OTV-5 Mission: SpaceX 16th Recovered Stage

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SpaceX is targeting launch of the Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The primary launch window opens on Thursday, September 7 at 9:50 a.m. EDT or 13:50 UTC, and closes at 2:55 p.m. EDT or 18:55 UTC. A backup launch window is available on Friday, September 8.

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage will attempt to land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. You can find more information about the mission in our press kit.

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OTV-5 Mission

The X-37B Air Force fact sheet states the primary objectives of the X-37B in twofold: 1) to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and 2) operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.

To date the U.S. Air Force’s unmanned space plane has flown four clandestine missions carrying secret payloads on long-duration flights in Earth orbit.

The X-37B’s payload bay (the area in which the cargo is packed) measures 7 feet long by 4 feet wide (2.1 by 1.2 m) — about the size of a pickup truck bed. What the X-37B carries is unclear. Air Force officials comment only on the overall goals of the program, stressing that each payload is classified and defends on mission specifics.

The robotic vehicle resembles NASA’s famous space shuttle, but is much smaller. The X-37B is about 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 9.5 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a wingspan just less than 15 feet (4.6 m). At launch, it weighs 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms).

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SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. Reusability is the key to making human life multi-planetary.

Falcon 9 is a two stage launch vehicle. It comprises a high-strength aluminum first stage as well as a high-strength aluminum second stage. They are joined by a composite inter stage.

The X-37B payload is housed in the fairing sitting atop the second stage.

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space.” -Elon Musk

While most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX rockets can not only withstand reentry, but can also successfuly land back on Earth and refly again. And with OTV-5 SpaceX has 16 successfull landings and recovered stages.

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X-37B: The Air Force’s Mysterious Space Plane

Photos: X-37B Space Plane – The Orbital Test Vehicle

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