A space plane is on a secret mission for the U.S. Space Force after launching from Cape Canaveral Sunday.
The last X-37B mission was launched September 7, 2017 and ended October 27, 2019, for 779 days, 17 hours and 51 minutes.
Space.com noted that the X-37B's new service module, a cylindrical add-on beneath the spacecraft, lets it carry more payloads than before. These include the US Air Force Academy's FalconASAT-8 small satellite, which will be deployed later this year to test electromagnetic propulsion, two NASA experiments to study the effects of radiation and other space effects on various materials and food crop seeds, and a Naval Research Laboratory investigation on how sunlight can be converted into microwaves as a means to beam power from orbit to the ground.
The winged spacecraft resembles old NASA shuttles, but is only a quarter the size of 29 feet (9 meters) long.
The unmanned space plane is reportedly equipped with a small satellite developed by the Air Force, but its objective remains a secret. This first X-37B flight under the Space Force comes with a new window to parts of the mission.
"Congratulations to the USSF-7 integrated team on a successful launch", said Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space. "In a common way to a common home".
The X-37B first launched in April 2010.
"If you add up all the missions, just under eight years in orbit and a billion miles, then you will travel a lot on this machine", Chilton said during the launch transmission.
America's most experienced space launch provider United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched the X-37B orbital test vehicle for the U.S. Space Force at 9:14 am EDT this morning from LC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. In March, he hoisted a national security satellite.
The precautions were less apparent along the causeways in the area, where onlookers parked to watch the Atlas rise.