US space agency set to launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

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Blasted off: space agency set to launch the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

US space agency NASA set to launch its first reusable spacecraft from Florida since a historic lunar mission 40 years ago.

The US space agency is scheduled to blast off a robotic X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle this month from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, aiming to orbit the moon and ultimately return to Earth.

What is an X-37B? Welcome to the strange new world of reusable spacecraft Read more

The agency has been mum about when the first flight will take place.

According to Nasa, it would provide a weather update at 10am EDT (1400 GMT) on Tuesday, 17 July.

The X-37B, formally known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, made its debut in 2010 after being launched by the United Launch Alliance, the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

During its nine-month mission, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle successfully performed three checkouts of its technologies including the first successful re-entry of a spacecraft ever back to Earth.

It returned to Earth in April 2011 for the same reasons as before: to test the craft’s landing system, its propulsion systems and other systems.

The X-37B is 40ft long with a 17ft wingspan and weighs about 11,000lbs. It is loaded with nine propellant tanks and 13 batteries to recharge its solar arrays.

NASA is funded to fly three X-37B spacecraft for $3.2bn through 2018.

On 15 July, 2016, an X-37B approached the International Space Station, a $100bn project of 15 US agencies, agencies of Russia, China, Europe, Canada and Japan.

The space station’s four US astronauts assisted in dismantling the X-37B after it returned.

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