SpaceX OTV-5 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch a secret military spaceplane called the  X-37B sometime in September. The X-37B spaceplane is also called the Orbital Test Vehicle. This will the the program’s fifth mission, called the OTV-5 mission. After the launch, the Falcon 9 first stage will return to Earth and land at Landing Zone 1 at the Cape Canaveral Air force Station. Landing will occur about 7-8 minutes after the launch. It is still unclear if the spaceplane will launch from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center or launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. 

Three views of the X-37B (OTV-5)
Three views of the X-37B. Credit: Giuseppe De Chiara
Three views of the X-37B (OTV-5)
Three views of the X-37B. Credit: Giuseppe De Chiara

About the X-37B spaceplane for the OTV-5 mission

The X-37B spaceplane is build by Boeing Phantom Works at the Kennedy Space Center is a reusable unmanned spacecraft. It is boosted into space by a launch vehicle such as the Falcon 9 or Atlas class rockets, and can re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and lands as a spaceplane similar to the Space Shuttle. The X-37B is operated by the United States Air Force for orbital spaceflight missions intended to demonstrate reusable space technologies. 

X-37B OTA4 lands at Kennedy Space Center
The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 landed at NASA ‘s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017. Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies. Credit – U.S. Air Force

General characteristics

  • Crew: none
  • Length: 29 ft 3 in (8.92 m)
  • Wingspan: 14 ft 11 in (4.55 m)
  • Height: 9 ft 6 in (2.90 m)
  • Max takeoff weight: 11,000 lb (4,990 kg)
  • Electrical power: Gallium arsenide solar cells with lithium-ion batteries
  • Payload bay: 7 × 4 ft (2.1 × 1.2 m)

Performance

  • Orbital speed: 28,044 km/h (17,426 mph)
  • Orbit: Low Earth orbit
  • Orbital time: 270 days (design)

 

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