June 9, 2012

Air Force X-37B Space Plane Mission Ending Soon

Mike Wall, writing for MSNBC:

"OTV-2's flight represents a big jump for the X-37B space plane. The vehicle has been aloft for 462 days as of June 8, more than doubling the on-orbit time of the first space-flown X-37B, known as OTV-1."

The X-37B is the experimental space plane project launched by the US Air Force. It carries new technologies into low Earth orbit for testing. Looking like a miniature space shuttle, it launches in similar fashion, spends hundreds of days on-orbit and returns as a glider to be used again.

It manages all of this without an onboard pilot. Essentially a space-based drone, it enables next-generation satellite technology tests without the expense of building and launching an unretrievable satellite.