May 23, 2016

"Orbiting the world in seclusion for the past year, the Air Force’s mysterious X-37B spaceplane marks the anniversary of its launch today."

Spaceflight Now: The stubby-winged craft was boosted into space by a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on May 20, 2015, departing Cape Canaveral for a 20-minute ride into a 200-mile-high orbit inclined 38 degrees. by Justin Ray

'Today, the maneuverable craft operates in a 220-mile orbit, a higher altitude it briefly held last fall and roughly the same perch occupied twice by the previous X-37B mission, according to satellite-tracking hobbyist Ted Molczan.

'This X-37B carries at least two payloads, revealed by the military before the ship took off — an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment.

'Made by Aerojet Rocketdyne, the enhanced five-kW Hall Thruster, called the XR-5A, is being tested aboard the spaceplane for the Air Force Research Laboratory and Space and Missile Systems Center.'

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