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X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle

The X-37B orbital test vehicle returned from space Oct. 17 after a record orbit of 674 days.

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B unmanned space plane touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Oct. 17, 2014, after an orbit of 674 days. The plane is part of an experimental test program to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies and to operate experiments.

This marks the third mission of the X-37B, which fills a gap left after the retirement of NASA’s Shuttle Orbiter with its ability to return experiments to Earth. According to the Air Force, technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing. 

Prior X-37-B missions were in 2010 with a duration of seven months and in 2011 with a duration of more than a year. The returning plane is the first prototype on its second mission, having launched in December 2012. The mission’s classified nature has led to much speculation, particularly regarding its sensing capacity and its potential interaction with satellites in low Earth orbit.

Read more about the X-37B mission here

Comments are closed.

X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle

The X-37B orbital test vehicle returned from space Oct. 17 after a record orbit of 674 days.

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B unmanned space plane touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Oct. 17, 2014, after an orbit of 674 days. The plane is part of an experimental test program to demonstrate reusable spacecraft technologies and to operate experiments.

This marks the third mission of the X-37B, which fills a gap left after the retirement of NASA’s Shuttle Orbiter with its ability to return experiments to Earth. According to the Air Force, technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing. 

Prior X-37-B missions were in 2010 with a duration of seven months and in 2011 with a duration of more than a year. The returning plane is the first prototype on its second mission, having launched in December 2012. The mission’s classified nature has led to much speculation, particularly regarding its sensing capacity and its potential interaction with satellites in low Earth orbit.

Read more about the X-37B mission here

Comments are closed.