U.S. military's remote controlled, solar-powered space plane takes off for mystery mission

Katie Ramirez
May 20, 2020

The US Space Force has successfully relaunched the mysterious X-37B space plane on its sixth mission.

Officials aren't saying how long the spacecraft will remain in orbit.

Earlier this month, the Air Force disclosed a number of the experiments that will be conducted onboard, most notably one that will deliver solar power to the ground from space via radio frequency microwave energy. The program later was transferred to the Defense Department as is now managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

Encapsulated X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle.

"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. The spaceplane is featured in the U.S.

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

X-37B is a classified programme. ULA only could show the first five minutes of the flight in its live webcast.

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This would be the 139th mission for ULA. "Therefore we have to stop the live broadcast so that we do not make it easy for adversaries to figure those things out by having that much data about the flight and deployment".

The winged spacecraft, also called the Orbital Test Vehicle, resembles NASA's old shuttles, but is considerably smaller at 8.8 metres long.

This was the 84th flight for an Atlas rocket since 2002.

According to Boeing, OTV-6 is the first time the X-37B has been equipped with a service module, allowing it to carry additional payloads. It will test power-beaming technology, and will also test the effect of radiation on seeds and other materials.

The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. "We learn a lot about the value of reusability and autonomy", said Raymond.

The newly-established Space Force blasted a secretive space plane into orbit from Florida Sunday for a mystery military mission.

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