Featured image: USSF-7 launches aboard a ULA Atlas V. Image credit: Next Horizons Spaceflight/Stephen Marr.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – After two delays due to weather Saturday, ULA and the US Space Force launched the secretive Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. Launch occurred at 9:14 am EST. ULA’s Youtube coverage showed an uneventful launch. The launch kicked off USSF-7, the second mission of the US Space Force and the sixth flight for the X-37B.
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was designed and built by Boeing. There are two vehicles in the fleet. Little is known about the vehicle except that the Air Force is quoted as saying that is was being used as an orbital test bed for experiments will Hall-effect thrusters, a developing ion propulsion technology. The last X-37B mission lasted 780 days and each mission has been in orbit longer than the previous mission.
Today’s launch was dedicated to those who have lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. A small graphic was added to the Atlas V fairing which read: “In memory of COVID-19 victims and tribute to all first responders and front-line workers […] AMERICA STRONG”