Enlarge / The X-37B is shown after the end of its third mission in 2014. (credit: US Air Force)

We don’t know much about the US Air Force’s X-37B uncrewed space plane. Although it resembles the space shuttle, it’s much smaller (at about 30 feet in length), and it has a cargo bay that could hold something about the size of a standard refrigerator. It seems to fly in a relatively low orbit below the International Space Station. Oh—and it can fly in space for a long, long time before it needs to return to Earth.

Since 2010, two identical space planes have completed three missions of increasing lengths: 224 days, 468 days, and 674 days. One of the planes most recently launched on May 20, 2015, and there are signs that this space plane might finally be coming home soon, perhaps even on Tuesday. According to NASASpaceFlight.com, the X-37B may land in Florida on Tuesday after 636 days in space. Notably, it would land at Kennedy Space Center’s historic Shuttle Landing Facility for the first time.

However, Spaceflight Now reports that the orbital maneuvers interpreted as preparation for landing may have just been an exercise. “The X-37 is still on-orbit. The program is conducting a regularly scheduled exercise this week,” Capt. Annmarie Annicelli, media operations officer at the Pentagon’s Air Force Press Desk, told the publication on Tuesday.

Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Source: The Air Force’s secretitve X-37B space plane may—or may not—be about to land | Ars Technica

No ratings yet.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!