The United States Air Force's X-37B space plane will launch on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral on May 20, it has been confirmed. The original launch date was May 6, but a payload problem forced officials to push the launch back two weeks.
Exact details about the spacecraft, its payload and what it will be doing are classified - but it looks like the X-37B will help give engineers a better glimpse of an "experimental propulsion system."
"We are excited about our fourth X-37B mission," said Randy Walden, director of the US Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, in a statement. "With the demonstrated success of the first three missions, we're able to shift our focus from initial checkouts of the vehicle to testing of experimental payloads."
Defense contractor Boeing built both X-37B space planes, with the solar-powered craft able to launch atop a rocket, yet land horizontally using a runway. Ideally, X-37B can help provide better insight into developing reusable spacecraft that can be used by NASA, while navigation and control, guidance, and other new technologies are being tested.