The US Air Force's Boeing X-37B spacecraft yesterday broke a record for most of its orbit around Earth. But we still do not know when the unscrewed plane will land or what it does up there. All details of the X-37B mission are classified.
At 6:43 ET, the fifth mission of the X-37B, the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-5), will have been in orbit for 719 days – just eleven days two years ago, orbiting the globe. The previous record was 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes, which was achieved just a few years earlier with OTV-4.
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Everything we know about the spacecraft's 29-foot mission results from the Luftwaffe's description, which, to say the least, contains only details:
X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is an experimental test program demonstrating technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the US Air Force. The main objectives of the X-37B are twofold; Reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operational experiments that can be returned to Earth and studied there.
The Air Force notes that the vehicle can "bring experiments back to Earth," but we have no idea what experiments could be:
On command from the ground, the OTV automatically re-enters the atmosphere, descends off and lands horizontally on a runway. The X-37B is the first vehicle since NASA's Shuttle Orbiter to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis. However, with a cycle time of 270 days or more, the X-37B can stay in space much longer
Technologies tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high-temperature structures and seals, compliant reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, advanced propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight. Reentry and landing.
The spacecraft looks a bit like the spacecraft, which was an incredibly exciting progression for every child of the 1980s and 90s. But the space shuttle program was killed and the vehicles are now in museums.
Aside from his time in space, there are a number of other things that make this mission different. The X-37B has completed four missions with an Atlas 5 rocket. The final mission was launched on September 7, 2017 with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Earlier missions were also launched from Edwards Air Force Base in California, but the most recent launch was from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
What are you doing up there? We have no idea. Given the poor state of the earth – between the global rise of fascism, the death of children in American concentration camps and the devastating fires in the Amazon – it is hoped that the Air Force will develop a kind of human escape plan.
The tardigrades have recently evolved into a multiplanar species. And with the way humans destroy our own planet, it seems they know what they are doing.