What is known about the new mission of the X-37B, the mysterious orbital plane of the US Air Force

What is known about the new mission of the X-37B, the mysterious orbital plane of the US Air Force

It will be his sixth mission and the United States Air Force (USAF) maintains that it will be the most important.

The X-37B , also called an Orbital Test Vehicle , will take off on May 16 from the Cape Canaveral station (Florida) and US authorities are confident that this new launch will allow the country to establish “superiority in the space domain.”

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“The X-37B team continues to exemplify the kind of agile and advanced technological development we need as a nation in the space domain,” said Chief of Space Operations of the United States Space Force (USSF) John Raymond on Wednesday.

This time, the take-off and the entire operation will be carried out by the USSF, while the Air Force (owner of the orbital plane) and government partners will actively participate in the experimentation stage.

Since its first mission, in 2010, both the government and the US military have been fairly brief in reporting on the tests being conducted by the spacecraft, and its program is classified .

On this occasion, it is known that the vehicle will carry for the first time an integrated module with which “numerous” experiments will be carried out in space.

The aircraft, which is not very large (less than nine meters long), uses solar energy and is unmanned .

It holds the record for most consecutive days of flight around Earth achieved in its previous mission, completed in October 2019, in which it remained 780 days in orbit.

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The X-37B accumulates a total of 2,865 days in orbit, which is equivalent to seven years and 10 months.

“A great step”

Randy Walden, director of programs for the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office Department, says this sixth mission will be “a big step” for the orbital vehicle program .

“This will be the first mission of the X-37B to use a service module to host experiments. It allows us to continue expanding the capabilities of the spacecraft and host more experiments than in any of the previous missions,” said the authority.

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According to the information provided by the Air Force, which does not go into greater detail, one of the objectives of the operation is “to test new systems in space and return them to Earth.”

“There will be numerous experiments in orbit for both the Air Force and its mission partners,” said the program manager, Jonathan Keen.

What was revealed is that the special module will be attached to the stern of the vehicle and will increase the capacity for carrying payload and experimental programs to be brought into orbit .

A satellite

In addition to the implementation of the special module, the sixth mission for X-37B will be to deploy FalconSat-8.

It is a small satellite developed by the American Air Force Academy with which experiments in orbit will also be developed.

FalconSat-8, according to the USAF, is an educational platform that will carry five experimental tests to be operated by the military entity.

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In addition, two experiments from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will be included to study the results of radiation and other spatial effects on a sample plate of different materials and on seeds used to grow food.

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