Atlas 5 launches X-37B spacecraft
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I have embedded the video of the launch below the fold, with the launch occurring at 23:50.
As has been standard procedure during all previous X-37B missions, only a few details about the payloads have been released, though the military has said it wishes to be a bit more open this time.
“This sixth mission is a big step for the X-37B program,” said Randy Walden, director and program executive officer for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. “This will be the first X-37B mission to use a service module to host experiments. The incorporation of a service module on this mission enables us to continue to expand the capabilities of the spacecraft and host more experiments than any of the previous missions.” The service module is attached to the aft end of the X-37B spaceplane, providing additional capacity for experiments and payloads. The X-37B itself, measuring more than 29 feet (8.9 meters) long, also has a cargo bay inside its fuselage.
Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said Wednesday that the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office is partnering with the U.S. Space force and the Air Force Research Laboratory on the next X-37B mission. … “This important mission will host more experiments than any prior X-37B flight, including two NASA experiments,” Barrett said Wednesday. “One is a sample plate evaluating the reaction of select significant materials to the conditions in space. The second studies the effect of ambient space radiation on seeds.”
The X-37B also carries a space-based solar power experiment. “A third experiment designed by the Naval Research Laboratory transforms solar power into radio frequency microwave energy, then studies transmitting that energy to Earth,” Barrett said.
Once in orbit, the X-37B will also release a small satellite named FalconSat 8. Developed by Air Force Academy cadets in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory, the small satellite carries five experimental payloads. It will be operated by by the Air Force Academy’s Cadet Space Operations Squadron
They have not said how long this X-37B will remain in orbit.
The leaders in the 2020 launch race:
6 Europe (Arianespace)
The U.S. now leads China 11 to 8 in the national rankings, and will likely increase that lead
very early tomorrow in the next day or so when SpaceX completes its next scheduled Falcon 9 Starlink launch. (Because of weather they have pushed back one day.