Unmanned US space plane launched from Florida

Katie Ramirez
May 18, 2020

"If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and 1 billion miles, so a lot of traveling by this machine", Chilton said.

The US Space Force on Sunday announced it successfully launched the X-37B into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This is the sixth test flight of an X-37B, the first such flight to have a service module attached to the space plane's aft, and the first carried out under the Space Force's banner.

Delayed a day by bad weather, Sunday's launch was the second one for the newly established Space Force.

The X-37B, resembling a scaled-down space shuttle, measures 8.9 meters in length and 4.5 meters across at its fins.

The U.S. military traditionally holds back the details of the X-37B's classified test missions, while providing information about experiments included aboard the uncrewed mini-space shuttle.

"Congratulations on the 6th mission of the X-37B reusable spacecraft", Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote on Twitter following its launch.

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Officials aren't saying how long the spacecraft will remain in orbit this time or the goal of the mission.

"The United Launch Alliance is scheduled to launch an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Saturday morning, but the launch could be scrubbed because of poor weather conditions", the station says. In March, it hoisted a national security satellite.

The Air Force said in a statement that its launch honors all front-line workers and responders to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who have been affected by the outbreak.

United Launch Alliance, which provided the Atlas V rocket, said it followed health advice for the launch with flight controllers wearing masks and spread out.

Another launch attempt will be made in 24 hours. The last one, OTV-5, lasted 780 days before a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Sign up to receive the week's news in space.

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