X-37B Sets New Endurance Record

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The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) set a new endurance record on Saturday, landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after spending 908 days in orbit. The uncrewed flight was the sixth for the Boeing-built vehicle, which has now traveled over 1.3 billion miles and logged 3,774 days in space. According to Boeing, the mission hosted a solar energy experiment designed by the Naval Research Lab and multiple NASA experiments including evaluations of the effects of space exposure on various materials and seeds. In addition to the experiments, the X-37B successfully deployed a satellite designed and built by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” said Jim Chilton, Boeing Space and Launch senior vice president. “With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners.”

The X-37B program is conducted via a partnership between the U.S Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the U.S. Space Force. Prior to its sixth mission, the longest the vehicle had spent in orbit was 780 days. As previously reported by AVweb, the team behind the X-37B was awarded the 2019 Robert J. Collier Trophy.

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Just put it up there out of sight and forget about it… Saves hanger space. And what ever you do, do not bring it down, there is no budget for the fuel for another launch! Or am I being cynical? I do wonder though what the cadet satellite was designed to do, seek out breweries?
    And maybe the sailors should look at advances in solar power on the ground in the last three years (there are now sails for yachts which produce solar power which were not invented 908 days ago) rather than trying to interpret waving dials from space.

  2. I expect reasonable efficiency with tax dollars once you have a viable system. But as ANY R&D department knows – public or private. 80% of an R&D budget tends to go nowhere. It’s the 20% that produces “new art” that advances civilization.

    Sailors with solar sails are not going to tell you anything about long duration solar panel systems in space getting bombarded with particles and radiations that the earth’s atmosphere absorbs. You gotta go try it.

    And there will be blind alleys and leapfrogs. I think it was a Ray Bradbury sci-fi story that described a mission to Alpha Centuri where the crew were put in a state of chemical suspended animation so they would still be young when they got there. Though only 4.3 light years away – the fastest spacecraft was still going to take thousands of years to get there. When they arrived they were greeted by humans. A “warp drive” had been invented after they departed and later generations got there first.

  3. We have no idea what most of the missions were with this vehicle, and previous ones were clearly reported as mostly “classified”. This vehicle is unique in the world as compared with our adversaries and our ignorance of its missions is no excuse for criticism.

  4. This type of satellite system seems to be the future solution to space junk.
    Send it up for a mission for five to ten years, then have it fly back for an upgrade and refueling.
    Only thing that will cure the space junk problem.