The US Air Force has announced the successful launch of its Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle aboard an Atlas V rocket today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“This was the fourth time that the X-37B has flown on an Atlas V launch vehicle,” the air force explains in a May 20 press statement. The launch capsule also carried 10 CubeSat satellites sponsored by NASA and the National Reconnaissance Office.


The air force has been more vocal about the mostly classified X-37B programme since it returned from its third mission late last year. The air force’s press statement talks more about the success of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV), which is at risk of being phased out because of its dependence on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine.

“Today's successful launch is the direct result of dedicated government and contractor teamwork, and the focus on mission success,” says Lt Gen Samuel Greaves, head of the US Space and Missile Systems Center. “This marks [EELV’s] 83rd successful launch and we will continue our unwavering focus on mission success.”

The X-37B first flew in 2010, and the air force has not said when it will return from this fourth mission.