US Air Force reusable Boeing X-37B spacecraft returned to Earth early Sunday with a landing at NASA's landing runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Florida. a few miles from where it launched 780 days ago on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
An unmanned aerial spacecraft resembling a miniature space shuttle touched the Florida space field at 03:51 EDT (0751 GMT) on Sunday, Air Force reported in press release
"X-37B n continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spacecraft, "Barbara Barrett, Secretary of the Air Force, said in a statement. "Each subsequent mission enhances our country's space capabilities."
Until the X-37B itself is classified, the details of its orbit activities remain largely secret. The planned Sunday landing of the spacecraft was also not previously announced by the Air Force.
The landing Sunday X-37B completed the fifth and longest flight in program history.
"The safe return of this spacecraft after breaking its own endurance record is the result of an innovative partnership between government and industry," said General David Goldfein, Air Force Chief in a statement.
The X-37B performed ground-based de-burnt combustion early Sunday to target landing at the Kennedy Space Center, then performed a series of bank maneuvers during re-entry to dissipate speed before ordering. with the runway of the shuttle era near Cape Canaveral.
"With the successful landing today, the X -37B has completed its longest flight to date and successfully fulfilled all mission objectives," said Randy Walden, director of the Air Force's High Speed Office, which manages the X-37B program. "This mission successfully hosted experiments for the Air Force Research Laboratory, among others, as well as providing small-satellite riding."
The reusable X-37B spacecraft, developed by Boeing Phantom Works, is designed to launch on a conventional rocket. Once in orbit, the ship opens its payload doors and expands the solar array, which generates energy, allowing it to remain in space for years.
The NASA Space Shuttle was limited in mission duration to less than three weeks. NASA's software orbit transports astronauts on every flight and uses fuel cells consuming liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to generate electricity, and hydraulic actuators for its flight controls, equipment breaks, and other components.
The X-37B – about one quarter the length of NASA shutters – uses electromechanical actuators, eliminating concerns about the limited utility of hydraulic control systems.
The BBC argues that the X-37B "performs risk reduction, experimentation and conception for the development of operations for reusable space vehicles. "
The fifth X-37B mission, which ended on Sunday, launched on September 7, 2017 from Kennedy's 39A launch pad aboard SpaceX Falcon 9. The four previous X-37B flights took off from the United Launch Alliance Atlas rockets. 5 from the nearby Cape Canaveral site.
The X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, has a wingspan of nearly 15 feet (4.5 meters) and a length of more than 29 feet (8.9 meters). The wings of the ship fit snugly inside the 5-meter (5-meter) payload platform on the Falcon 9 and Atlas 5.
"Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th space wing," said Brig. General Doug Schiass, commander of the 45th Space Wing, which provides security support for the launch and landing of Cape Canaveral. "Our team is preparing for this event and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication reach their peak in today's safe and successful landing of the X-37B."
Boeing refurbishes X-37B space planes in the former hangar space at the Kennedy Space Center. Ground crews were expected to transfer the X-37B vehicle back to the hangar near the Kennedy Automobile Assembly building later Sunday.
Following its release in September 2017, amateur satellite trackers launched the X-37B in April 2018 in a circular 221-mile (356-kilometer) orbit inclined 54.5 degrees to the equator , greater orbital inclination than the previous four X-37B missions. The higher slope allows the spacecraft to fly over more parts of the Earth each time it travels around the planet.
Since then, the global satellite observer community has been tracking the spacecraft since it altered several times, eventually maneuvering into low orbit with an average altitude of about 170 miles (274 kilometers) earlier this month. Previous X-37B missions had been deployed in lower orbit in the weeks before landing.
One experiment flying on the fifth mission of the X-37B was the advanced structurally integrated thermal air sprayer of the Air Force. The experiment is designed to test the electronics and oscillating technologies of heat pipes for future satellite thermal control systems.
The Air Force did not launch any other mission objectives other than statements suggesting that mission X-37B provided rides to other undisclosed small ones.
All small satellites deployed by X-37B did not appear. in the US military's catalog of space objects and not registered in accordance with the United Nations Registration Convention, according to space-tracking experts
"Unless they mean that satellites have been attached and not deployed, this is a violation of a convention the United States, "writes Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who maintains an authoritative journal of the entire global space
The United States is one of 69 states to ratify the United Nations Convention on Registration
Ted Molchan, a leader in the global community of amateurs who expertly monitor satellite movements, said the only two entries in the US military's catalog of man-made space objects attributed to the fifth X-37B mission were the cosmos itself ski plane and its upper stage Falcon 9. He added that he was unaware of any observations of satellites that may have been located on the X-37B.
If the X-37B launches small order satellites into orbit, it will be the first time the United States or Russia have a MacDowell tweet.
"It is true that China and some other countries are not fully compliant with the convention, but these cases do not imply deliberate withholding of secret military satellites, "McDowell
Boeing produced two X-37B spacecraft and the next X-37B mission is scheduled to launch between April and June 2020 on board of Atlas 5 rocket.
Here is a list of X -37B missions to date:
Orbital Test Mission Machine 1
(first flight of Vehicle # 1)
Launch: April 22, 2010, on the Atlas 5 rocket
Landing: December, 3 2010, at the Wadenberg Air Force Base, California
Duration: 224 g ays
Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 2
(first flight of vehicle # 2)
Launch: March 5, 2011, on an Atlas 5 rocket
Landing: June 16, 2012, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Duration: 469 days
Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 3
(Second flight of vehicle # 1)
Star : December 11, 2012, on Atlas 5 rocket
Landing: October 17, 2014, at Wadenberg Air Force Base, California
Duration: 675 days
Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 4
] (unconfirmed which vehicles)
Launch: May 20, 2015, on the Atlas 5 rocket
Landing: May 7, 2017, at Kennedy Space Center, Florida
Duration: 718 days
Vehicle Orbital Test Mission 5
(which vehicle is not confirmed)
Launch: September 7, 2017, on Falcon 9 rocket [194Landing:October272019atKennedySpaceCenterFlorida
Duration: 780 days
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