Feeds

Top-secret US spaceplane sets off on another classified mission

First X-37B launches for the second time

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The US Air Force has relaunched the first of its super-secret X-37B spaceplanes, the OTV-1, sending it on another mysterious mission in space. OTV-1's first mission was back in 2010.

X-37B launches from Cape Canaveral

The experimental unmanned spaceship headed off from Cape Canaveral yesterday, just a few months after the second X-37B, OTV-2, made an autonomous landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The OTV-2 touched down on 11 June, after a record 469 days in space.

The Air Force never reveals the exact purpose of each mission of these little reusable space vehicles, only saying that in general they run experiments on the craft that can then be returned to Earth. These include projects in advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems and autonomous orbital flight, re-entry and landing.

"We couldn't be more pleased with the strides we've made in this program and the success of the X-37B vehicle on the first two flights," Richard McKinney, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for Space, said in a canned statement.

"However, it is important to keep in mind that this is an experimental vehicle and a third mission is still relatively young for a test program. This is the first re-flight of a vehicle so that is certainly a key objective for us. We have only just begun what is a very systematic checkout of the system."

OTV-1 spent 224 days in space after launching in April 2010, before getting refurbished for this mission.

"This mission will incorporate the lessons learned during the refurbishment process on OTV-1," X-37B programme manager Lieutenant Colonel Tom McIntyre said. "As the X-37B program is examining the affordability and reusability of space vehicles, validation through testing is vital to the process. We are excited to see how this vehicle performs on a second flight."

The Air Force naturally didn't say how long the OTV-1 would be up there this time round, that depends on "the execution of test objectives" and other factors, but it has an in-orbit shelf life of around nine months. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.