X-37B set to fly its sixth mission carrying Air Force Academy payload

The X-37B spaceplane. CREDIT: Boeing

MAY 7, 2020–The X-37B will launch next week carrying a new satellite built by Air Force students.

Per United Launch Alliance (ULA), an Atlas V 501 will launch USSF-7 (United States Space Force 7), containing the X-37B space plane, on its sixth mission. Previous missions of the X-37B had classified payloads, but thanks to the Air Force Academy, we now know this launch of the X-37B will include a satellite, called FalconSAT-8, in its payload, built by students of the Air Force Academy.

Launch
The FalconSAT-8 team. CREDIT: United States Air Force Academy.

The FalconSAT-8 will carry five experimental payloads, and will be operated by the Cadet Space Operations Squadron. The plane will also carry two experiments from NASA that will test the effect of spaceflight on seeds used to grow food and materials, per the Space Force.

Also according to the Space Force, this will be the first launch of the X-37B to include a service module to hold experiments. While the X-37B is an Air Force property, this mission will be managed by the US Space Force. Some of these experiments include testing technologies such as advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, reusable insulation, advanced propulsion systems, and autonomous flight.

The mission will launch on Saturday, May 16th from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, according to ULA. Payload integration of the X-37B onto the Atlas V 501 launch vehicle took place at Launch Complex 41 two days ago, May 5. This flight will be the 501 configuration’s seventh flight overall and the 84th flight of Atlas V.

Go X-37B. Go Atlas. Go Space Force.

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