The Secret is Out on the X37 Space Plane Cargo

The United States Air Force and NASA team up to control the secret space plane the Boeing X-37. The X-37 is an orbital test vehicle, or OTV that is an unmanned spacecraft. Many people are worried that this spacecraft is weaponizing space. With the US Air Force keeping its missions so secret, no wonder people worry. However, this spacecraft is not a weaponized machine. The X-37 space plane has successfully been carrying out its missions, but up until now, the US Air Force has been quiet about what those missions are.

Air Force Lets the Cat Out of the Bag

Amidst complaints from around the globe, the Air Force has relented by offering some information about the cargo aboard the latest X-37 space plane mission in orbit. The mission manifest states that the plane will be carrying a satellite with a TCP/IP web server, 10 CubeSats, plasma thruster test equipment, a low-orbital vehicle control device, and a new type of Hall ion-powered thruster.

The thruster powered with ions is a test run for the Air Force of an updated version of what is already being used to power several communication satellites for the military. Another of the experiments riding along on the X-37 space plane in one of the CubeSats is the Planetary Society’s LightSail. The non-profit group is sending up this solar sail as a test of the viability of using solar winds for travel in space. Using a solar sail to catch solar winds is said to be a better and more economical method of exploring space.

The Secret is Out on the X37 Space Plane Cargo - Clapway

X-37 Space Plane a Show of Reusable Technology

The Boeing X-36 is launched into space using a launch vehicle (rockets) and then comes back to Earth’s atmosphere and lands as a plane, much as the Space Shuttle did. The U.S. Air Force is the main group controlling the plane and it wants to demonstrate how space technologies can be reusable. Although it first started out as a NASA project in 1999, the US Department of Defense took it over in 2004. Its first flight and Earth orbit was in April of 2006, which was a drop test to see how the vehicle performed for re-entry. Then in 2010, the X-37 space plane was launched for its first orbital mission and successfully returned to Earth eight months later. The last mission involved a long 674-day mission in orbit, the longest ever recorded.

The X-37 space plane is, so far, the smallest and lightest machine to travel into orbit and return to Earth. In 2013, it was mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest orbital space plane in the world.