The Boeing-built space plane blasted off in May 2015 from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
'Building upon the fourth mission and previous collaboration with experiment partners, this mission will host the Air Force Research Laboratory Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader payload to test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long duration space environment.'Space X´s first publicly disclosed launch contract for the Air Force was awarded last year for a next-generation Global Positioning System satellite flight in 2018. The contracts are valued at £83 million ( million) and £96.5 million ( million), respectively.In May 2016, the US National Reconnaissance Office disclosed it had hired Space X to launch a spy satellite aboard a Falcon 9.Like a shuttle, X-37B is blasted into orbit by a rocket.However, it lands using a runway like a normal aircraft.The X-37B, also known as Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, first flew in April 2010 and returned after eight months.
A second mission launched in March 2011 and lasted 15 months, while a third took flight in December 2012 and returned after 22 months.The X-37B is too small to carry people onboard, but does have a cargo bay similar to that of a pickup truck, which is just large enough to carry a small satellite The Air Force relocated the program in 2014, taking over two of NASA's former shuttle-processing hangars.Air Force officials said that several technologies are being tested in the program.'The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold; reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth,' an official said, according to Click Orlando.When the plane landed in June at the Kennedy Space Center (pictured) the sonic boom could be heard throughout Central Florida, and some Brevard County residents likely heard them before it even touched down at the Shuttle Landing Facility Officials also explained that the X-37B is the first vehicle of its kind able to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis.The preparations come amid increasing concern about tensions between Russia and many of the world's largest superpowers.