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Mystery X-37B space plane breaks new record


Posted on Monday, 26 August, 2019 | Comment icon 14 comments

It might be small, but it can stay up in space for years. Image Credit: US Air Force
The US military's secretive pint-sized spacecraft has now spent a whopping 717 days up in space non-stop.
The solar-powered space plane, which looks a lot like a miniature version of NASA's space shuttles, had been originally designed to repair satellites before NASA discontinued the project and passed it over to the US Department of Defense back in 2004.

These days, little is known about the specific nature and purpose of the X-37B other than that it is capable of spending years in orbit on a single mission without having to return to Earth.

Its latest foray in to the final frontier began almost two years ago on September 7th 2017.

It has now exceeded its previous record for staying up in space with a mission time of 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes, however the specifics of what it is doing continue to remain a mystery.

"The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold; reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth," the United States Air Force wrote in a fact sheet about the spacecraft.

"Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, advanced propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing."

In other words - it could be doing just about anything.

Source: Space.com | Comments (14)

Tags: X-37B

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #5 Posted by Manwon Lender on 28 August, 2019, 9:07
Thanks for the correction, but I may not be completely wrong. It appears that the vehical is using a Hall Electronic Propulsion system.  
Comment icon #6 Posted by Manwon Lender on 28 August, 2019, 9:24
Hey Toast check this out, I just found this online. It appears that the X-37B is using a Hall electronic thruster system, that is currently used on Satellites. I may not be completely wrong. Heres a link for the information listed below: https://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/x-37.htm  Heres another link concerning the Hall Electronic Propulsion system: https://spaceflightnow.com/2015/04/27/x-37b-launch-date-firms-up-as-new-details-emerge-about-experiment/ A fourth mission, X-37B OTV-4 was launched in 2015 from Cape Canaveral. The individual orbiter used in this mission has not been identified, b... [More]
Comment icon #7 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 4 September, 2019, 8:06
No it's not The previous mission carried a Hall-effect thruster as part of it's payload, to test it in space, but it is not part of the vehicles propulsion system.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Manwon Lender on 4 September, 2019, 9:06
No it isn't yet, but that's what they are testing for.  It clearly states in my post above they were testing it to use as maneuvering thrusters. Now I am pretty certain that does count as Propulsion, did you read the link I provided in my post? But maybe things have changed that you are not aware of. Please read this link, the Airforce is calling it a Propulsion system for X-37B https://spaceflightnow.com/2015/04/27/x-37b-launch-date-firms-up-as-new-details-emerge-about-experiment/
Comment icon #9 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 4 September, 2019, 10:09
Re-read the link yourself, you clearly don't understand it. It is a link from a story form 2015 about the FOURTH mission of the X-37B. That mission ended in May 2017. The mission in orbit now is the FIFTH mission of the X-37B. The link also, quite explicitly, states that the Hall thruster is an experiment. It is part of payload, NOT the spacecraft's propulsion system.    
Comment icon #10 Posted by Manwon Lender on 4 September, 2019, 10:17
Here's another link   https://www.engadget.com/2015/04/28/x-37b-hall-thruster-test/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZW5nYWRnZXQuY29tLzIwMTkvMDgvMjYvYWlyLWZvcmNlLXNwYWNlLXBsYW5lLW5ldy1yZWNvcmQv&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACyRHlV21cPvei5IFxUlPqvTwQjEMZztcpW0QDSTAbFxPy2svh1iiJ9Eo_Y6su1GhAFm6RFeQBQR7Dw6s4n8NLJk6ifVhzFg_Wphy8-6QAiw8K8MTCn0ayCOLaNRDWtvRYGQt0VYYB_7YtWq8Pcb_tDzfeOghFzsgUHK5a4h1Wj3.      I just read the first link again I don't see where it says that it is part of the payload. If the was case how could they test, the vehicle is unmanned. It going to be difficult to prove ... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by toast on 4 September, 2019, 12:35
As the Hall Thruster wasnt a part of the B-37 original concept and as it was lifted up for testing purposes, it is a part of the payload in the same fashion as the Hubble Space Telescope was a part of the payload of STS-31 Space Shuttle Discovery. It dont need staff in orbit/space to test a propulsion device in orbit/space. Example with Apollo 4, a test mission, a Saturn V was lifted up to a 18k Km orbit and the capsule returned well back to Earth. Unmanned.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Manwon Lender on 4 September, 2019, 12:47
  If it was part of the payload, which means it was part of the cargo how was it installed and ttested on an unmanned vehical.
Comment icon #13 Posted by toast on 4 September, 2019, 12:51
It seems you dont understand the meaning of payload correctly. Even if the Hall Thruster was installed to the carrier and outside the cargo bay for testing purposes, its still payload.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Manwon Lender on 4 September, 2019, 13:01
Your correct some how even after looking it up , it still didn't sink in. The payload is anything that adds to the vehicles total weight.  Thanks for clearing that up for me.


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