The original time for the launch was Saturday at 8:24 a.m. but ULA scrubbed it because of unfavorable conditions.
The most recent mission ended in October 2019, after 780 days in orbit, bringing the aircraft's time in space to more than seven years. The one just launched features an extra compartment for experiments, including several for NASA and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, making it the biggest science load yet for an X-37B. The Air Force operates two X-37B spacecraft made by Boeing.
One question that has loomed over the X-37 is whether it has counterspace capabilities and could be used to test offensive technologies. The spaceplane is featured in the U.S. Sign up to receive the week's news in space.
Barrett told reporters that the X-37B is "worthy of disclosure" and a capability with which the American public should be familiar.
ULA says it was critical to perform the launch of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, despite the COVID-19 emergency happening around the globe.
"The details of the vehicle, the mission it will do on orbit, and where it will go, all that is classified", ULA's CEO Tory Bruno told reporters. There has not been much information provided by the U.S. government or by the authorities in the past. The plane's payload fairing saw "America strong" written on it. The plane measures over 29ft long and has a wingspan of almost 15ft and weighs 11,000lbs.
This was the 84th flight of the Atlas 5 since it entered service in 2002. It uses solar panels for power in orbit.
The X-37B runs various missions for the USA, though its specific aims are actually classified. "We learn a lot about the value of reusability and autonomy", said Raymond. "The Air Force and Space Force have two of the robotic space planes and have launched five long-duration, but classified, missions since 2010".
"Congratulations on the 6th mission of the X-37B reusable spacecraft", Defense Secretary Mark Esper wrote on Twitter following its launch.