spacecraft to orbit for the fourth time.
The launch of the X-37B unmanned spacecraft is scheduled to take place on Wednesday (May 20) at 10:45 am EDT over the United Atlas V Start-up Alliance in Florida from Cape Canaveral. The reusable space plane of the fourth mission, which is known as OTV-4 (orbital test apparatus), will begin to take off.
Most of the settings and tasks of the X-37B are classified, so it's not entirely clear what a space plane will do after it leaves the earth on Wednesday. This secrecy suggests some ideas that this vehicle may well be a certain type of space weapon, but Air Force officials do not cease to refute these views, calling the main objectives of the X-37B flight to test new space technologies.
Air Force representatives cited the example of a space plane carrying a type of ion mechanism on an OTV-4, called the Hall Engine. This Zalny engine is an improved version of the one that worked on the first three military communications satellites that captured extremely high frequencies, representatives add. Major General Tom Masillo, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory in Ohio, said the enormous potential of an improved engine in orbit. “Reducing fuel consumption reduces the cost of flight, as well as enhances the maneuverability, durability and durability of the spacecraft.”
NASA also conducts experiments during the flight OTV-4. METIS - an exposition of materials and innovative technologies in space presented by the agency, is intended to show how the impact of the space environment will affect almost 100 different types of materials. The research results should help in further development of the spacecraft, as NASA said.
X-37B looks like a smaller version of the space shuttle, owned by NASA and is now retired X-37B. The solar-powered automated spacecraft is about 29 feet long and 9.5 feet wide (8.8 and 2, 9 meters), with a wing length of 15 feet (4, 6 meters) and a cargo bay the size of a pick-up truck body. As well as the space shuttle, the x-37B is launched vertically and horizontally, relative to the surface of the earth, on the runway. The Air Force has two X-37B devices manufactured in the Boeing Company’s Phantom Development departments. At the moment, these two space planes made a total of three sorties. OTV-1 was launched in April 2010 and landed only in December of the same year, staying in orbit for 225 days. OTV-2 was launched in March 2011 and returned in June 2012, after a 469-day flight. OTV-3 stayed in the air a record 675 days, the launch took place in December 2012, landing - in October 2014.
It is not known how long the OTV-4 flight will last.
High-tech space plane can strengthen US military aircraft
The launch of the X-37B Atlas V on Wednesday will not be the only one. There will also be a launch of the Solar Sail, a small rocket built by the Planetary Society, whose goal is to test the technology of the solar sail.
In fact, the departure of the Solar Sail will not be used in this mission, and the collected data will help pave the way for a demonstration sailing flight next year.