Not to be confused with Boeing’s X-37 Orbital Test Vehicle and variants, the secretive US Air Force spacecraft X-37B has many people wondering. The unmanned Boeing-built spacecraft is strictly under the control of the US military, and it clearly has some great capabilities.
The craft travels in relatively low earth-orbit, hovering between 100-500 miles above earth, and with a cruising speed of just over 17,000 mph. The X-37B is also equipped with special heat-shielding tiles for re-entry that have been noted by Boeing as being better than Endeavor’s re-entry technology. Current speculation suggests that part of the X-37B’s purpose may be to test and explore reusable spacecraft technology. If this is correct, the X-37B can land (though after 500 days in orbit nobody can say when).
This isn’t the first time the craft has been launched; riding a rocket up into the sky in April 2010 and landing in December. It launched again in December of 2012, and has been circling the planet ever since.
There is some speculation that the sole purpose of this mysterious space vehicle is for intelligence gathering of unfriendly countries and geopolitical foes. However, it is widely known that the US already has some of the most advanced spy satellites in the world. This fact has led many to believe that the X-37B is simply a demonstration of our nation’s continuously evolving military technology against geopolitical adversaries.
On the question of the intended purpose of the X-37B, Globalsecurity.org director John Pike said, “That question implies that it has a single, rational mission. And I don’t think it does. I think it was basically just intended to bewilder the Chinese.”
Setting aside the validity of John Pike’s theories, the US is certainly staying quiet about the intended purpose of this high-tech unmanned craft.