Mike Wall writes the launch marks the fourth mission of the military service’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle program.
“OTV missions allow us to examine a payload system or technology in the environment in which it will perform its mission,” Capt. Chris Hoyler, a spokesperson for the Air Force, told Space.com in an email.
Officials said OTV-4 would test a Hall thruster propulsion system and NASA‘s Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space experiment, according to the report.
The scientific payload is designed to analyze how almost 100 types of materials hold up in the space environment and collect data that NASA intends to use to design future spacecraft.