X-37B Launched into Orbit Again

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., at 11:05 a.m. on May 20, carrying the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, according to a May 20 release. The launch marked the fourth time the unmanned space plane has deployed into low earth orbit, with all four missions launched aboard an Atlas V rocket. The current X-37B mission carries important new USAF experiments on board, such as the Hall thruster, which will be used to improve similar units onboard Advanced Extremely High Frequency communication satellites. Service officials have said USAF plans to continue using the spacecraft to test reusability concepts in space. The launch also marked the 83rd successful launch of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, noted Space and Missile Systems Center Commander Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves in a statement. The AFSPC-5 mission also included 10 CubeSats on the rocket’s Centaur upper stage, a collaboration between SMC and the National Reconnaissance Office. Col. Thomas Falzarano, the 45th Operations Group commander, who served as the launch decision authority for the mission, thanked the Patrick AFB and Cape Canaveral teams for the launch success of the “very important mission” in a May 20 release.