 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.