X-37B To Join Chinese Space Plane In Orbit


The Space Force’s X-37B “space plane” is expected to launch back into orbit from the Kennedy Space Center on Thursday. It will join a similar spacecraft launched by China last week and the pair will become “two of the most watched objects on orbit while they’re on orbit,” according to Gen. Chance Saltzman, who heads up the Space Force. “It’s no surprise that the Chinese are extremely interested in our space plane, and we’re extremely interested in theirs,” he told a conference earlier this month.

The Air Force has never said exactly what the X-37B does on its years-long orbital missions and the Chinese say even less about their space plane, which is on its first flight. When it launched, China called it only a “reusable test spacecraft,” but it’s reportedly similar to the U.S. vehicle, which spent three years on orbit on its last mission. The launch will be a public affair, however. It will be hoisted to orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket and the four-hour launch window starts at 7 p.m. EST.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.


  1. Can’s say I’m fond of that headline. To “join” implies they’re going to meet. Just because Air Force One is flying over DC doesn’t mean I “join” it when I take off from Seattle…..

  2. Personally I’m hoping for the first dogfight between two space planes.

    …. Furballs …. In ….. Spaaaaaaaaace …….