The X-37B, an autonomous space drone of the US Air Force, capable of missions with a duration of years, returned to orbit the Earth, this time for 270 days. However, no one knows for what, not even SpaceX, the company that put it into orbit.
This is similar with a miniature version of the space shuttle, the X-37B is a top-secret drone of the US Air Force, with two important particulars, is autonomous and travels in space on missions that can last for days, months or even years.
This week, for the seventh time, the X-37B has returned to space, where it will stay for 270 days. Although this is not certain, since the US Air Force stated that “the duration of the mission depends on the orbital performance, the meteorological conditions at the landing site and the fulfillment of the objectives of the mission”.
And what are these goals? Nobody knows, not even SpaceX, the company that put the little drone into orbit. In a statement, the US Air Force states that the “primary objectives of the X-37B are reusable space technology technologies for America’s future in space” and “to carry out experiments that can be brought and examined on Earth”.
At the same time, it will be convenient to have a spacecraft in orbit that can monitor weather patterns, or movements of foreign powers, while conducting scientific experiments.
This mission is significant also because this was the first time that SpaceX, a company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, was chosen to carry out the launching of space equipment of the Air Force.
The X-37B traveled on top of Falcon 9, a SpaceX rocket that returned to Earth, landing vertically. Such an occurrence allows for its reuse, something that Musk and others believe will dramatically reduce the cost of space travel.
The next step will be to reuse the propellers, instead of throwing them away after each launch, as it has been done so far.