Secret spacecraft breaks flight record

Secret spacecraft breaks flight record

The X-37B - the US Air Force's ultra-secretive, astronaut-free spacecraft that looks like a miniaturized space shuttle - just broke its own flight record of 719 days in continuous orbit.

According to Space.com, OTV-5, began on Sep. The space plane itself, built by Boeing, is 29 feet long and 9.6 feet tall, boasting a wingspan of almost 15 feet. Everything else about the spacecraft is still a mystery as information about the spacecraft is classified.

Regardless of what the plane's mission is, it was initially only designed for an orbit window of 270 days, so the fact that it's been able to more than double that time is a pretty big win for solar-powered aircraft.

In September 2017, defence officials said the X-37B's mission - its fifth since 2010 - would demonstrate the potential for getting to space quickly and "on-orbit testing of emerging space technologies" while testing experimental electronics in zero gravity.

It launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

It seems that the U.S Air Force is attempting to stretch the mission longevity as long as possible, as each of the test flights has lasted much longer than its predecessor.

In June past year, President Donald Trump announced that he is directing the Pentagon to a new Space Force as an independent service branch aimed at ensuring American dominance in space.

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The X-37B is also popular among space fans because of its unique design.

In 2017, when the previous mission's spacecraft landed, the Air Force released some of the few public images of the X-37B. This has been the case since the OTV-2 staying in flight for 468 days, considerably longer than the OTV-1's flight time of 224 days.

The spacecrafts are also created to carry out "experiments" that "can be returned to, and examined, on Earth" after the mission is over, according to Russell, the Air Force spokesman.

The previous OTV-4 mission was 718 days long.

The X-37B will return to Earth only after it has completed all of its objectives, according to Air Force spokesman Major William Russell, however, the details around those objectives remain closely guarded, as does its cost.

It is orbiting at around 200 miles (320 kilometres) high. Boeing is the company that builds the spacecraft for the Air Force.

The craft is powered by solar cells with lithium-ion batteries.

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