• Promise Boniface


Updated: May 26, 2020

The U.S space force has successfully launched the X-37B plane on a new secret mission in a quest to more effectively and efficiently develop space capabilities necessary to maintain superiority in the space domain.

Photo: Logic Earth/youtube

The mysterious, reusable, and robotic X-37B also known as the orbital test vehicle has kept the dreams of space planes literally aloft. It has flown a couple of machines in the last ten years. The origin of the X-37B goes back to the late 1990s. It is boosted into space by a launch vehicle, then re-enters Earth's atmosphere and lands as a spaceplane. The X-37B was designed to remain in orbit for up to 270 days at a time.

Most of the activities of the X-37B project are secret. The official U.S. Air Force statement is that the project is "an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, uncrewed space test platform for the U.S. Air Force". The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technology and operating experiments which can be returned to Earth. The Air Force states that this includes testing avionics, flight systems, guidance and navigation, thermal protection, insulation, propulsion, and re-entry systems.

Adding a new service module- a cylindrical extension attached to the bottom of the craft has uniquely made it the first for this mission.

The essence of adding a service module is to help increase the vehicle’s capabilities, enabling it to conduct experiments and test new technologies throughout the mission, Space Force officials said.

How the X-37B Works

The Boeing-made X-37B is an unmanned, reusable spacecraft that takes off vertically and lands horizontally on a runway. The U.S. Air Force, which owns two X-37B vehicles, has historically been tight-lipped to comment on the capabilities of the X-37B and what it does during its extended time in space, aside from hosting scientific experiments.

Image: © Karl Tate, SPACE.com

“We have learned a lot from the X-37,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond told a small group of reporters ahead of the launch. “One of the things that we’ve learned is the value of reusability, and I think as a Space Force there are a couple of things that we’re really going to value, and reusability is one of those and autonomy is another one.” The X-37B space place utilizes solar panels to provide power during its long mission in Earth orbit.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched the X-37B on an Atlas V rocket in the 501 configurations, which means the vehicle has 17-foot (5 meters) wide payload fairing a single engine Centaur upper stage and no solid rocket boosters.

The Mysteriousness of this project

A live video stream of the launch showed the Atlas V lifting off into space and the separation of the rocket’s first stage from the Centaur upper stage. However, the live stream cut out afterward due to the extreme secrecy surrounding the capabilities of the X-37B said ULA CEO Tory Bruno.

“It’s a classified mission, and what is classified about it is the details of the vehicle itself, the mission it will do on orbit, and where it will do that,” he said. “Therefore, we have to stop the live broadcast so that we do not make it easy for adversaries to figure those things out by having that much data about the flight and deployment.”

Despite the secrecy surrounding its capabilities, the Boeing company went on twitter to express that the X-37B autonomous spaceplane is now on the sixth U.S Airforce mission to advance new capabilities.

They can’t hide the launch but they can hide the purpose. The purpose is the BIG SECRET.

youTube: Reuters

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