A secretive space drone just broke its own orbit record, and almost no one knows what it’s doing

What, exactly, the experimental spacecraft has been doing for almost two years straight has puzzled analysts, writes Alex Horton for the Washington Post.

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U.S. Air Force

WASHINGTON - The X-37B — the Air Force’s ultra-secretive, astronaut-free spacecraft that looks like a miniaturized space shuttle — just broke its own flight record of 719 days in continuous orbit. What, exactly, the experimental spacecraft has been doing for almost two years straight has puzzled analysts who can only speculate about the Pentagon’s ambitions over the low-orbit vehicle, writes Alex Horton for the Washington Post. Continue reading original article

The Intelligent Aerospace take:

August 28, 2019-The X-37B is an interesting spacecraft as it resembles a mini-shuttle with a sub 15-foot wing span that uses a xenon propellant to move the vehicle in lower orbit, but what exactly is it doing in space? Well, testing tech, mostly. That is according to the Air Force.

“The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth," the Air Force wrote in a news release.

Air Force spokesman Maj. William A. Russell expanded on the brief statement, saying, "“Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, advanced propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing."

Related: U.S. Air Force and aerospace industry partner to launch reusable unmanned x-37B orbital test vehicle

Related: Boeing-built Orbital Test Vehicle X-37B begins first flight

Related: Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne powers Atlas V Upper Stage to launch X-37B into orbit

Jamie Whitney, Associate Editor
Intelligent Aerospace

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