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Boeing X-37B OTV-1 (Orbital Test Vehicle 1) is the first orbital flight of the
U.S. military space plane prototype and the first vehicle since the space
shuttle orbiter able to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and
analysis. It maybe launched on an Atlas V rocket from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral
Air Force Station, Florida on April 20, 2010.
The reusable robotic X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is a small
space shuttle-like craft. The craft will launch like a satellite, housed in a
fairing atop an expendable Atlas V Rocket and will be placed into low Earth
orbit for testing, then it will be de-orbited for landing. The landing is to
occur on a runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California with Edwards Air
Force Base as the alternate site. The X37-B craft was built by Boeing's Phantom
Works with the mission run under the wing of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities
The X-37B is a risk reduction vehicle for space experimentation
and to explore concepts of operation for a long duration, reusable space
vehicle. The first flight will focus on vehicle checkout and test of subsystems
such as thermal management, power control and distribution, and attitude
The duration of the mission hasn't been announced, although an
Air Force spokesperson has said the vehicle has a requirement to be on-orbit for
up to 270 days. The Air Force isn't saying what equipment is stowed inside the
spaceplane's unpressurized cargo hold, which is about the size of a pickup truck
29 feet (8.8 meters)
14 feet (4.2 meters)
11,000 pounds (4,989 kg)
NASA guided the project through its infancy before funding dried
up in 2004 and the agency handed over its X-37 assets to the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency. The Air Force took over in 2006 after another
On November 17, 2006 the U.S. Air Force announced it would
develop the X-37B from the NASA X-37A. The Air Force version is designated X-37B
Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV). The OTV program builds on industry and government
investments by DARPA, NASA and the Air Force. The X-37B effort will be led by
the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and includes partnerships with NASA and
the Air Force Research Laboratory. Boeing is the prime contractor for the OTV
The X-37B was originally scheduled for launch in the payload bay of the Space
Shuttle, but following the Columbia accident, it was transferred to a Delta II
7920. It was subsequently transferred to the Atlas V following concerns over the
spacecraft's aerodynamic properties during launch.
A second test for the X-37B is scheduled for 2011.
Military Space Books: includes Spy Satellites,
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Air Force's Mystery X-37B Space Plane Fuels Speculation: By Space.com
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Updated: Thursday 15th, August, 2013
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