An uncrewed, solar-powered military aircraft has just broken its spaceflight-duration record, having now spent more than 719 days in orbit around Earth.
Generally, known as the X-37B, the space aircraft belongs to the US Air Force, and this is a fifth mission, Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5). However, precisely what it is achieving on its mission’s stays classified.
On Monday, the aircraft broke the record set by the earlier mission, OTV-4, which remain in the air for 717 days, 20 hours, 42 minutes.
OTV-5 beat that record at (06:43 EDT) 10:43 UTC on August 26. We’re now almost at the end of day 719 of the plane being in orbit.
Some things we do know – X-37B appears a bit like a smaller variant of NASA’s old space shuttle, including the US Air Force has at least two of the solar-powered aircraft, which had been built by Boeing.
This latest mission was launched on September 7, 2017, by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and remained to be active.
Based on the Air Force, the X-37B’s fundamental objectives are to research to make reusable spacecraft technologies to America’s future in space and to conduct experiments that may be returned to, and examined on Earth.
Beyond that, officials have not given up a lot of actual dirt on the specifics of its orbital experiments.
Previously, that is led to intense speculation that the military could be testing an EM Drive in space a hypothetical fuel-less propulsion system that is studied by NASA, and which China claims it’s already testing.
The different hypothesis has suggested the Air Force may be using the X-37B for weapons research or orbital surveillance operations although back in 2010 the Air Force denied that the program concerned any “offensive capabilities.”
“The program helps technology risk reduction, experimentation, and operational concept development,” a spokesperson said at the time.
No matter what the plane’s mission is, it was initially only designed for an orbit window of 270 days, so the fact that it has been capable of more than double that time is a reasonably significant win for solar-powered aircraft.