The robot craft – which has now clocked up over 1.3 billion miles in orbit across its six missions – was carrying experiments for the US Air Force, Navy and also NASA.
By IAN RANDALL
United States Space Force: ULA launch X-37B spaceplane.
An unmanned, solar-powered US military space plane returned from its sixth mission on Saturday, having spent a record-breaking 908 days in orbit. Built by Boeing, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle — which resembles a miniature space shuttle — was developed to test space technologies. It was launched on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida back in May 2020. The craft landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the same complex from which the Artemis I Moon rocket will hopefully be blasting off early tomorrow morning.
For the first time, the space plane carried a so-called service module designed to increase the total number of payloads it could carry. This carried scientific experiments for partners including the Naval Research Laboratory and the US Air Force Academy.
To ensure a safe landing, the module was jettisoned from the vehicle before it left orbit. The space plane and the module then returned to Earth separately.
Boeing Space and Launch senior vice president Jim Chilton said: “Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivalled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies.
“With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners.”Continue reading… “Unmanned, solar-powered US military space plane returns from record 908-day flight”