USAF X-37B Plane Comes Home After Record 2+ Years in Space

USAF X-37B space plane after more than 2 years in space 3 photos
Photo: USAF
Way back in the 1960s, when the world sat with the huge nuclear sword dangling over its head, the opposing political regimes found enough strength to sit down and sign a treaty with a very long name banning the deployment of weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, on the Moon and elsewhere in outer space. But the paper, which came to be known The Outer Space treaty, said nothing about spying or systems’ testing.
For a while now, the U.S. Air Force has been testing in orbit above Earth a contraption manufactured by Boeing and called X-37. The space plane, as it is called, in a variant titled X-37B, just completed its fifth mission to the edge of space, and set a record for time spent up there in the process.

In a tweet made on Sunday, the USAF said the test vehicle managed to set a record for an orbit stay, clocking 780 days on non-stop flight. In landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on October 27, 2019, after taking off on September 7, 2017.

Officially, the spaceplane conducted in-orbit experiments during its stay, but predictably the Air Force does not say what those experiments were all about.

The X-37 is the Air Force’s main reusable and unmanned spacecraft and has been designed as a test platform for “risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”

Over the entire program (five flights), the X-27B spent 2,865 days in orbit. 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.

The space plane designed by Boeing needs a rocket to get to space and was designed to operate autonomously, at times including during landing.

The sixth X-37B mission is in the works, and it will launch on top a Space X Falcon 9 booster at an undetermined date.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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