Mysterious X-37B Lands In Florida After Two Years In Space

Pablo Tucker
November 4, 2019

Members of the X-37B recovery team, wearing hazardous material suits, approached the X-37B spaceplane for safety checks after the vehicle landed Sunday on the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Officials have revealed few details about the OTV-5 mission (the aircraft's fifth) but according to the Air Force, one on board OTV-5 payload is U.S. thermal spreader which will test the longevity of electronics and heat pipes in the space environment.

"This mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites", Randy Walden, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director said in the statement. "Each successive mission advances our nation's space capabilities", said Barbara Barrett, air force secretary. It's no surprise that this achievement is being celebrated not only by the USAF and Boeing but the space science community at large as well. "This milestone demonstrates our dedication to conducting experiments for America's future house exploration", mentioned Lt. Col. Jonathan Eager, X-37B program supervisor.

Past flight announcements have offered similarly non-specific details, describing tests for thermal protection systems, reusable insulation, navigation and control, autonomous orbital flight, re-entry and landing.

Under the purview of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the test vehicle can autonomously reenter the atmosphere and eventually land horizontally on a flight line. Boeing is the prime contractor. Since the plane is carrying some form of secret test experiments, the entire public should raise an eyebrow at the current "mission objectives" that were a success.

The original X-37 program was led by NASA and ran from 1999 to 2004, when NASA transferred it to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The last time this space plane returned to Earth they recorded a video of its landing.

I think it would be pretty safe to assume that the US Air Force is doing a bit more than testing the longevity of space flight with the X-37B.

'The many firsts on this mission make the upcoming OTV launch a milestone for the program, ' Walden said at the launch a year ago. This particular vehicle, actually the second X-37B, has already flown three times now.

Since its first launch in April 2010, the X-37B test program has logged a total of 2,865 days in orbit.

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