A newly unveiled video shows some details of the inside of the cargo bay of the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane, which was launched on its sixth flight mission in May of this year.
Some additional details have emerged about the Pentagon’s secretive new spaceplane when footage from a Boeing promotional video showing the X-37B’s cargo bay doors opening appeared on social media.
— DutchSpace (@DutchSpace) September 15, 2020
The short clip was reportedly taken from a promotional video shown by Boeing Space at the Air Force Association’s annual convention, and shows the X-37B in an upright position, with its doors swinging open.
The entire craft is 29 feet long – small enough to fit inside the Space Shuttle’s cargo bay. The functions and mission parameters of the spacecraft are mostly secret, but speculation on the matter includes the placing into orbit of microsatellites and possibly anti-satellite weapons such as microwave emitters, as well as being used to conduct experiments. LINK
It is expected that these types of reusable spacecraft will have a major role in future space activities. China has recently launched and recovered a small reusable spacecraft, one that is probably similar to the X-37B. India and Russia have also been developing reusable unmanned spacecraft designs. Several commercial space planes are also being developed.
The X-37B has completed five flights over the last ten years. The last mission, which ended a year ago, lasted nearly 780 days. The aircraft is currently on its sixth mission. LINK
The US reportedly possesses two X-37B vehicles, which are made by Boeing (following the construction of one X-37A) and are derived from Boeing’s X-40. It is an unmanned spacecraft that has a vertical take-off (carried by a launch vehicle) and lands like a conventional aircraft. The X-37B space craft was launched for its sixth mission in May on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
A report by Loren Grush for The Verge provided some details about the missions objectives:
“The Air Force claims that the experiments and technology that the X-37B carries “enables the US to more efficiently and effectively develop space capabilities necessary to maintain superiority in the space domain.” This mission will have even more experiments than usual, thanks to the addition of a new service module — a cylindrical structure attached to the bottom of the spaceplane that will be packed with technology to be tested on orbit. LINK
The X-37B is carrying a small FalconSat-8 satellite developed by the US Air Force Academy which in turn contains five experimental payloads, and is also being used to conduct experiments on behalf of NASA and the US Naval Academy, whose objectives are stated to include researching the effects of radiation on seeds and transforming solar power into radio frequencies that could be transmitted to the Earth’s surface.
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