The U.S. military's highly secret, unmanned spacecraft - X-37B, is now scheduled for launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on October 30, 2012, according to United Launch Alliance website. This will be the third mission under the X-37B OTV (Orbital Test Vehicle) program.
X-37B is the most advanced re-entry spacecraft and is the first since NASA's Shuttle Orbiter, which is capable of returning experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis. Boeing Experimental Systems Group is the prime contractor for the X-37B OTV.
The upcoming X-37B mission is dubbed Orbital Test Vehicle-3, or OTV-3 mission, and is said to be a re-flight of the first X-37B OTV.
The first X-37B OTV was launched in April 2010, and it returned to Earth after spending 224 days in orbit. The second reusable space plane, X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-2, was launched on March 5, 2011, and it returned to Earth on June 16, 2012, after 469 days in orbit.
The X-37B OTV program is designed to perform risk reduction, experimentation, and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.
Since not much orbital details of this space shuttle are revealed by the U.S. Air Force, the purpose of the X-37B missions has remained a mystery.
by RTT Staff Writer
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