X-37B; What the Drone Says?

X-37B; What the Drone Says?

A US military space drone, which was Launched in secrecy, landed back at the Kennedy Space Center  in Florida on November 12, 2022, after nearly two and a half years in orbit. The unmanned X-37B shuttle, whose first flight took place in 2010, has now spent a total of more than ten years in space and flown more than 1.3 billion miles during six missions.

This mission highlights the Space Force’s focus on collaboration in space exploration and expanding low-cost access to space for our partners, within and outside of the Department of the Air Force,” said General Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations.


​Launched in secrecy, the X-37B was designed for the Air Force by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ​It is 30 feet (9 meters) long, has a 15-foot wingspan and is powered by solar panels, Boeing said in a statement.

​Before the shuttle’s last launch, in May 2020, the Pentagon evoked a series of scientific experiments it would undertake.

​The mission was to test how certain materials react in space, to evaluate how ambient radiation in space affects a series of seeds, and to transform solar radiation into radio-electric energy, the army said.


The sixth mission was launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in May 2020. Hosted experiments included a solar energy experiment designed by the Naval Research Lab, as well as a satellite designed and built by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in partnership with theAir Force Research Laboratory. The satellite, dubbed FalconSat-8, was successfully deployed in October 2021 and remains on orbit today.  

This mission also hosted multiple NASA experiments including the Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS-2), which evaluated the effects of space exposure on various materials to validate and improve the precision of space environment models. This was the second flight for this type of experiment. Mission 6 also hosted a NASA experiment to evaluate the effects of long-duration space exposure on seeds. This experiment informs research aimed at future interplanetary missions and the establishment of permanent bases in space, the official statement said.

“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch. “With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners.”


The X-37B program is a partnership between the U.S Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the U.S. Space Force. Boeing designed and manufactured the spaceplane and continues to provide program management, engineering, test and mission support from sites in Southern California, Florida and Virginia. 

In 2020, the X-37B received the Robert J. Collier Trophy for advancing the performance, efficiency and safety of air and space vehicles.

As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future, leading with sustainability, and cultivating a culture based on the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity.


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