Taking Off

On April 19, according to a United Launch Alliance notice, the USAF-Boeing X-37B orbital test vehicle will launch into space atop an Atlas V booster. The event comes about two years after USAF expected to see this small-size, unmanned shuttle off on its first flight. USAF developed the program from early work done by NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and expects it to serve as a recoverable test platform for space technologies, according to a November 2006 announcement. Air and Space Magazine reported in January, that this X-37B is 27.5 feet long with a 15-foot wingspan, will operate in low Earth orbit like the space shuttle, and will “take a suite of next-generation technologies to orbit.” Much beyond that, said Air and Space, only “a select few” in DOD know what it will do and for how long. (Also read, Spaceflight Now report; AP report; Christian Science Monitor report)