In its third run, the X-37B, which is a highly secretive and classified spacecraft, has set a new record for the number of days in space. This unmanned craft has crossed 469 days of orbiting on a mission that is tightly sealed and is reporting to the Air Force and the U.S. Military. There is a possibility that it could be testing new space-based surveillance technologies.
The current mission called the USA-240 and it commenced its journey on 11th December 2012, at Cape Canaveral. The unique thing about the spacecraft is that it is taken up on a rocket – this time it was the Atlas V rocket – and it descends back to earth like a glider.
As we mentioned earlier, this is its third mission and the X-37B has managed to break its own previous record. This reusable space plane embarked on its debut mission, way back in 2010. The initial run was for 240 days and ended with the shuttle landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Dec. 3, 2010.
The second mission was launched on March 5, 2011 and put the craft up for 469 days. The history of this spacecraft is quite an enigma; in 1998 NASA was looking for projects that were aligned with its mission to push space boundaries. Boeing won that contract for a cool $137 million and took over the reins for the X-37.
The original blueprint of this mission was looking for something that could be used to test the ‘reusable launch vehicle technology’; however the X-37 was never launched into space and was moved to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2004. From here it made a direct appearance in 2010 (rechristened X-37B), mounted on top of an Atlas rocket. We doubt there will be any leaks regarding its agenda, but it will be a spectacle to watch the X-37B glide back to mother earth.
SOURCE: IT World