The Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida today at 05:22 EDT this morning after 908 days in orbit, a new endurance record.
On Saturday (November 12, 2022), Boeing announced that their X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) touched down after its sixth mission at NASA’s Kenney Space Center in Florida this morning at 05:22. The vehicle set an endurance record after spending 908 days in orbit, surpassing the previous record of 780 days. With the successful completion of the sixth mission, the reusable X-37B OTV has now flown over 1.3 billion miles, spending a total of 3,774 days in space, conducting experiments for government and industry partners. Also, for the first time, the vehicle carried a service module to augment payload capacity, with the module separating from the OTV prior to de-orbiting ensuring a safe and successful landing.
In Saturday’s announcement, the U.S. Air Force’s Chief of Space Operations, General Chance Saltzman, said,
“This mission highlights the Space Force's focus on collaboration in space exploration and expanding low-cost access to space for our partners, within and outside of the Department of the Air Force (DAF).”
Also commenting on the successful sixth mission, Boeing’s SVP – Boeing Space and Launch, Jim Chilton, said,
“Since the X-37B’s first launch in 2010, it has shattered records and provided our nation with an unrivaled capability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologies. With the service module added, this was the most we’ve ever carried to orbit on the X-37B and we’re proud to have been able to prove out this new and flexible capability for the government and its industry partners.”
The sixth mission was launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in May 2020. Some of the onboard mission experiments included a solar energy experiment designed by the Naval Research Lab and a satellite designed and built by USAF Academy cadets, in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory. The satellite, called FalconSat-8, was successfully deployed in October 2021 and remains in orbit. The mission also hosted several NASA experiments, including the Materials Exposure and Technology innovation in Space (METIS-2), which evaluated the effects of space exposure on various materials, as well as an experiment to evaluate the impact of long-duration space exposure on seeds.
The Boeing-Built X-37B Reusable Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) Lands at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, November 12, 2022, After Setting a New Endurance Recod - Courtesy Boeing
The X-37-B is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the U.S. Space Force. Boeing designed and manufactured the reusable spaceplane, and continues to provide program management, engineering, testing and mission support from sites in Florida, Virginia and Southern California.