U.S. Space Force prepares to launch drone space plane

The secretive X-37B will be lofted to space atop an Atlas V rocket on May 16.

    2020/05/13

NSFW    ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA — The U.S. Space Force will launch the X-37B on an Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 16, according to the service's news release.

According to United Launch Alliance, the Atlas V is a two-stage rocket that can be augmented with up to five additional solid-fuel rockets, for a maximum thrust of 10,400 kN.

The robot shuttle is stowed in a capsule that the rocket will carry into space.

According to Space.com, the Space Force's parent service the Air Force has two X-37Bs. The spacecraft has a wingspan of 15 feet, or 4.6 meters, and a length of 29 feet, or 8.8 meters.

Its payload bay is about the size of the bed of a small pickup truck.

The Space Force says the spacecraft will deploy the FalconSat-8, which is a small satellite developed by the Air Force.

The module will for the first time host experiments, including a study on the effects of radiation on various materials and food seeds.

Additionally, the X-37B will carry out an experiment to convert solar power into microwave energy, which could then be transmitted to Earth.
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