The U.S. Air Force’s Boeing X-37B spaceplane just broke its spaceflight-duration record by spending 718-days in orbit as of today (Aug. 27). All of its missions thus far have been classified, but some believe that it’s being used to test reconnaissance and spy sensors, specifically how they hold up against radiation as well as other hazards of orbit, while other say that it’s used for testing a version of the EmDrive electromagnetic microwave thruster. Read more for a video and additional information.
It’s reported that the Air Force is using at least two X-37Bs for testing, and both of these solar-powered vehicles measure 29-feet long by 9.6-feet tall, with 15-foot wingspan. The space plane’s payload bay is about the size of a pickup-truck bed. They launch vertically and land on a runway, with all five missions lifting off from Florida’s Space Coast.
“Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, advanced propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing,” said US Air Force officials.