USAF Secret Space Plane by Journalist Maryanne Kane of

USAF Secret Space Plane Spotted on Secret Mission

In the Netherlands, a sky watcher spots the USAF secret space plane X-37B. He spotted the Air Force space plane on its fifth top secret “test” mission on April 11. Boeing is the manufacturer.  X-37B flies 110 to 500 miles above the earth.  Space plane’s speed is supersonic.

Last fall, the unmanned, robotic plane launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  A SpaceX Falcon rocket carried it into launch and orbit.  Sky watcher Cees Bassa of The Netherlands estimates the X-37B orbit was inclined by about 54.5 degrees with an altitude of 220 miles above the earth.  Those details convinced Cees and experts that he spotted the top secret X-37B.  Scotsman Russell Eberst reports a similar sighting in Edinburgh, Scotland.

What is X-37B Up To?

X-37B is also known as Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV).  It made it’s first flight in April 2010.  Journalists speculate about its secret mission.  What the space plane does during its classified missions is unknown.  What it carries in its payload bay only the USAF and NASA know.  Some observers speculate it carries a space weapon. A more likely scenario is that space plane tests innovative, next generation satellite technologies in space. The USAF has disclosed one payload.  The Advanced Structurally Embedded Thermal Spreader known as ASETS-11 is onboard.  Straight from USAF research lab, ASETS-11 tests experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipes.  X-37B’s classified missions deliver technology demonstrations.

X-37B In Supersonic Orbit

X-37B days in orbit total 2,085.  Each mission breaks the previous endurance record.  Current mission #5 started last September. It has cleared 200 days. The US Air Force isn’t disclosing when it ends.

For more of our posts on space planes, see Virgin Galactic  And on hypersonic flights

DARPA has leading edge hypersonic innovation programs  It includes research on a new hypersonic space plane the XS-l.  The XS-1 is designed to enable launching satellities at a  moment’s notice.  Goal is to make the launches faster and far less expensive.  Boeing is DARPA’s partner on the XS-1 experimental research project. No testing scheduled until 2020.



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