US Space Force’s Mysterious Boeing X-37B Spaceplane Embarks On Top Secret Flight

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The US Space Force, in partnership with SpaceX, just launched the Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A two nights ago. The top-secret flight is the seventh flight for the X-37B program and its first launch on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.

According to a Boeing press release, the Boeing-built X-37B autonomous spaceplane launched “with the mission to validate new technologies, foster innovation and push the boundaries of space exploration and utility.” During the seventh flight, the X-37B will test future space domain awareness technology experiments that the company says is integral to “ensuring safe, stable and secure operations in space for all users of the domain.”

“My memories go back to the Gemini and Mercury programs,” remarked Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall. “This is an incredible event, and I think about the teamwork over all those decades that has led to what has been a revolutionary improvement in space travel capability. We have come so far, and it’s been teamwork by the government; the Air Force and now the Space Force, which didn’t exist until a few years ago; NASA; industry teams; and so many others that contributed to what we saw tonight.”

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X-37B spaceplane following its sixth space flight.

X37-B is a reusable, unmanned spacecraft that the US Space Force says will strengthen the United States’ future in space. The purpose of the spaceplane is to conduct technology experiments that “will expedite the development of next-generation capabilities.”

“The technological advancements we’re driving on X-37B will benefit the broader space community, especially as we see increased interest in space sustainability,” remarked Michelle Parker, Space Mission Systems vice president at Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We are pushing innovation and capability that will influence the next generation of spacecraft.”

Prior to its most recent launch into space, the X-37B spaceplane had logged over 1.3 billion miles traveled during 3,774 days in space. It set a record during its sixth mission with a 908-day journey, before landing back on Earth in November 2022.