The top secret X-37B robotic space plane is scheduled to launch tomorrow, Tuesday, December 11.
The unmanned space craft has completed a few missions so far but the air force has been very tight lipped about the vehicles classified payload. The Rapid Capabilities Office says that the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is being used “to demonstrate a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the United States Air Force.”
The Business Insider reports that this will be the third mission for the X-37B, or Orbital Test Vehicle-3. It will launch with the help of an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station tomorrow at 1 pm. The Air Force will be using the same X-37B spacecraft that was used during the first test flight mission in 2010.
The first flight lasted for 224 days. The Air Force sent a different X-37B vehicle into orbit in 2011. That mission lasted for 469 days and ended on June 16. The Air Force announced that the X-37B would launch into orbit tomorrow but did not say how long they expect the mission to last.
The Huffington Post reports that the space plane was supposed to launch several months ago but was delayed due to a problem with one of the rocket engines.
Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president of mission operations, said:
“We thank the OTV customer for their patience and participation throughout the flight clearance process for this important mission.”
Here’s an infographic about the X-37b space plane from Space.com.