Mysterious Military Space Plane Hits Record 719 Days in Orbit

Mysterious Military Space Plane Hits Record 719 Days in Orbit

Mysterious Military Space Plane Hits Record 719 Days in Orbit

Its last mission touched down at NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in 2017 after 717 days in space, making this current mission its longest yet. The X-37B has completed four missions using a Atlas 5 rocket but its most recent mission was launched on September 7, 2017 using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

OTV-5 is nowhere near the overall spaceflight-duration record, however. The space plane itself, built by Boeing, is 29 feet long and 9.6 feet tall, boasting a wingspan of almost 15 feet.

It is orbiting at around 200 miles (320 kilometres) high and is powered by solar cells with lithium-ion batteries. But besides its appearance and a handful of superficial stats, little is known about the X-37B.

The Air Force provides a broad overview of the plane's missions: test reusable spacecrafts and conduct secret experiments on guidance, navigation, and thermal protection systems as well as experimental flight and propulsion technology. But the X-37B's stamina means it can stay in space much longer.

This secrecy, and the vague explanation of experiments carried out by the X-37B is part of why this space program tends to attract so much public interest.

The spaceplane orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 320km (under 200 miles), lower than the International Space Station, which necessitates more manoeuvers and fuel to maintain its position, fueling speculation that it is helping the USAF to create smaller, better-performing micro spy satellites capable of "disappearing" into the ether at a moment's notice.

'The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the program, ' said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office at the launch past year.

'It is our goal to continue advancing the X-37B OTV so it can more fully support the growing space community'.

According to U.S. Air Force, the program is an undertaking to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space technologies.

The previous OTV-4 mission was 718 days long.

Also on rt.com Space plane mystery: What is US Air Force X-37B doing in orbit?

Officials have revealed few details about the OTV-5 mission (the aircraft's fifth) but according to the Air Force, one on board OTV-5 payload is U.S. thermal spreader which will test the longevity of electronics and heat pipes in the space environment.

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