Many of us know that the U.S. Space Shuttle program ended back in 2011, but did you know that the U.S. Air Force is operating a mini shuttle-type spacecraft known as the X-37?
The X-37 was first launched on April 22, 2010, from the Air Force launch complex in Florida and, to date, this is mission is the fourth in a series.
The first X-37 mission was known as OTV (Orbital Test Vehicle) 1 and remained in orbit for 224 days. The other missions, OTV 2 and OTV 3, flew in space for 468 and 675 days in Earth orbit.
What is the mission of the X-37? No one is really sure, but OTV 4 has been in Earth orbit for 500 days.
The X-37 space plane is small, — just 29 feet long, with a wingspan of nearly 15 feet. The payload area of the X-37 is about the size of a small pickup truck and one of the payloads is a new type of propulsion system, the XR-5A Hall Thruster.
The X-37 is a great place to test new technology! It is a true robotic spacecraft and one that has used Vandenberg Air Force Base runway as its main landing site.
The use of the Kennedy Space Center runway, may be added as an additional landing and processing facility.
Did you know that you can see the X-37 in flight at night, right here in Arizona? As I mentioned in past updates, simply go to one of my favorite links, heavens-above.com, add your city and date and you will be given a list of satellites that are visible for that night or morning.
To spot the X-37, you should look for the OTV-4 listings.
In the instance the OTV 4 has landed, keep in mind there are plenty of other satellites to view from our Arizona skies!
Get your personal October star chart by going here.
See you on the radio!
- Astronomers around world working to solve fast radio burst mystery
- This weekend will be the best time to view the summer Milky Way
- Get ready for the Perseids, the best meteor shower of the year
- NASA to launch Parker Solar Probe in August; will orbit Sun for 6 years
- Check out the ‘Summer Triangle’ of bright stars this month