Space & Astronomy
US military's secretive X-37b space plane spotted in high orbit
By T.K. Randall
February 11, 2024 · 4 comments
What is the X-37b up to this time ? Image Credit: United States Air Force
The details of the vehicle's latest mission are top secret, but that hasn't stopped an amateur astronomer from locating it.
Resembling a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttles, this pint-sized robotic space plane was passed over to the US Department of Defense back in 2004 and has since embarked on a series of secretive orbital missions, sometimes spending over two years at a time in space.
It's most recent mission saw the X-37b launch into the heavens atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy back on December 28th, prompting speculation that it may have been heading for a higher altitude than usual.
Now, less than two months after the launch, Tomi Simola - a satellite tracking hobbyist from Finland - believes he has actually spotted the secretive space vehicle using a sky-watching camera.
Posting both on social media and on a long-running satellite tracking forum, he revealed two photographs that his camera had picked up showing an unknown object in Earth's orbit.
His suspicions that this could have been the X-37b were later confirmed by others in the community.
"Exciting news!" he wrote. "Orbital Test Vehicle 7 (OTV-7), which was launched to classified orbit last December, was seen by my SatCam! Here are images from the last two nights!"
His findings suggest that the vehicle is in a highly elliptical orbit between 201 and 24,133 miles.
Exactly what it is doing up there, however, remains as much of a mystery as ever.
Source: Ars Technica
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