US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — On May 17, the United Launch Alliance launched the Atlas 5 rocket with the U.S. Air Force X-37B into orbit on its sixth mission. The rocket launched at 17:14 Moscow time from the space launch complex-41 at the Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The plane separated from the launch vehicle 3 minutes 40 seconds after launch, according to ULA.
The launch was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 16, but was canceled due to strong winds.
The X-37B is a self-contained reusable spacecraft sent to low Earth orbit for long flights that can last up to two years. The plane, which was launched on Sunday – Operational Test Vehicle 6 – will conduct several military experiments for the US and NASA military. The Air Force operates two Boeing X-37B spacecraft.
The spacecraft is a derivative of the X-37A, developed by NASA in the late 1990s for deployment from a space shuttle. The program was later transferred to the Department of Defense, which is currently managed by the Air Force’s Operational Capabilities Office.
For a decade, the Air Force kept the X-37B secret, but now openly demonstrate it as a symbol of US space domination. This space plane is featured in a new video by the United States Space Forces, released May 6 by Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett. She told reporters that the X-37B is “worthy of disclosure” and is an achievement that the American public should be familiar with.
However, most of the features of what the X-37B does in space are classified. ULA showed only the first five minutes of the flight live.
“Detailed information about the vehicle, the mission it will perform in orbit, and where it will go is all classified,” ULA General Director Tori Bruno told reporters. “We must stop the live broadcast earlier, so as not to provide the adversaries with too much data about this flight.”
The Atlas 5 rocket used a five-meter payload fairing with a single-engine upper stage and without additional accelerators attached to the main stage. With a weight of about 5 tons and a length of about 9 meters, the X-37B is large enough to require a large rocket, such as the Atlas 5, but not heavy enough to require additional solid fuel boosters.
It was the 84th Atlas 5 flight since its commissioning in 2002.
The Air Force said that OTV 6 will conduct more experiments than any of the previous X-37B missions. One experiment is the FalconSAT-8 satellite of the United States Air Force Academy with five scientific payloads focused on propulsion technology in space. There are also NASA experiments to study the effects of radiation and other cosmic effects on materials and seeds used to grow food. An experiment from the US Naval Research Laboratory will test the use of microwaves to transmit solar energy from space to Earth. The experiment converts solar energy into radio frequency microwave energy, which can then be transmitted to the earth.
US Space Force Chief General John Raymond and Barrett were at Cape Canaveral to oversee the launch of a mission called USSF-7.
During a conversation with reporters, Raymond said the US military is receiving valuable information from each X-37B mission. “We learn a lot about the importance of reuse and autonomy,” said Raymond. In its five flights, the X-37B spent 2865 days in orbit.
When the X-37B completes its mission, it travels back to Earth on its own and lands on the runway.
Contact us: [email protected]