An unmanned secret space plane from the US Air Force, dubbed the X-37B, has returned to Earth after spending 908 days orbiting the planet.
An unmanned Boeing X-37B spacecraft for the US Air Force has returned to Earth after spending 908 days in orbit around the planet. With this, the secretive spacecraft broke the all-time record it had previously set of 780 days in space. The reusable orbital test vehicle (OTV) completed its sixth mission at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. It flew more than 2,000 million kilometers and spent 3,774 days in space in total. As Boeing said in a statement, it performs experiments for government partners and businesses and can return them to Earth for evaluation. A few of them are classified secret military projects.
A Boeing Secret Space Plane
A service module has been added to the 27-foot wingspan solar-powered vehicle for the first time to increase payload capacity. Boing notes that the module separated from the OTV before leaving orbit, ensuring a safe landing. On May 2020, the sixth mission launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. Among the experiments hosted were solar energy experiments developed by the Naval Research Lab., and an Air Force Academy satellite designed and built in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory. It has been in orbit successfully since Oct. 20, 2021, under the name FalconSat-8.
NASA takes part
Multiple NASA experiments were also conducted on this mission, including Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS-2), a mission designed to validate and improve environmental models by testing the impact of space exposure on materials. An experiment of this type flew for the second time. During Mission 6, NASA conducted an experiment to test how seeds respond to long-term space exposure. Using this experiment, researchers can design future interplanetary missions and learn more about the requirements and hazards of establishing permanent bases in space. X-37B is a partnership between the US Army’s Office of Rapid Capabilities and the US Space Force.