The mysterious US military X-37B robotic space drone now chalks over 500 days around the globe.
The OTV-6 is the first product to use a service module to host an experiment. Service modules are attachments to the rear of the vehicle that allow additional experimental payload functionality to be brought into orbit.
Main agenda: Classification
Although the main in-orbit agenda for Boeing-manufactured robot spaceplanes has been categorized, some of its on-board experiments were identified prior to launch.
One of the experiments onboard the spaceplane was conducted by the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to convert solar power into radio-frequency microwave energy. The experiment itself is called the photovoltaic radio frequency antenna module, PRAM for short.
In addition to putting NRL PRAM into Earth orbit X-37B We also deployed the FalconSat-8, a small satellite developed by the United States Air Force Academy and sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory to conduct some experiments in orbit.
In addition, two NASA experiments are also mounted on the spaceplane to study the impact of the space environment on material sample plates and seeds used to grow food.
OTV-1: It was launched on April 22, 2010, landed on December 3, 2010, and spent more than 224 days in orbit.
OTV-2: Launched on March 5, 2011, landed on June 16, 2012, and spent more than 468 days in orbit.
OTV-3: Launched on December 11, 2012, landed on October 17, 2014, and spent more than 674 days in orbit.
OTV-4: It was launched on May 20, 2015, landed on May 7, 2015, and spent nearly 718 days in orbit.
OTV-5: Launched on September 7, 2017, landed on October 27, 2019, and spent nearly 780 days in orbit.
OTV-1, OTV-2, and OTV-3 missions landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and OTV-4 and OTV-5 missions landed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
Nothing is said about when and where OTV-6 will return to Earth.
According to Boeing’s fact sheet, “The X-37B is one of the world’s newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft designed to operate in low earth orbit 150-500 miles from Earth. With further inspection and A space shuttle with the ability to return experiments to Earth for analysis. This US Air Force unmanned spacecraft is exploring reusable vehicle technology to support long-term space targets. “
The X-37B program was established on July 24, 2020 and will fly under the wings of an activated US Space Force unit called Delta 9.
According to a fact sheet published by Schriever Air Force, “Delta 9 Detachment 1 is an experimental program designed to demonstrate the technology of a reliable and reusable unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Space Force. Oversees the operation of the X-37B track test vehicle. ”Based in Colorado.
“The mission of Delta 9 is with assigned units to carry out protection and defense operations and to provide national decision-making authorities with response options to thwart orbital threats and defeat them as needed. It’s about preparing, presenting, and projecting ancillary units, “explains the fact sheet. “In addition, Delta 9 supports space region recognition by performing space-based battlefield characterization operations, and also conducts US Space Force orbital experiments and tech demonstrations.”
Leonard David is the author of the book Moon Rush: The New Space Race, published by National Geographic in May 2019. David, a longtime writer at Space.com, has been reporting on the space industry for over 50 years. Follow us on Twitter @ Spacedotcom and Facebook. This version of the story was published on Space.com.
Air Force X-37B Robot Spaceplane Wings Over 500 Days in Earth Orbit
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