The US military’s secret unmanned spacecraft, the X-37B, returned to Earth on the 12th after completing an orbital mission for two years and six months.
Boeing, which developed the spacecraft, issued a statement on the same day, and announced that the X-37B had landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Launched in May 2020, the X-37B set a record by successfully orbiting for 908 days on its sixth mission. The previous record was 780 days achieved during the 5th flight.
The X-37B has increased its flight time each time since its first mission in April 2010.
“The X-37B broke (flight) records, giving the United States an unbeatable ability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” Boeing said.
The X-37B, operated by the U.S. Space Force, is a remotely controlled unmanned aerial vehicle powered by solar power. It has a length of 9m and wings of 4.5m, and resembles the space shuttle retired in 2011, but is about a quarter the size.
The X-37B has flown over 1.3 billion miles in all six missions. It flew in Earth orbit for a total of 3,774 days, exceeding 10 years.
In this flight, X-37B measured what changes occur when seeds are exposed to cosmic radiation for a long time to be used as NASA research data, and the US Air Force Academy’s small research satellite ‘Falconsat-8′ placed
Analysts say that this experiment was related to developing a technology to transmit power to a remote military base by creating a space solar power plant.
“This mission demonstrates the Space Force’s focus on collaborating on space exploration and expanding partner agencies’ low-cost space access capabilities,” said Gen. Chance Saltzman of the U.S. Space Force.
The U.S. military says the X-37B is focused on scientific experiments, but because the spacecraft will fly in Earth orbit for a long time, there are constant observations that the spacecraft will perform secret missions shrouded in mystery.
In fact, apart from the science experiments that are partially disclosed, most of the flight activities and payloads of the X-37B are classified as classified, according to Space.com, a media specializing in space.
The Space Force does not publicize the details of the X-37B’s flight trajectory, nor is it giving advance notice when the mission will end.
Because of this, China and Russia regard the X-37B as a secret US offensive weapon.