The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has successfully launched X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on September 7.
The fifth launch of the OTV was conducted by the 45th Space Wing of the USAF.
Approximately eight minutes after the launch, SpaceX successfully landed the Falcon 9 first-stage booster at Landing Zone 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Boeing X-37, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), is a reusable unmanned spacecraft. It is boosted into space by a launch vehicle, then re-enters Earth’s atmosphere and lands as a spaceplane.
The X-37 is operated by the United States Air Force for orbital spaceflight missions intended to demonstrate reusable space technologies. It is a 120%-scaled derivative of the earlier Boeing X-40.
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).
The first space plane was launched on April 22, 2010 and spend roughly 224 days in orbit. 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 Air Force said that all together, the four missions have spent a total of 2,085 days in space.
The X-37B is led by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, with operations overseen by Air Force Space Command’s 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron. The OTV is designed to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operate experiments, which can be returned to and examined on Earth.