Why Is The US Air Force's Secret Space Plane Orbiting The Earth In 500 Days?

First Posted: Oct 15, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

The mysterious U.S. Air Force space plane known as X-37B is on its fourth secretive mission. It has spent 500 days in space orbiting the planet Earth for unknown reasons.

Space reports that the robotic X-37B space plane was launched on May 20, 2015, wherein the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket-propelled the spacecraft from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It is on the secretive mission known as OTV-4 mission or Orbital Test Vehicle-4. In its third mission, it orbited the Earth in 674 days and landed on October 17, 2014. It was constructed with the aid of Boeing.

So, what is this strange and enigmatic space plane doing up there? The U.S. Air Force stated that the space plane is on a test program to establish technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the US Air Force. It is also used to test out the high-end technology. This includes navigation, control systems and concerns such as the durability of high-temperature materials, according to IFL Science.

On the other hand, the space plane's secretive mission creates issues and speculations for some people.There are many theories as well. Some said that it is on secret surveillance such as spying on China's space station or other satellites. According to some people, the X-37B has high-tech monitoring gear designed to keep an eye on particular regions on Earth. Others suggest that it could be a "space bomber" that would destroy aggressive rival satellites.

Meanwhile, Captain Chris Hoyler, the Air Force spokesperson talked about the space plane's fourth mission in April last year. He said that the X-37B is conceptualized for an on-orbit duration of 270 days. He further said that longer missions have been demonstrated. In the previous missions, the actual duration will depend on test objectives, on-orbit vehicle performance and conditions at the landing facility. The secret space plane is currently still in orbit and no details yet when it is set to land.

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