JAN 25, 2017 9:01 AM PST

The US Air Force's X-37B Space Plane Exceeds 600 Days in Orbit

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

In case you didn’t know, the United States Air Force has its own Earth-orbiting space plane, dubbed X-37B.

The USAF's X-37B space plane has exceeded 600 days in space while orbiting the Earth, and is close to setting a new record for the missions.

Image Credit: United States Air Force

While it looks a lot like the space shuttle, we can assure you it’s very different, because not only is it a lot smaller with a wingspan of only 15 feet compared to 78 feet, but it’s unmanned and has to be carried up into space inside of a payload that gets lifted into Earth orbit by rockets.

The whole setup, which was designed in a collaboration between the United States Air Force and Boeing, is different from the space shuttle, and such is obvious when you look at the way it’s deployed.

X-37B was launched on its latest mission on May 20th, 2015 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. It has been in space ever since, simply orbiting the world. While its intentions are very much classified, it has been in space now for well over 600 days, and soon, it will break a record set by the Orbital Test Vehicle-3 (OTV-3) mission.

This current mission, known as OTV-4, just needs to spend 674 days in space to break that record, and from the looks of things, it’s on track to meet that record. Nevertheless, because the plans for OTV-4 are classified, no one knows for sure if it will be forced to land beforehand.

What we do know is OTV-4 is the second time this particular X-37B space plane has went into space. It went there once, and made a return landing, and was sent back into space again on a second mission.

According to commentary obtained by Space.com from the United States Air Force, X-37B is used for “testing things” in space. While the very idea of what is being tested is very much unknown, it is known that NASA plays a role in the project. The United States Air Force also says that X-37B helps us further our research into resuable space vehicle technology, which is a cost-efficient way to help make space transporation approachable.

It should be interesting to see just how long OTV-4 will remain in space, and more importantly, whether or not the United States Air Force ever reveals what its purpose serves.

Source: USAF via Space.com

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JAN 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 28, 2020
An Ambitious New Mission to Explore the Sun's Poles
A plethora of spacecraft have photographed the Sun, but every one of those photographs has been snapped from the rather ...
MAR 01, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 01, 2020
Astronomers Say it Was the Biggest Explosion Detected Since the Big Bang
When you’re an astronomer, you come to grips with the fact that the job involves a lot of waiting and watching as ...
MAR 29, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAR 29, 2020
NASA is Sending This Golden Box to Mars to Make Oxygen
NASA’s Perseverance rover, formerly known as just the Mars 2020 rover, will do quite a bit more than merely drive ...
APR 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 20, 2020
Here's How the ESA's CHEOPS Mission Works
Exoplanetary detections have exploded exponentially since the first discovery of one by Swedish astronomers in 1995. The ...
APR 28, 2020
Space & Astronomy
APR 28, 2020
NASA's Swift Telescope Measured the Water Loss of This Interstellar Comet
When the interstellar comet 2l/Borisov made its first appearance in our solar system, astronomers were quick to turn the ...
MAY 18, 2020
Space & Astronomy
MAY 18, 2020
Top Secret Military X-37B Space Plane Heads Back to Outer Space
Not much is known about the United States’ Space Force’s top-secret X-37B military space plane apart from th ...
Loading Comments...