In this Sunday, space plane X-37B was launch in a Atlas 5 rocket.
Source: Spaceflight Now
Riding 860,000 pounds of thrust from its RD-180 main engine, the 197-foot-tall (60-meter) Atlas 5 rocket lumbered off Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad at 9:14 a.m. EDT (1314 GMT) Sunday.
Flying without any strap-on solid rocket boosters, the Atlas 5 arced toward the northeast and shed its bulbous payload fairing around the X-37B spaceplane nearly four minutes into the mission, once the rocket climbed into the rarefied vacuum of space. The Russian-made first stage engine shut down next, and a hydrogen-fueled Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine ignited to continue accelerating the X-37B spaceship into orbit.
At the request of the U.S. Air Force, United Launch Alliance’s live broadcast ended coverage of the mission’s progress around five minutes after liftoff. The Centaur upper stage was expected to deliver the X-37B — also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle — into orbit in less than 20 minutes, then release the spacecraft.
The Centaur was programmed to re-enter the atmosphere and burn up over the Indian Ocean southwest of Australia around an hour into the mission, according to airspace warning notices released to the public. The re-entry was intended to ensure the launch did not leave any unnecessary space junk in orbit.
Click in the link to know with more details the problem of space junk.
Shrouded in secrecy, the automated X-37B spaceplane is a reusable vehicle designed to deploy small satellites, host experiments, and pursue other classified objectives. Flying without any astronauts on-board, the vehicle generates electricity with a solar array and can autonomously guide itself to a runway landing at the end of each mission.
The mission launched on Sunday is the sixth flight of the X-37B program since 2010. It carries more experiments than any previous X-37B mission, according to the Air Force.
The sixth X-37B mission — designated OTV-6 — is the first to fly with a new service module attached to the aft end of the spaceplane, providing additional capacity for experiments and payloads. The X-37B itself, measuring more than 29 feet (8.9 meters) long, also has a cargo bay inside its fuselage.
In this mission, aircraft carried the microsatelite FalconSAT-8. According to source have the following experiments.
- MEP (Magnetogradient Electrostatic Plasma Truster) – Novel electromagnetic propulsion system.
- MMA (Metamaterials Antenna) – Low size, weight, power antenna with phased-array like performance.
- CANOE (Carbon nanotube experiment) – RF cabling with carbon nanotube braiding flexed using shape-memory alloy.
- ACES (Attitude Control and Energy Storage) – Commercial reaction wheel modified into a flywheel for energy storage and release.
- SkyPad – Off-the-shelf cameras and GPUs integrated into low-SWAP (size, weight and power) package.