The X-37 — an unpiloted, reusable spaceplane — made its first captive-carry flight today under the wings of the White Knight, flying above Mojave, California desert.
The Boeing, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA-supported vehicle had undergone a systematic step-by-step pre-flight checkout.
At the Mojave, California Spaceport Scaled Composites' White Knight carrier plane had previously taken the X-37 for repeated runs down the runway — all in preparation for today's liftoff and return landing of the twosome.
Tagged by DARPA as an Approach and Landing Test Vehicle (ALTV), the X-37 will undergo captive carry flights, followed by high-altitude drop tests through the summer, according to DARPA spokesperson, Jan Walker.
The X-37 project is exploring commercial and military reusable space vehicle market applications, be they on-orbit satellite repair to the next-generation of totally reusable launch vehicles.
Today's flight of the White Knight/X-37 took place early this morning. It was one year ago to the day that the White Knight released SpaceShipOne for its first suborbital run , piloted by Mike Melville.
Designed by Scaled Composites, the multi-purpose White Knight was used to haul that firm's SpaceShipOne to altitude for release. The rocket plane made a series of piloted suborbital flights last year, winning the Ansari X Prize of $10 million for back-to-back suborbital flights.
No official word as yet on when the first drop of the X-37 from the White Knight is slated.
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