The U.S. military has announced intentions to finally land, and effectively end the 22-month mission of the robotic spacecraft X-37B. The craft has been on a classified mission for almost 2-years and is looking to successfully end that mission in California on Tuesday.
Weather conditions and technical factors will play a role in determining whether the craft will be able to successfully land on Tuesday or whether there will be a need to extend, or move the landing. The craft, or space plane as it’s been regularly called was launched from an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket on December 11th, 2012.
The plane has also been referred to as the Orbital Test Vehicle and was designed and built by Boeing in an effort to test technologies from the orbit of the planet. Specific details of the operation have remained unspoken, but one could imagine that the testing, or research that is happening on the space craft is expansive since the plane was a part of a 22-month mission.
That said, this is not the first time a craft of this nature has made its way around the world, in Earth’s orbit. In fact, 2010 and 2011 saw their very own separate missions with similar spacecraft’s which remained in orbit for 8 and 15 months respectively.
The planes, or robotic spaceships that are produced by Boeing resemble a miniature space shuttle. They’re experimental in nature, and though have been used with regular success now, are being transferred to Florida where NASA and the US Air Force will continue the X-37B program. These spacecraft’s have an incredible amount of technology on them, but also offer a lot of insight into the future of space travel in terms of the very near-Earth travel that takes place in space.
This space plane, as it’s being called, has sat in orbit successfully numerous times, and can be used for a lot of different purposes here on Earth. Particularly, these crafts will be of great value to further understanding and measuring Earth. While a lot of scientific discovery is happening further out into space, studies of the Earth from an orbiting point of view can have greater insights on issues that impact life here on Earth.