The United States Air Force regularly conducts top-secret missions and science experiments on behalf of the federal government. One of the military branch’s most recent captivating projects is the X-37B space plane, which seems to spend prolonged periods of time in outer space for reasons unbeknownst to the general public.
The X-37B looks sort of like a miniaturized Space Shuttle, but believe us, this Boeing-manufactured spacecraft is far from it. The X-37B is much smaller, and perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t ferry humans into space. Instead, the United States Air Force claims that the X-37B space plane carries experimental payloads into space, but unfortunately, doesn’t go into much detail about what those might be. Here’s the official statement:
“The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”
Indeed interesting, but it really doesn’t denote what the government is taking into space and testing, and given the X-37B’s ‘classified’ status, it doesn’t seem we’ll learn about that any time soon. The only known payloads that X-37B has taken into space thus far are an experimental Hall thruster and heat pipes, but that’s only part of the story…
More recently, the X-37B spent its fifth and longest stay in outer space, residing there for a grand total of 780 days. It remains to be seen what the space plane was doing in space for so long on this trip, but it finally returned to Earth weeks ago.
Naturally, this secretive spacecraft has energized conspiracy theories among the anxious, such as a spy device or a foreign satellite sabotage device, but it’s more likely that the X-37B is exactly what the United States Air Force says it is: a platform for quickly testing new technologies in the true vacuum of space without having to rely on other entities to do so.