At 1314 GMT on 17 May, an Atlas V 501 rocket lifted off from its pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the X-37/OTV-6 mission of the X-37B spaceplane. The flight, dubbed USSF-7, marked the first time that the X-37B was carried into space with a service module attached.

Launch of X-37B/OTV-6 & FalconSAT 8 on Atlas V 501. Courtesy: ULA

In addition to its reconnaissance duties – believed to be the craft’s main mission – the spacecraft carried two NASA experiments to study the results of radiation and other space effects on a materials sample plate and seeds used to grow food. A U.S. Naval Research Laboratory experiment  was also carried showing how solar power can be turned into radio frequency microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground. The spaceplan is also acting as a delivery spacecraft for Falconsat 8, a small satellite studying electromagnetic propulsion and antenna technologies for the US Air Force.