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Boeing X 37B

Spaceplane of US Air Force spends the longest time in orbit around Earth

The Boeing X-37B of US Air Force is a spaceplane which broke the record for the most amount of time in the orbit around Earth but it is unknown when the uncrewed plane is expected to land or what is it doing there because of the classified details about the X-37B mission.

The fifth mission of the X-37B, named the (OTV-5) Orbital Test Vehicle will have spent 719 days in the orbit, 11 days less than completing 2 years around the Earth. The previous record was for 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes which was achieved by OTV-4 a few years before.

The Air Force describes X-37B Orbital test Vehicle (OTV) as an experimental test program for demonstration of technologies which are suitable and reusable for the unmanned space platform for US Air Force. There are two main objectives of X-37B. The first is the reusable space technologies and the second consists of performing experiments that can be returned and examined back on Earth.

Upon receiving the commands, the OTV re-enters the atmosphere autonomously and lands on the runway. This is the first vehicle since the NASA Shuttle Orbiter to return back to Earth for inspection and analysis of the experiments however it can stay much longer in space, more than 270 days to be precise. Technologies which are currently tested are thermal protection systems, developed forms of guidance, reentry and landing, navigation and control, avionics, high-temperature structures and seals, reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, hi-tech propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight.

It looks similar to space shuttles which were highly exciting during the 80s and 90s, but unfortunately, the space shuttle program has been abandoned, with the vehicles being placed in the museums.

The X-37B has completed 4 missions including the usage of Atlas 5 rocket however the most recent mission has been the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on September 7, 2017. Currently, no one knows what is going on in the experiments or what is the end goal and with things like a rise in fascism and disastrous Amazon fires and the way humans are destroying our own planet there is hope that the Air Force is developing some kind of human escape plan. Even the tardigrades have become a multiplanetary species so we can hope humans can achieve something similar. Every launch of the X-37B has taken place at Cape Canaveral in Florida, though some have landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.