Secret Military Space Plane Primed For Test Launch
A secretive military spacecraft resembling a small space shuttle orbiter is undergoing final processing in Florida for launch on April 19.
The Air Force confirmed the critical preflight milestone in a response to written questions on Thursday.
The 29-foot-long, 15-foot-wide Orbital Test Vehicle arrived in Cape Canaveral, Fla., last month according to the Air Force. The OTV spaceplane was built at a Boeing Phantom Works facility in Southern California.
Managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the OTV program is shrouded in secrecy, but military officials occasionally release information on the the spaceplane’s progress.
“It is now undergoing spacecraft processing including checkout, fueling, and encapsulating in the 5-meter fairing of the Atlas 5 [rocket],” an Air Force spokesperson said.
The 11,000-pound vehicle will launch inside the nose cone of the Atlas 5 rocket. Liftoff is currently set for 10 p.m. EDT on April 19.
The reusable spacecraft is more famously known as the X-37B. The design is based on the orbital and re-entry demonstrator initially developed by NASA, then handed over to the Pentagon.
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