Energy

Air Force’s Mysterious Space Plane Just Spent 600 Days In Orbit

(REUTERS/Boeing/Vandenberg Air Force Base/Handout via Reuters)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane has been orbiting the Earth for the last 600 days on its latest mission.

The drone Boeing X-37B lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 20, 2015 and has been orbiting the Earth ever since. It isn’t clear what the space drone is doing as its missions and payloads are classified. The Air Force operates at least two of the space plane drones.

The X-37B is currently the only operating reusable space plane in the world, operated by the U.S. Air Force for orbital spaceflight missions.

Reusable space technology is considered a major advance because it has the potential to lower the costs of getting into orbit, which are high due to expensive rocket components. America’s now decommissioned Space Shuttle was only technically reusable because its giant fuel tank was discarded after each launch, and its side boosters were parachuted into corrosive salt water. This required them to be extensively refurbished after use, making the Space Shuttle extremely expensive.

The Air Force has already vowed to invest $6.6 billion into protecting satellites over the next six years, and could spend upwards of $10 billion on space operations from combined public and classified budgets last year, according to The Air Force Times.

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