The Air Force’s X37-B plane landed after a record-breaking 780 days in space. But what was the secret plane doing?
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The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B reusable space plane just set a new record for itself, spending 780 days in orbit on its fifth and longest mission.
But while the orbiter’s existence and the durations of its missions are known, there’s not a lot of other information available to the public about what exactly the space plane’s doing while it’s up there.
The X-37B craft is an uncrewed robotic orbiter that resembles a miniaturized space shuttle. Just under 9 meters long and nearly 3 meters tall, with a wingspan of 4.6 meters, the space plane is roughly the size of a school bus, with a cargo bay about a big as a pickup truck’s.
The project originally started in 1999 under the purview of NASA, but in 2004 it was taken over by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known as DARPA. From then on, the X-37 was classified, though we do know the project is run by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office.
It launches out of Cape Canaveral in Florida, with the latest mission riding SpaceX’s Falcon 9 into orbit for the first time, and the last two missions landed right next door to where they launched. It’s believed there are two X-37Bs, and they were built by Boeing’s Phantom Works Division.
Find out more about this mysterious spacecraft and its intended purpose on this episode of Elements.
#Space #Orbiter #AirForce #Exploration #Spacecraft #Seeker #Science #Elements
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