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Space Force Launches Secret X-37B Spaceplane for More Orbit Experiments

In October 2019, Boeing’s X-37B place came back to Earth after a record 780 day non-stop flight around the globe at orbit altitude. Officially, the spaceplane conducted in-orbit experiments, but few know what the craft actually did while in orbit. And now it’s at it again.
X-37B Spaceplane taking off on its sixth mission 3 photos
This time, the machine was launched on behalf of the newly-created Space Force (USSF) instead of its former operator, the United States Air Force (USAF). It took off on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket (the initial plan was for the mission to launch on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9), heading up for yet another possible record-breaking mission.

As usual, the X-37B carries with it a number of experiments for various interested parties, this time more than before thanks to the plane being fited with a new service module. The main mission of this sixth deployment of the spaceplane is the delivery in orbit of the FalconSAT-8 for the USAF Academy.

NASA sent two of its experiments on board as well, both meant to study the impact of radiation on certain materials and seeds used to grow food, while the Naval Research Laboratory is looking to find ways to transform solar power into radio frequency microwave energy that could be beamed back to the ground.

“The X-37B has shifted the paradigm and redefined efficiency in space development," said in a statement Jim Chilton, Boeing Space and Launch senior vice president. “The rapid technology advancements enabled by the program will benefit the entire space community and influence the next generation of spacecraft design.”

The X-37B is a reusable autonomous aircraft, launched by means of a rocket. It first took off in 2010 and was initially meant to stay up for just 270 days. Until today’s launch, it spent 2,865 days up there, or an average of 573 days per flight.

press release

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