U.S. Air Force’s X-37B Military Space Plane Marks 200 Days In Orbit

Posted By on April 8, 2018

 

The U.S. Air Force’s unmanned X-37B space plane has marked its 200th day in orbit on a clandestine mission.

Known as Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5), the latest mission began September 7, 2017 after it was launched into space atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

According to Air Force officials, one payload flying on OTV-5 is the Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader, or ASETS-11, of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). This cargo is testing experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes for long durations in the space environment. –space.com

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The Air Force has not disclosed how long the unpiloted, reusable craft will remain in orbit, however experts have said it’s likely to land at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility, where the OTV-4 mission landed on May 7, 2007 – a first for the program, as previous missions all ended with a tarmac touchdown at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The X-37B has been and remains a technology demonstrator,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor in the National Security Affairs Department at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“Given that most space technology is dual-use, with the ever-increasing sway toward warfare in space, it’s likely that the more militaristic uses of the space plane will be pursued more vigorously, and likely openly given the [presidential] administration’s proclivity toward chest thumping,” Johnson-Freese told Space.com.

Milestone Missions via Space.com

  • Each X-37B mission has set a new flight-duration record for the program.
  • OTV-1 began April 22, 2010, and concluded on Dec. 3, 2010, after 224 days in orbit.
  • The second OTV mission began March 5, 2011, and concluded on June 16, 2012, after 468 days on orbit.
  • OTV-3 chalked up nearly 675 days in orbit before finally coming down on Oct. 17, 2014.
  • And OTV-4 conducted on-orbit experiments for 718 days during its mission, extending the total number of days spent in space for the OTV program to 2,085 days.

Sources: Space.com, zerohedge.com

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