The X-37B will be back to space thanks to SpaceX
Just a month after the military spaceplane Boeing X-37B landed on Kennedy Space Center’s runway in Florida at the end of its fourth secretative mission, the U.S. Air Force announced Tuesday that the spaceplane’s next mission (OTV-5) will launch in August aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the first time.
There are always a few details about the mission
It has not been specified (as usual) which of the two X-37B specimens will be used: if the one recently landed at the Kennedy Space Center where the Air Force shifted the launch, landing and processing operations of the unmanned automatic space vehicle which in the first three missions has always taken off and landed from Vandemberg AFB, California, or (ss it seems most likely) its twin.
As for the objectives of the mission, it was stated that experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes will be tested, while further experiments remain secret. What is clear is that the Usa Air Force needed an alternative launcher to Atlas 5 rocket of United Launch Alliance, the la joint venture founded by Lockheed Martin and Boeing which so far has offered monopoly status launching services to the US Department of Defense and NASA.
Partnership between Usaf and SpaceX
Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which is responsible for handling the operations involving the X-37B, stated to be "confident in SpaceX’s ability to provide safe and assured access to space for the X-37B program". Before the new mission of the small Space Shuttle's heir (the spaceship, built by Boeing’s Phantom Works division, has a wingspan of nearly 15 feet and a length of more than 29 feet and weighs about 11,000 pounds), SpaceX has up to a half-dozen launches on its schedule.
Elon Musk's company these months is trying to resume flights from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad after crews repair damage to the facility from a Falcon 9 rocket explosion last September.Should it is not ready for August, the X-37B's launch could take off from 39A launch complex at Kennedy Space Center, the starting point both for the Apollo moon missions both for most space shuttle flights. By the way Air Force Secretary, Heather Wilson, declared to be satisfied about the evolution of the space launch market, where hot competition is driving launch prices down and the presence of more than one company ensures a backup provider available if one launch vehicle runs into trouble.