February 24, 2024

SpaceX is supposed to launch a mysterious glider into space

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The X-37B space glider looks like a small “space shuttle”. A mysterious little spaceship has been orbiting Earth without a pilot – most recently for more than 900 days. (Archive photo) © IMAGO/US Space Force

Is it used for spying? Or just to test new space technologies? There are many rumors surrounding the X-37B military space glider.

Kennedy Space Center – at first glance it looks like the famous “Space Shuttle” of the American space organization NASA: the X-37B space glider. But the spaceship is actually much smaller, and shrouded in mystery. The X-37B space glider is manufactured by Boeing and operated by the US Air Force and Space Forces. Its next launch is imminent: On the night of December 28-29, a SpaceX “Falcon Heavy” rocket is scheduled to carry the X-37B into space again from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was scheduled to be released in mid-December, but was previously postponed.

It is unclear how long the journey to Earth’s orbit will last this time. But the stay in space is likely to be longer, judging by previous missions. Each X-37B flight into space took several hundred days. There are no people on board. After its last launch into Earth orbit to date, the X-37B orbited the Earth for a full 908 days – the longest sojourn in space for a glider to date.

8.92 metres
2.9 metres
4.55 metres
Gallium arsenide solar cells with lithium ion batteries

SpaceX is supposed to launch the mysterious X-37B glider into space

What a spacecraft does in Earth orbit is a big secret. Some cargoes – for example NASA’s own experiments – have become known from previous launches. Small satellites are also regularly launched by the space glider. However, it is unclear what other purposes the US military’s “space plane” is used for. The payload of the glider, which can land on the runway like an airplane, is largely shrouded in secrecy.

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In light of this, it’s clear that rumors are starting to mount: as early as 2010, there was speculation that the X-37B glider could be used as a spy satellite or bring weapons into space. It is also suspected that the glider will spy on the former Chinese space station “Tiangong-1”. Rumors of spying persist, but there are no confirmations.

The mysterious X-37B space glider takes off on a Falcon Heavy rocket.

The US Army Space Shuttle can change its orbit in Earth’s orbit – allowing observers from Earth to lose sight of the X-37B for a period of time and allowing it to carry out its secret activities. The planned launch of the mysterious glider with SpaceX is already the seventh flight into space. According to official military information, the X-37B will be used primarily to test new space technologies. What is really behind it will remain a secret. (unpaid bill)