Military, Unmanned

USAF Spaceplane Drone Could Launch in September

By Marc Selinger, S.L. Fuller | August 16, 2017
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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force

The next launch of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B reusable, unmanned spaceplane was scheduled for “no earlier than August,” the service said. But now that August is here, SpaceX — which is providing the launch vehicle — said the launch would occur “no earlier than September.”

This mission would be the fifth for the Boeing-built Orbital Test Vehicle. It is planned to launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. If the X-37B does launch, it will be the first to use SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Each of the previous four missions rode aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

“The ability to launch the Orbital Test Vehicle on multiple platforms will ensure a robust launch capability for our experiment designers,” said Randy Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which leads the X-37B effort.

In this upcoming mission, the spaceplane will carry an Air Force Research Laboratory payload that involves experimental electronics and heat management technology, the Air Force said.

The X-37B’s longest trip ended in May after almost two years in space. The program is designed to try out reusable flight, re-entry and landing technologies.

This article is based on reporting from Defense Daily, an Avionics sister publication.

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