The US Military’s mysterious X-37B space plane will head back out into the expanse of space to do, well, whatever it is supposed to do out there.
The Air Force announced on Wednesday that the X-37B is slated for a third launch in October, though they haven’t released the exact date yet, according to ABC News.
Like its two orbital predecessors, the mission is top secret, and the October spaceflight, dubbed Orbital Test Vechicle-3 (or OTV-3) will tentatively take off in October. Air Force spokesperson Lt. Col. John Dorrian stated:
“We are on track for the launch of the X-37B to occur next month, but the exact date of the launch is dependent on a number of factors including range conditions and weather.”
The space vehicle, which is 29 feet long, will launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The craft’s pioneer voyage began in April of 2010 and lasted for 255 days until it landed in December 2010 at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, reports Yahoo! News.
The second orbit, OTV-2, landed at the same base in June after a record-breaking 469 day travel. Dorrian stated:
“For this third launch, while the vehicle is the same… we are considering landing it at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida instead of the previous base. We are looking to save money and make use of previous investments and infrastructure already available.”
While the mission for the shuttle-like craft remains classified, Air Force spokesperson Maj. Tracy Bunko has assured that the craft is not a weapon like the Chinese have suggested. The third mission will focus on testing the X-37B’s capabilities, as well as how cost-effective the aircraft is. Bunko stated:
“One of the most promising aspects of the X-37B is it enables us to examine a payload system or technology in the environment in which it will perform its mission and inspect them when we bring them back to Earth. Returning an experiment via the X-37B OTV enables detailed inspection and significantly better learning than can be achieved by remote telemetry alone.”
What do you think the mysterious X-37B’s mission could be? What do you think the mysterious space craft could be for? Let us know in the comments below.