by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Dec 01, 2023
The Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, in collaboration with the United States Space Force (USSF) and SpaceX, is in the final stages of preparation for the launch of the seventh mission of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, known as OTV-7. Scheduled for December 10, 2023, this mission, designated USSF-52, marks a significant milestone in the history of U.S. military space operations.
The upcoming OTV-7 mission will witness the X-37B launching aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time. This collaboration between the U.S. military and SpaceX, a company renowned for its innovative Falcon rocket series, is a testament to the growing synergy between governmental space efforts and the private sector. The Falcon Heavy, celebrated for its high payload capacity, is an ideal choice for this mission, encompassing a variety of experimental objectives.
Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall emphasized the mission's significance, stating, "this seventh flight of the X-37B continues to demonstrate the innovative spirit of the United States Space Force." The tests slated for OTV-7 are diverse, focusing on operations in new orbital regimes, exploring space domain awareness technologies, and studying the impact of radiation on NASA materials. These experiments are crucial for ensuring secure and responsible activities in space, vital for all users in the increasingly crowded space domain.
Since its inaugural flight in April 2010, the X-37B has accumulated a total of 3,774 days in orbit. This Boeing-developed spaceplane, operated by the U.S. Air Force and now the USSF, is designed for long-duration missions.
Its ability to return experiments to Earth for analysis makes it an invaluable asset for advancing space technology. The X-37B's previous missions have been pivotal in testing various technologies, such as the Naval Research Laboratory's solar energy harnessing and transmission system, assessing the long-term effects of space exposure on organic materials for NASA, and even facilitating the launch of a spacecraft designed by cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
This upcoming mission underscores the USSF's commitment to maintaining a strategic advantage in space, a domain that has become increasingly important for national security and scientific exploration. The USSF, established in December 2019, operates in close coordination with the Department of the Air Force and other military branches to ensure the United States remains at the forefront of space operations.
The Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, known for its focus on swiftly developing and fielding cutting-edge technologies, plays a vital role in supporting national security objectives.