For the sixth time since 2010, the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle has returned to orbit. The X-37B space vehicle began its latest mission on May 17, 2020, when it launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The autonomous and reusable X-37B will perform experiments in low-Earth orbit while testing and integrating new reusable space vehicle technologies. This sixth mission will also carry unique experiments for NASA, the Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Cadets from the Air Force Academy Astronautics Department, with assistance from Boeing, designed and built FalconSAT-8, a small satellite that will be deployed from the X-37B to test advanced propulsion technologies and collect important data for the Department of Defense. The U.S. Air Force Academy is the only undergraduate institution in the world where students help design, build, test, launch and operate small satellites.
Originally designed to fly 270 days per mission, the X-37B has set progressive records for time on orbit during each of its five previous missions. Most recently, it flew for 780 days before returning to Earth in October 2019.