The Space Force’s mysterious X-37B spaceplane landed back on Earth After spending two and a quarter years (or 908 days) in orbit, it has now reached a new record. It landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, November 12th at 5:22AM ET, marking its sixth successful mission so far.
The agency isn’t quite sure what the Boeing-built spaceplane does. However, it did confirm that it deployed the FalconSat-8 from the US Air Force Academy back in October 2021. The small satellite was capable of carrying five payloads, and it is still in orbit. It hosted the Naval Research Laboratory’s photovoltaic radiofrequency antenna module as well, which is designed to convert solar rays into microwave energy and “transmit power to the ground.”
The spaceplane, which looks like a smaller version of NASA’s Space Shuttle, first took flight in 2010, and we haven’t learned much about its purpose of it since. Prior to this mission the X-37B had carried a limited number of satellites into outer space. It made its return to earth in 2019, after 780 days.
NASA’s experiment on the spaceplane included another one, which tested space exposure on seeds. “inform space crop production for future interplanetary missions and the establishment of permanently inhabited bases in space.” NASA will compare materials here in Earth to Earth by performing another experiment that tested the effects of space radiation.
“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,” Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch said in a statement. “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.”