Boeing-Built Space Plane Hits 'Year in Flight' Milestone

Site: AF.mil

The Air Force’s Boeing Co.-built space plane recently hit an endurance milestone remaining in flight, circling the Earth’s orbit for a year and two days, Wired reports

The 30-foot-long craft was designed to last nine months in flight. 

The Air Force has yet to confirm the exact uses of the X-37B, also known as Orbital Test Vehicle 2. 

Analysts speculated to Wired that the spacecraft could be used for surveillance missions including keeping watch on China’s space station, according to Wired. 

The X-37B is capable of carrying small batches of supplies to the International Space Station.

Orbital Test Vehicle 1, the X-37B's predecessor, was launched in April 2010 for scientific endeavors, the Air Force said. 

The program's success prompted Art Grantz, Boeing program manager, to propose construction of a X-37C vehicle that could carry astronauts and fill the gap of the retired NASA space shuttle. 

Wired reported that although budget cuts for fiscal years 2013 through 2017 include contracts for satellites and rockets, some insiders believe that the success of X-37B could lead to a new fleet and funding for the Air Force.

Boeing is also working with NASA to build a mission concept study for space craft endurance technologies that can put spacecraft and payloads into orbit for longer periods of time. 

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