The Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office is undergoing final launch preparations for the fifth mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. The OTV is scheduled to launch on Sept. 7, 2017, onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The fifth OTV mission continues to advance the X-37B’s performance and flexibility as a space technology demonstrator and host platform for experimental payloads.
This mission carries small satellite ride shares and will demonstrate greater opportunities for rapid space access and on-orbit testing of emerging space technologies.
Building upon the fourth mission and previous collaboration with experiment partners, this mission will host the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader (ASETS-11) payload to test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long duration space environment.
This will be the program’s first launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The fifth OTV mission will also be launched into, and landed from, a higher inclination orbit than prior missions to further expand the X-37B’s orbital envelope.
“The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the program,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. “It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community.”
The X-37B program completed its fourth mission on May 7, 2017, landing after 718 days in orbit and extending the total number of days spent in orbit to 2,085.
The X-37 is a secret Air Force program, with the first space plane launching on April 22, 2010 and spending roughly 224 days in orbit. The Air Force said that all together, the four missions have spent a total of 2,085 days in space. Built by Boeing’s Phantom Works division, each spaceship has a wingspan of nearly 15 feet (4.5 meters) and a length of more than 29 feet (8.9 meters).
Source: Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs