After Spending More Than Two Years in Orbit, the Space Force’s X-37B Spacecraft Lands on the Planet

Space Force's X-37B Spacecraft
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After a record-breaking two and a half years (908 days) in orbit, the X-37B spacecraft belonging to the United States Space Force successfully touched down on Earth.

On Saturday, November 12th, at 5:22 AM Eastern Time, it successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, making this its sixth successful flight to far.

The organization has been very tight-lipped about the specific functions of the spaceplane that was created by Boeing; nevertheless, it has disclosed that in October of 2021, it deployed the FalconSat-8 satellite that was produced by the United States Air Force Academy. This tiny satellite, which is still in orbit at the present time, was designed to carry five different experimental payloads. In addition to that, it served as a host for the photovoltaic radiofrequency antenna module developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. This module is intended to transform sun rays into microwave energy and “transmit electricity to the ground.”

Since the spacecraft’s first voyage in 2010, during which it looked very much like a scaled-down version of NASA’s Space Shuttle, very little information on its intended use has been revealed to the public. Before beginning its mission, the X-37B was used to launch a limited number of satellites into orbit. It is scheduled to return to Earth in 2019 after a duration of 780 days.

The spaceplane that was used this time around carried a number of other experiments, including one from NASA that tested the effects of space exposure on seeds. The purpose of this experiment was to “inform space crop production for future interplanetary missions and the establishment of permanently inhabited bases in space.” In a separate experiment, the effects of space radiation on a variety of materials were examined, after which NASA will make a comparison to the properties of materials found on Earth.

“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” Jim Chilton, the senior vice president of Boeing Space and Launch, said in a statement. “The X-37B is unrivaled in its ability to provide our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies.” “This was the most we’ve ever taken to orbit on the X-37B, and we’re delighted to have been able to test out this new and versatile capability for the government and its industry partners,” said the company. “With the addition of the service module, this was the most we’ve ever transported to orbit.”

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