Secret USAF X-37B space plane nears 674 days in orbit

The U.S. Air Force’s clandestine X-37B space plane is 8 days away from breaking the record for continuous unmanned orbital flight

(VERO BEACH, FLA) The U.S. Air Force’s top secret Boeing-made X-37B space plane began its current mission on May 20th 2015.

The Air Force is known to have two X-37B’s, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), and both have been used in four separate missions to date including the current flight.

Air Force spokeswoman Captain AnnMarie Annicelli would not confirm the landing date of the current X-37B mission, which has been dubbed OTV-4, but told Space.com via email that “the landing date will be determined based on the completion of the program's on-orbit demonstrations and objectives for this mission.” 

The crafts mission has been classified since its first launch on April 22, 2010 from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but Captain Annicelli did comment that the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) or Vandenberg Air Force Base in California could potentially be used for the X-37B landing.

"While the program has the capability to land at either KSC or Vandenberg, the landing location is determined by a variety of factors," Captain Annicelli said.

Because of its classified nature and its association with Vandenberg Air Force Base, the home for the secret “Star Wars” missile defense program , some have questioned whether the X-37B is related to America’s space weapons program or a space weapon itself.

Addressing speculation that the X-37B program is a space weapon, the Air Force has always held to the claim that the space plane is helping researchers conduct in-space experiments and test technologies.

"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 and autonomous orbital flight, re-entry, and landing," the Air Force's X-37B fact sheet states.

On March 1st Vandenberg Air Force Base was used to launch a classified National Reconnaissance Office payload into orbit. The National Reconnaissance Office manages the nation’s top-secret national security payloads.

Veteran satellite analyst Ted Molczan told CBS News that he believed the payload was a pair of Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) satellites used to track Russian and other military ships at sea.

An Army signals officer told TRUNEWS correspondent Edward Szall on Friday March 8th that this launch was likely a weaponized satellite. A second source who works with an operational CIA security element confirmed the existence of weaponized satellites technology.
 

The subject of weaponized non-nuclear satiellite weapons was discussed on the March 9th edition of TRUNEWS.

TRUNEWS copy, TRUNEWS analysis

Please contact TRUNEWS correspondent Edward Szall with any news tips related to this story.
Email: Edward.Szall@trunews.com | Twitter: @realEdwardSzall 
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