The top-secret aerospace project being called the “X-37B” will be launching again soon but still no word on its intended use.
The Boeing-developed X-37B test space plane is quite different from the recently retired NASA space shuttles, and many are curious why the U.S. is developing an unmanned space plane in the first place. While answers about the vehicles specific purpose is for now, the United States Air Force simply stated that it will be a more reliable and reusable unmanned space vehicle.
The X-37B space plane is the latest model based on the X-37 test plan, but on a larger scale. It measures over 29 feet in length and is launched by an Atlas V class rocket and can return to earth like a regular plane. Past statement from NASA have suggested that the plane would be an aid in the development and design of NASA’s Orbital Space Plane program.
The X37-B’s next launch is set for December 11, 2012. NASA nor the Air Force will confirm nor deny any current theories on what it will be used for, but some are saying it may be a more cost effective way of launching or retrieving satellites. Some feel that the vehicle itself could be a future satellite technology that can be retrieved at any time. One thing for certain about the vehicle is that it is a highly developed unmanned plane that is well out of the reaches of any ground radar. If the vehicle’s future intent is scientific in nature it will mean that it can be set in orbit for extended periods and then returned to earth for retrieval of any data it may have collected without the need of human occupants.