X-37B Space Plane Celebrates One Year in Earth’s Orbit
When the US Air Force first launched its experimental X-37B space plane back in March of last year, it was originally only intended to stay in orbit for about nine months, but the mysterious billion-dollar robot has now been in Earth’s orbit for over a year.
The launch of the X-37B space plane was highly publicized by the USAF, but just what the unmanned space craft is doing up in Earth’s orbit, and why it got an extended stay, is completely unknown.
Whatever it is that the expensive X-37B aircraft is doing up there in orbit, it would seem that it’s doing a very good job.
“We are very pleased with the results of ongoing X-37B experiments,” Air Force Lt. Col. Tom McIntyre of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office told SPACE.com. “The X-37B program is setting the standard for a reusable space plane and, on this one-year orbital milestone, has returned great value on the experimental investment,” McIntyre added.
The X-37B, known internally as the Orbital Test Vehicle 2, is the second of its kind, and it looks like the USAF plans to send another one its experimental space planes into orbit into the near future–also for classified reasons, of course.
Analysts have speculated that the US military could be using the X-37B to spy on China’s Tiangong space station, but others suggest that the USAF is keeping the X-37B in orbit to demonstrate the craft’s incredible fuel efficiency, possibly in hopes to protect the project from budget cuts.
For all we know, the X-37B could be doing both.