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Secret Boeing X-37B Spaceplane Gets Award for Record 2+ Years in Space

In October 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, an almost shuttle-like flying machine landed. It was not some type of new spacecraft developed by NASA, by Boeing’s X-37B spaceplane, used by the Air Force to conduct experiments probably none of us will ever learn anything about.
Boeing X-37B Spaceplane 3 photos
USAF X-37BUSAF X-37B
It was not the landing itself that was a milestone, but the fact that it came 780 days after the airplane took off. That means it spent a little more than two years at the edge of space (it took off in September 2017), and that’s a record probably only the X-37B will be able to break.

It’s been a while since the landing, but the National Aeronautic Association decided its time to acknowledge the feat and announced this week the spaceplane is getting the 2019 Collier award “for the greatest American achievements in aeronautics and astronautics.” That puts the Boeing product in a select company that includes other famous recipients such as the Apollo 11 lunar landing team, the International Space Station, but also military and commercial aircraft.

“We are truly honored that the women and men of the X-37B team are being recognized with the Collier Trophy," said in a statement Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret.

"Not only have they earned a place among our industry's legends through their commitment to innovation and performance, but their accomplishments will influence the next generation of space and aerospace development for the benefit of all humanity."

The X-37B is an autonomous, uncrewed platform that launches with the help of a rocket. The plane is currently on another mission, which started in May with the help of a SpaceX Falcon 9, on behalf of the newly-created Space Force (USSF).

Before this latest assignment, the plane was in space five times for a total of 2,865 days thanks to the solar cells, the lithium-ion batteries, and the single Aerojet engine it is equipped with. That’s an average of 573 days per flight, and you should take into account Boeing initially designed the thing to stay at most 270 days up there.

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