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Air Force gives a rare look at the research going to orbit in its X-37B spaceplane

The X-3 7B spaceplane sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, and its inscrutable past is similarly eloquent. What does the military put in this long-term orbital vehicle? Turns out it’s exactly the kind of neat, but not mind-blowing, discipline you’d expect to find in such a thing — though solar-powered masers do sound pretty cool.

Also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, the Boeing-designed X-3 7B has play-act five prior missions, amounting to a total of nearly eight years in trajectory; the last mission alone was 780 dates. But while the craft’s owners( the Air Force, though it is used by many others) “re proud to” tout its impressive longevity and reliability, they rarely if ever declared what they’re sending up, or what( if anything) it fetches down.

While it’s fun to think that it may be truly top secret Area 51 -type stuff, it’s much more likely that it’s just run-of-the-mill classified military study. The Defense Department bankrolls a huge amount of basic science as well as advanced technology, and some of that is bound to require testing in space. While we cherish and respect our Russian friends with whom we share the ISS, the Pentagon would seem to prefer they didn’t run its ventures, so the government has the X-3 7B.

US Air force experimental test spaceship moors after a record 780 daylights in orbit

On one party the Air Force said that the ship evaluations” advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, higher temperatures structures and shuts, conformal reusable insularity, lightweight electromechanical flight organizations, boosted propulsion plans, boosted the documentation and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing ,” which restricts it down a bit.

For the spaceplane’s sixth mission, the various departments involved have separated knowledge and given details on the payloads. That’s no small-time stunt, committed it’s an operation combining the source of the Air Force, Space Force, Naval Research Lab and NASA.

The most universally interesting venture has to be a solar-powered microwave laser, or maser, built by the NRL. The design” will alter solar energy into radio frequency microwave energy which could then be transmitted to the ground .”

Image Credits: U.S. U. s. air force generosity photo

The key word there is could, as this type of wireless energy transmission has been sought for decades. It’s iffy that a foot-wide solar cell can create enough exertion to be lighted to the surface in measurable stages, but proving the concept piece by piece is something that has to be done in space. And for all we know they’ve already transport variou precursor device up there on previous missions.

Don’t worry that this is some kind of orbital beam weapon that fries surface-dwellers: The total amount of energy collected by a foot-wide cell would be difficult to change into a use that’s destructive a few feet away, let alone 200 miles up through the part flavor. It could, however, be used to beam power to receptive spacecraft or( conceivably) to interfere with inadequately protected adversary spacecraft.

Two other experiments on board are from NASA, and they have to do with encounter how various components react to being exposed to the space environment.” One is a sample plate evaluating the reaction of select significant cloths to the conditions in space. The second studies the effect of ambient space radiation on grains ,” said U. s. air force Secretary Barbara Barrett.

Last — that we are all aware of — is FalconSat-8, an United states air force Academy planet this is gonna be performing its own unspecified experiments once released into its own orbit by the X-3 7B. It is itself” an educational platform that will carry five experimental payloads for USAFA to operate

This rather large number of parts being brought to space is realized possible by a “service module” affixed for the first time to the aft of the skill and containing some of the hardware.

It’s unknown how long this mission will be, but if it’s anything like the others, it will be on the order of months or years.

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