The mysterious espionage space plane of the Air Force, the X-37B, is back on earth after spending more than two years in orbit. It is still unknown exactly what the vehicle is for, but the Air Force admits that the spacecraft carried a number of small satellites into space during this mission.
The X-37B landed at 27.51 ET on Sunday, October 27 at the Kennedy Space Center of NASA in Florida. The touchdown put an end to the fifth journey from the space plane to space and the longest flight ever for the vehicle. The X-37B was launched on 7 September 2017 on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and then spent a total of 780 days in orbit. That is a new record for the spacecraft, which overshadowed the vehicle's last stay in space, which lasted 718 days.
"The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own sustainability record, is the result of the innovative partnership between government and industry," said General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, in a statement. "The air is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the US space power."
The first flight of the X-37B took place in 2010 and exactly what the vehicle does in space has since been a mystery. However, the Air Force has dropped a few hints from time to time. The X-37B looks like a mini-Space Shuttle and tests technologies and experiments that are meant to last a long time in space. And this is the first time the X-37B has placed apparently unknown small satellites orbit.
The statement that this @American Air Force X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming because the US has not reported that deployment in its submissions to the UN registration convention. This would be the first time that the US or Russia shamelessly violated the Convention. https://t.co/mpLWuvsECV
– Jonathan McDowell (@ planet4589) October 27, 2019
That has upset some in the space community. The airforce did say the X-37B would record these small satellites at the launch of the vehicle in 2017. However, some analysts in the space industry have pointed out that none of these spacecraft have been officially cataloged by the Air Force. The satellites were also not registered with the United Nations, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at Harvard and an expert in space tracking. He claims that this would be contrary to the UN registration treaty, which requires countries to tell the UN exactly what they are sending into space. It is possible that the satellites were attached to the X-37B throughout the trip, which would circumvent the problem. But in the end we do not know what has become of them.
In the meantime, the X-37B will probably get a check from the Air Force. There are currently two operational X-37B & # 39; s, one of which will fly again in early 2020.