Obscure Orbits


Rilee Whinery, Reporter

Since its debut launch in April 2010, followed by its return to space in May of 2020, the unmanned X37B space plane currently remains in mysterious orbit. Having gone on six total missions in over a decade, its purpose is still classified, and with little information known about the details of the spacecraft.

The real mission behind X37B is still unclear. The U.S Space Force has refused to release any details on the true reason behind X37B’s launch, even going as far as cutting off the live broadcasting of the spacecraft’s launch in order to keep its details hidden in secrecy. There is not much known about X37B, but below is some of the little information the public has been able to scrounge up over the years about the spaceplane.

The obscure X37B has been in the works since the late 1990s and has gone on a total of six unmanned missions; all classified by the US Space Force. Its first mission began with a launch on April 22, 2010, followed by other launches in 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, and began its sixth and current mission with a launch in May of 2020. It is presently unknown how long the sixth mission will last and when X37B will come back from orbit.

According to Interesting Engineering, the overall cost of Space X37B totals up to $192 million USD. The budget was unknown for a long period of time; however, the information was released alongside the May launch in 2020. The dimensions of Space X37B were also released, which was rather a shock due to the secrecy of the spaceplane. The unmanned X37B stands 9.6 feet tall, with a wingspan of 14.11 feet. The length of the spaceplane is 29.3 feet, and with a payload capacity of 500 lbs.

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) has yet to divulge any further details regarding Space X37B. This by far is the most secretive space mission the U.S Space Force has conducted, which leads to much speculation of the purpose behind its orbit. Many theorists believe the spaceplane is being used as more than just a spy or science experiment, but also a weapon or possible war preparation.