And it might just have been a spaceplane to rival the USA’s X-37 China’s space program has launched and landed an experimental and re-usable spacecraft and by doing so may have signalled it can match the capabilities of a secretive US strategic asset.…
Yesterday China launched a Long March 2F rocket that carried some sort of reusable spacecraft into space. Precisely what kind of spacecraft China launched is a mystery, but it was possibly a reusable spaceplane. The United States has its own reusable spaceplane called the X-37B that spends extended periods in orbit. Whatever China put into orbit will remain there “for … Continue reading
“It is a unique structure unparalleled in the world.”
Mysterious Space Shuttle touches down after two-year orbital missionIt has been a while (780 days to be exact) but the US Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle touched down at the old Shuttle Landing Facility over the weekend after a mystery mission.Learn more about its record breaking mission here:— U.S. Air Force (@usairforce) October 27, 2019The mission takes the total number of days on-orbit to 2,865 and has broken the vehicle's own on-orbit record.The reusable and uncrewed spacecraft had started the fifth orbital mission of the program atop a Falcon 9 back in 2017 although, as ever, much of the payload was top-secret.
Five times now, a US Air Force X-37B space plane has traveled to orbit and returned to Earth, each time spending longer and longer in space.The most recent mission -- secret, as always -- landed at NASA's Kennedy Space Center shuttle landing facility at 3:51 a.m.ET on Oct. 27, 2019.The Air Force likes what it's seen in the X-37B's accomplishments."The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein in a statement.Originally published June 14, 2012.
The old space shuttle landing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center received an unusual visitor early Sunday morning when the Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane autonomously returned from orbit after a record-breaking mission.For the last 780 days, the Air Force Research Laboratory used the space plane as an orbital platform for classified experiments.We’ll probably never know exactly what sorts of experiments were being done up there, but the Air Force called the mission a big success.“Each successive mission advances our nation’s space capabilities.”The X-37B looks like a small-scale version of NASA’s space shuttle.At just under 29 feet in length and with a 14-foot wingspan, it’s hardly bigger than a school bus, but it provides more than enough room for the Air Force to test new tech in microgravity.
SpaceX’s reusable rockets may have the lion’s share of attention and media buzz but the US Air Force has also something to boast that is both closer to home but also more daring.The Boeing-made X-37B spacecraft, or more accurately spaceplane’ has just landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, October 27 at 3:51 a.m. Not only is this the vehicle’s third successful landing, it is also the longest time an X-37B has flown in orbit, finally crossing the two-year threshold.The Air Force’s X-37B program is less ambitious than SpaceX’s interplanetary travel goals but it is, at the same time, also more daring.The idea of keeping a spacecraft flying in orbit for years, landing them and reusing them, and even test new systems while in space is by no means a small task.It’s no surprise that this achievement is being celebrated not only by the USAF and Boeing but the space science community at large as well.The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 5 or OTV-5 launched on September 7, 2017, onboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 vehicle.
The U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane returned to terra firma on Sunday after spending 780 days in low-Earth orbit.It was the unmanned spacecraft’s longest mission to date, beating its previous record, set in 2017, by 63 days.“The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable space plane,” Barbara Barrett, secretary of the Air Force, said in a statement after it landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.Barrett added that each successive mission undertaken by the X-37B “advances our nation’s space capabilities.”The latest outing, named Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5), began aboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket that launched in September 2017The Boeing-built X-37B resembles the now-decommissioned Space Shuttle but at 8.8 meters (29 feet) is about a quarter the length.
An unmanned X-37B space plane landed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, wrapping up a record 780 days in orbit, the US Air Force said Sunday.The mission breaks the mysterious plane's own record by spending more than two years in space."The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable space plane," secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said in a statement.Altogether, the program, which has at least two of the reusable planes, has spent 2,865 days in space over the course of five missions, the Air Force said.The fifth mission launched on Sept. 7, 2017.The Boeing-built space planes resemble a smaller version of NASA's old space shuttles and have a similar re-entry trajectory that uses a runway, like the old shuttles.
The U.S. Air Force has been putting a secretive spaceplane into orbit for years now called the X-37B.The X-37B spaceplane is an uncrewed spacecraft that has been heading into space for over a decade and regularly beating its own record for space flight duration.The current mission for the spaceplane is its longest duration yet.The spacecraft has passed 718 days in orbit, besting a record the program set in 2017.An Air Force spokesman Major William Russell has said that the current mission has no specified end date.The X-37B will return to Earth after it has completed all its mission objectives.
We know what it looks like: a cute little space shuttle.We know where it is: in orbit around Earth.We know who sent it there: the US Air Force, via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in September 2017.Why just don't know why.The uncrewed Boeing-built X-37B space plane has now been in orbit for 719 days, breaking the previous record of nearly 718 days set during its last mission, which returned to Earth in early 2017.The Air Force hasn't revealed the exact purpose of the drone, but it did at least let us know when it landed last time.
The U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane this week broke its own record for time spent in low-Earth orbit — 718 days.Its previous record-breaking mission of 717 days ended in May 2017 when the vehicle touched down at the Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility, reported.The current voyage, called Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5), launched on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket in September 2017.Its missions are classified so the intended length of its stay in space hasn’t been made public.Indeed, not a great deal is known about the uncrewed X-37B beyond the limited information posted on the Air Force’s website.It’s described as “an experimental test program” that’s used for demonstrating various technologies “for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force,” and has two primary objectives, namely to develop “reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space, and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.”
The Boeing-built X-37B space plane commissioned and operated by the U.S. Air Force has now broken its own record for time spent in space.Its latest mission has lasted 719 days as of today, which is one day longer than its last mission which ended in 2017, as noted by’s not an overall record, since geocommunications satellites typically have life spans of five years or more, but it’s nonetheless an impressive milestone for this secretive Air Force vehicle, which is all about testing and developing U.S. technologies related to reusable spaceflight and more.The X-37B began its current mission in September 2018, when it launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.The specific details of the spacecraft’s missions are classified, but in addition to apparently spending ever increasing amounts of time up in space (each successive mission of the space plane has lasted longer), it’s also “operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.” These tests involve tech related to guidance, navigation, thermal protection, high-temperature materials and durability, flight and propulsion systems and more, which is basically not saying much since that’s just everything involved in space flight.There’s no crew on board operating X-37-B, but the vehicle can autonomously descend back through Earth’s atmosphere and land horizontally on a runway, just like the NASA Space Shuttle used to do when it was in operation.
For a couple years now Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America was more aspirational than functional, but now it’s been built out with the necessaries for commercial spaceflight — mainly coffee.The company just showed off the newly redesigned space from which it plans to launch flights… sometime.Much of the undulating, aesthetically rusted building, located deep in the desert of New Mexico, is dedicated to housing the carrier craft and rocket planes that the company has been testing for the last few years.That was almost certainly the hard part, in fact: Relocating the infrastructure necessary to support the spacefaring vehicles, including engineers, equipment, and supply chain people, as Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told me in May.But the spaceport itself must also become a place for humans to arrive, park at, nervously sip coffee and have a pre-flight meal — if that’s really a good idea for your first trip to space.The “first phase” of the consumer-side build-out includes an elegantly appointed little restaurant and cafe, and upstairs can be found “mission control,” which looks more like a conference room than a spaceplane pilot staging area.
Vandebergh said he'd been hunting for the robotic spacecraft for months and finally managed to track it down in May."It turned out to have maneuvered to another orbit.Thanks to the amateur satellite observers' network, it was rapidly found in orbit again, and I was able to take some images on June 30 and July 2.""It is really a small object, even at only 300 kilometers [186 miles] altitude, so don't expect the detail level of ground-based images of the real space shuttle," Vandebergh said.The X-37B has winged past 666 days of flight on this latest mission, which is called OTV-5 because it's the fifth flight for the program.OTV-5 began on Sept. 7, 2017, with a launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 boosterfrom NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.
When you first enter the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, you're greeted by the wing and pontoon of one of the largest aircraft ever made, the Hughes H-4 Hercules, aka the Spruce Goose.I just love how it seems like it's about to step on this little Curtiss Robin C-1.For more about this amazing plane, and many of the others at this museum, read: Inside the amazing Spruce Goose at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.Here's what will happen to your musicWe’re giving away 10 Kodak Printomatic camerasWharfedale Linton Heritage: Old-school looks, new-school sound
As always, we've got news from around the world of launch this week.Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.Chinese smallsat launcher raises $15 million.Andrew Jones reports that a Chinese company founded in 2018, Galactic Energy, has raised substantial funding.Virgin Galactic's chief pilot, Dave Mackay, told SpaceNews that he believes the company will be able to go through the remainder of its SpaceShipTwo test program fairly quickly once test flights of the suborbital spaceplane resume.The company wants to take payloads dropped off in low Earth orbit and propel them deeper into space and other more desirable orbits.
Though SpaceX is the big name in the field, it’s not the only company planning to make tourists trips into space a reality.Virgin Galactic has also been working on a project to take private passengers outside of Earth’s atmosphere, and this week it sent its first passenger to the edge of space.Virgin Galactic has been working on commercial spacecraft since 2004.But it has suffered setbacks such as the dramatic crash of the Virgin spaceplane SpaceShip Two VSS Enterprise during a test flight in 2014, which killed the co-pilot and injured the pilot.Since then the company has been making steady progress on its space program, and conducted a successful test flight to the edge of space last year.ET, the VSS Unity, the new version of the SpaceShip Two, managed to climb to its highest ever altitude, flying at 55.85 miles (90 kilometers) above the Earth, just short of the generally agreed upon 62 mile (100 kilometer) boundary which is recognized as the start of space.
The inspector general for the Pentagon announced yesterday that it will be reviewing how exactly SpaceX’s rockets became certified to launch payloads for the US Air Force back in 2015, Bloomberg first reported.In a letter to Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, the inspector general, Michael Roark, wants to know if the certification process complied with the Air Force’s guidelines for certifying new launch vehicles.The news comes nearly four years after SpaceX fought and won the ability to launch military satellites with its Falcon 9 rocket.But SpaceX also wanted the ability to bid for national security contracts, and the company sued the Air Force in 2014 for not allowing other providers to compete for a multi-year contract worth $11 billion.SpaceX settled the suit after the Air Force agreed to work with the company to certify its vehicles.The company just flew a new GPS satellite for the Air Force in December, and it even launched the Air Force’s secretive spaceplane, the X-37B, in 2017.
Virgin Galactic has donated the hybrid rocket motor that powered its VSS Unity spaceplane into a new world record, the company has announced.The motor was donated last week following the historic flight that took place in mid-December 2018.According to Virgin Galactic, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC will exhibit the motor in a gallery called “Future of Spaceflight.”The historic spaceflight took place on December 13, at which time Virgin’s donated motor was able to take VSS Unity into space at almost three times the speed of sounds.The aerospace company has specifically donated the Case-Throat-Nozzle (CTN) assembly, which it calls “integral” to the overall hybrid propulsion system.The supersonic plane’s achievement has remained somewhat controversial, as it reached the edge of space, specifically an area that some have challenged as actually being “space.” Regardless, the milestone flight earned its two pilots their FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings and provided the public with an astounding view of our planet: