The mysterious Boeing X-37B, a space plane made for the United States Air Force, is scheduled for its fourth launch a month from now. This is a computer-operated system, flying without the guidance of a physical human being aboard the space aircraft.
The launch is expected to take place off of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket located at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The body of the plane is similar to NASA’s shuttle orbiter, however, in a smaller form. Director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, Randy Walden, stated, “We are excited about our fourth X-37B mission. With the demonstrated success of the first three missions, we’re able to shift our focus from initial checkouts of the vehicle to testing of experimental payloads.”
This was made possible through a joint venture between Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space and Missile Systems Center. The X-37B completed its previous mission on October 17th, landing in California at the Vandenberg Air Force Base. This marked the end of a 675 day mystery mission, which beat its first mission of 225 days and second mission of 469 days. The team of engineers and scientists anticipate a continued trend of increased mission days with useful experiments.
Walden further said, “We’re very pleased with the experiments lined-up for our fourth OTV Mission OTV-4. We’ll continue to evaluate improvements to the space vehicle’s performance, but we’re honored to host these collaborative experiments that will help advance the state-of-the-art for space technology.”
In a recent announcement, the 2015 Space Foundation Achievement award was given to the team behind these missions, recognizing them for their contributions towards advancing science. They hope to uphold these expectations with the upcoming May 20th launching.
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