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Top-Secret Spacecraft Nears 1 Year in Orbit

Written by on Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

There isn’t much I can say about the Air Force’s X-37B. Besides speculating, the most I can definitively say about the mysterious spacecraft is that it is top secret.

What we do know is that it was launched back in March 2011, and the spacecraft has been in orbit around the earth ever since. The unmanned craft had a theoretical maximum orbital time of 270 days, but the X-37B has well exceeded that benchmark. As of today, Jan 24, the X-37B has been in orbit for 325 days, just a few weeks away from a full year in space.

Supposedly, Air Force officials are leaving it in orbit to test the full capabilities of its endurance. Because the X-37B is the first of its kind, nobody is quite sure what its actual limitations are. Consider that it has already exceeded expectations by 55 days, it’s safe to say that the future of the X-37B is quite bright.

Though, none of us can be quite certain what exactly that future entails. Some speculate that the X-37B is testing sensors for the next generation of spy satellite technology, while others believe that it might be one of the first major steps towards weaponizing space.

The evidence is strong that the former possibility might be the case. The Air Force has not released the coordinates of the X-37B, but amateur stargazers have tracked the movements of the secretive craft and determined that it follows a pole-to-pole orbit, which will enable it to be directly above almost any area on earth.

Considering the success of UAV here on earth, testing out unmanned spacecraft vehicles seems like the next logical step. Putting military men in space would be costly and inefficient, so creating spacecraft that can perform missions without a human crew could make all the difference for the future of air and space superiority.


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