Boeing’s X-37B Autonomous Spaceplane Sets Off on 6th Mission

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Boeing’s autonomous spaceplane, the X-37B, was
sent into space on Sunday, on top of an United Launch Alliance
Atlas V rocket.

The X-37B’s sixth mission is the first to use a
service module with additional payload capability to support a
variety of experiments for multiple government partners.

The
mission will deploy FalconSAT-8, a small satellite developed by
the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research
Laboratory, to conduct experiments on orbit.

Two NASA
experiments will study the impact of radiation and other space
effects on certain materials and seeds used to grow food.


The Boeing-built X-37B spaceplane successfully launched from Cape Canaveral on Sunday. Photo by U.S. Space Force. Click to enlarge.

The Naval Research Laboratory will conduct an
experiment to transform solar
power into radio frequency microwave energy which could then be
transmitted to the ground.

The mission will also test
reusable space vehicle technologies.

The X-37B, first launched in April 2010, was originally
designed for missions of 270 days in duration. The X-37B has set
endurance records during each of its five previous flights. Most
recently, X-37B spent 780 days on orbit before returning to earth
in October 2019.

“The X-37B has shifted the paradigm and redefined
efficiency in space development,” said Jim Chilton, Boeing Space
and Launch senior vice president. “The rapid technology
advancements enabled by the program will benefit the entire space
community and influence the next generation of spacecraft design.”

The X-37B program is a partnership between the
Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the
United States Space Force. Boeing program management, engineering,
test and mission support functions for the Orbital Test Vehicle
(OTV) program are conducted at Boeing sites in Southern California
and Florida.

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