The United States' secretive space drone - the X-37B - will be launched again on May 16, said US Air Force on May 6. The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-6) will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The sixth mission for the reusable space plane will be launched in partnership with the newly-created US Space Force, according to the US Air Force.
"In today’s age of electrons, space systems track storms, locate stranded motorists, timestamp credit card transactions, and monitor treaty compliance. Demonstrating the department’s innovation, this X-37B mission will host more experiments than any prior missions. This launch also demonstrates the department’s collaboration that pushes the boundaries for reusable space systems," said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett.
The latest mission is unique because it will also conduct a host of experiments for USAFA and NASA with the help of a service module attached to the aft of the vehicle that will carry an additional experimental payload to orbit. "The mission will deploy the FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the U.S. Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory to conduct several experiments on orbit. The FalconSat-8 is an educational platform that will carry five experimental payloads for USAFA to operate," according to the official release.
"In addition, two National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) experiments will be included to study the results of radiation and other space effects on a materials sample plate and seeds used to grow food. Finally, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory will transform solar power into radiofrequency microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground," the release stated.
The X-37B program completed its fifth mission in October 2019, landing after 780 days on orbit. The space plane has spent a cumulative 2,865 days into the orbit- or seven years and 10 months.