Reusable X-37B spacecraft landed in Florida after spending 908 days in orbit
The US Army’s secretive X-37B unmanned spacecraft has landed at Kennedy Space Center in Florida after completing a classified mission that included orbiting the planet for a record 908 days.
The reusable space drone returned to Earth on Saturday morning, having broken its previous record of 780 days in orbit. The Orbital Test Vehicle-6 (OTV-6) mission also marked the first time the aircraft went into space with a service module attached, increasing the number of experiments that could be conducted, the Institute said. US Space Force in a statement.
“The X-37B continues to push the boundaries of experimentation, thanks to an elite government and industry team behind the scenes,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Fritschen, director of the spacecraft program. “The ability to conduct experiments in orbit and bring them safely home for in-depth analysis in the field has proven invaluable to the Department of the Air Force and the scientific community.”
Although OTV-6 set a new duration record for the X-37B program, it did not come close to the longest spaceflight overall. NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes have been in operation for over 45 years, beaming data back to Earth billions of miles away. Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov endured the longest manned space voyage in history, spending 438 days aboard the Mir space station in 1994 and 1995.
The Pentagon’s two X-37B planes have been flying covert missions since 2010. OTV-6 included a solar power experiment for the US Naval Research Lab, as well as two NASA studies of the effects of long-term space exposure on seeds and other materials. .
However, as with other X-37B missions, the objectives of OTV-6 have not been fully disclosed. The robotic plane looks like a smaller version of NASA’s retired space shuttle. Like the shuttle, it is launched vertically and carried into space by a rocket. It operates at altitudes up to 500 miles above Earth, and its maneuverability makes it difficult for adversaries to predict its movements.
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