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May 18-24, 2015 / Vol 34, No 20 / Hawai`i Island, USA

15 May 2015, 20:04 UTC
May 18-24, 2015 / Vol 34, No 20 / Hawai`i Island, USA
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ULA Atlas Launch from Cape Canaveral Carries X-37B and LightSail
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V is set to take flight at 10:45 EDT on May 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station SLC-41. The rocket will carry the US Air Force Space Command and Rapid Capabilities Office reusable vertical-landing X-37B space plane on a 200+ day mission carrying a Hall Effect thruster test unit and a NASA materials science experiment known as Material Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS). Hall Effect thrusters are highly fuel-efficient single propellant motors that ionize and expel the fuel using electricity. This is an upgraded version of the orbit correction thrusters already in use on some Air Force satellites. METIS is designed to study the effects on nearly 100 different materials of exposure to the space environment via the X-37B payload bay, which has clamshell doors that open to space similar to the Space Shuttle. The same Atlas rocket also hosts the Planetary Society LightSail Test Flight CubeSat. This will be the first spacecraft to rely solely on sunlight for propulsion. The 3-unit CubeSat will spend about a month in orbit communicating with the ground, before deploying and testing its 32-square meter solar ...

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