After 719 days in orbit, the US Air Force’s X-37B unmanned spacecraft broke its flight record, according to the Washington Post.
According to the Air Force, the X-37B is the first spacecraft since NASA’s Shuttle Orbiter that can bring experiments back to Earth so they can be further analyzed. That, coupled with its lengthy orbit time, makes the X-37B a spacecraft unlike any other.
“Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, advanced propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing,” Air Force spokesman Maj. William A. Russell wrote in a statement, the Washington Post reported.
While the Air Force claims that the X-37B “is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the US Air Force, “no one is sure what its true objectives are. Some speculate that they could be used as space weapons or spy tools, citing its low orbit,” according to the Post article.
What fuels speculation about the spacecraft and adds even more to the sense of mystery is the fact that the Air Force doesn’t give locations of the X-37Bs in orbit; however, spotting them with telescopes has become a game for armature astronomers, according to CNN.