This week the U.S. Air Force launched an unmanned spacecraft full of high tech equipment into space. An Atlas V rocket sent the X-37B spacecraft into space for the fourth time on a mission that is largely secret. The X-37B returned in October 2014 from a record-setting 671 days in space.
The Air Force owns two X-37B spacecraft –it’s a reusable plane that lands horizontally after a vertical liftoff. The top secret spacecraft is designed by a highly secretive division of Boeing called Phantom Works. While much of the spacecraft’s mission is secret, one part of the mission is very public. The Atlas V launch is also testing a solar-sail sponsored by the Planetary Society, whose CEO is Bill Nye. (You may know him better as Bill Nye the Science Guy from TV.) The solar-sail — or light-sail — has been in the works for 39 years. It hopes to derive propulsion from sunlight.
We have liftoff! #LightSail
— Bill Nye (@BillNye) May 20, 2015