It was never a question whether the US Air Force’s X-37B was going to break its own record for the most time spent in the orbit but the debate of how much has come to an end. The mysterious Boeing-made space plane has finally landed at Kennedy Space Center after spending 780 days in the orbit.
X-37B was able to break its previous record of 717 days, 20 hours, and 42 minutes without breaking a sweat or any kind of hurdle. The current record of 780 days in the orbit is more than three times the original number of days, 240 days, that X-37B was expected to remain in the space after completing its fifth mission. For those of you who are not aware of this, X-37B is a reusable vehicle.
The spacecraft, X-37B, completed all of its mission objectives as per the USAF Rapid Capabilities Office director Randy Walden. The details of those mission objectives, however, remain a mystery. The payloads of X-37B remain classified, and officials have only provided the masses with vague hints of what was onboard the space plane. Reportedly, one of those items was a thermal spreader that allowed testing of experimental electronics and heat pipe cooling in long-term spaceflight, whereas another project may have conducted testing of a Hall-effect ion thruster. Walden, however, did acknowledge the fact that the space plane was used for deploying small satellites.
This is not the end of the X-37B because a sixth flight is already scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral in 2020. Nonetheless, this mission has raised the bar for future trips. Let’s see if the USAF keeps the X-37B space plane in orbit for two years or more for its sixth mission, as well. It is not going to be easy, though.