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The May 6 Atlas 5 launch will carry one of the Air Force’s two X-37B mini-shuttles on a new mission in space.
The Air Force won’t yet confirm which of the Boeing-built spaceplanes will be making the voyage. The first craft returned in October from a 675-day mission in space following a 224 day trek in 2010. OTV No. 2 spent 469 days in space in 2011-2012 on its only mission so far. “The program selects the Orbital Test Vehicle for each activity based upon the experiment objectives,” said Capt. Chris Hoyler, an Air Force spokesperson. “Each OTV mission builds upon previous on-orbit demonstrations and expands the test envelope of the vehicle. The test mission furthers the development of the concept of operations for reusable space vehicles.”
There are indications that the Air Force wants to attempt landing the shuttle at Kennedy this time.