The X37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is the U.S. Air Force’s premiere unmanned, reusable spacecraft, supporting long-term missions in space. But even the most conservative researchers may have doubted its capability to complete on-orbit experiments for more than two years, as the spaceplane was initially designed for an on-orbit duration of 270 days.
Nonetheless, it recently landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, completing the Air Force’s X-37B OTV mission 5 after 780 days in orbit, and breaking its own record of 718 days in the process. For the entire test vehicle program, the total number of days spent on orbit is 2,865.
“The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spaceplane,” said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. “Each successive mission advances our nation’s space capabilities.” General David L. Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff, added: “The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between government and industry. The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force.”
The X-37B program built around the spaceplane performs risk reduction, experimentation, and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies. The program provides the means to efficiently develop space capabilities in support of future space exploration.