The X-37B, a Space Plane with many masters, a true multi-purpose platform jointly developed by NASA, Boeing, DARPA, the US Air Force and more widely the US Defense Department. Starting life as the Space Shuttle utility belt the X-37B has evolved to be one of the most flexible and economical space platforms in use today.
Dressed in its black and white tux – heat shield – this James Bond wanna-be has once again disappeared from view, in easy to spot low Earth orbit – 300km -. Off on another top secret mission, what tales will he tell his masters upon his return? Orbital tracking records indicate the X-37B has been off station since the 12th of January, 2012. This is the third such disappearance of an X-37B since orbital testing began in 2010.
The tale of the X-37 Program is filled with mystery and intrigue, pleasant surprises from unexpected potential. Starting life as a blue collar maintenance droid, refueling and repairing satellites, the X-37B has by far exceeded those original aspirations. Partly out of necessity, with the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program leaving a large gap in NASA’s launch capabilities, and partly due to the X-37Bs brilliant design it has risen to every challenge. It is now a true multi-mission autonomous space plane. A little mini space shuttle that just gets the job done. What is the X-37B? A high flying spy in the sky, next generation research tool, weapons platform or all of the above!?