The US Space Force launched the X-37B rocket on Thursday. It's a reusable spaceplane that looks a bit like a mini space shuttle. What will they do with all this?
It is now the seventh flight of the X-37B. Last time, the spacecraft spent more than 900 days in Earth orbit. Although it is not known how long it will take this time, flights have become longer so far. The first voyage was the shortest: it took 224 days.
But even though it has been more than 13 years since the X-37B's first flight, little is known about the spacecraft or what it is used for. International media call it “mysterious” for this reason. However, the US Space Force provided it Some details About the last mission of the X-37B.
Seeds and question marks
During this flight, the spaceplane will carry plant seeds into space for the second time. The goal is to expose them to the inhospitable environment of space. Once back on the ground, the impact on the plant's life cycle is being studied. The ultimate goal is to see if it will later be possible to grow plants in space, for example for long-term manned missions to Mars.
Experiments are also underway on “future space domain awareness technologies.” According to the Space Force, the tests will be “essential” to “ensure safe, stable and secure operations in space for all domain users.” However, it is not clear what this means. For example, it is not known whether military capabilities are being tested.
From the general project to the military project
Initially, the aircraft's purpose was to fly to satellites and repair them. NASA has already done that Announced in 1999. The idea was to have a vehicle that would go into space on the Space Shuttle and then fly on its own to the satellites. Ultimately, this plan was scrapped because it would be too expensive and the spaceplane was modified to fly into space on a rocket.
In 2004, the project was transferred to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of defense responsible for developing new military technologies. Since then, the X-37B has become a bit more “mysterious” as it has become a secret project. The goal shifted from practical to geopolitical: the plane had to ensure the independence of the United States in space against other countries such as Russia.
China's space plane is also mysterious
In recent years, another major player has emerged in the new race to space. China, which has rapidly developed a space program, has been flying its own version of the X-37B for several years. According to experts, it is directly based on the American car. Earlier this month, the Chinese aircraft was sent into space for the third time. However, we don't know much more about it: little is known about the Chinese version.
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