Watch a X-37B Space Plane Land Near a Space Shuttle Model

Two generations of reusable space planes came face to face — or nose to tail, rather — over a weekend.


On Sunday (May 7), a U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space craft landed during NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, jacket adult a goal that lasted an rare 718 days.

As a X-37B zoomed down a tarmac during KSC’s Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), it cruised past what seemed to be a NASA space shuttle. The juncture was differing for several reasons. First, a pairing shows only how tiny a X-37B is; it looks a fondle subsequent to a hulk shuttle. (Indeed, dual X-37B vehicles could fit inside a space shuttle’s cargo bay.) [The X-37B’s Fourth Mystery Mission in Photos]

The U.S. Air Force's X-37B space craft (right, on runway) approaches Inspiration, a full-size space convey mockup, shortly after touching down during Kennedy Space Center's Shuttle Landing Facility on May 7, 2017.
Credit: U.S. Air Force

And because is a space shuttle parked outward during a SLF? NASA’s convey module finished in Jul 2011, and all 3 flourishing space-flown orbiters are on arrangement in museums around a country. Endeavour is on arrangement during a California Science Center in Los Angeles, Discovery is during a National Air and Space Museum in a Washington, D.C., area and Atlantis is during a KSC Visitor Complex (located inside in a gorgeous museum display).

The convey out on a SLF, it turns out, is a full-size, wood-and-plastic indication called Inspiration. It was creatively built in 1972 by Rockwell International (then famous as North American Rockwell), to support a company’s eventually successful bid to build a genuine orbiters for NASA.

Technicians in protecting rigging work on a U.S. Air Force's X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle after a successful alighting during NASA's Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida on May 7, 2017. NASA's large Vehicle Assembly Building is manifest in a stretch during tip right.
Credit: U.S. Air Force

For some-more than 20 years, Inspiration had been parked outward a U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville, Florida, only west of KSC. But in Jan 2016, a mockup’s new owners, LVX System, changed it to a circuitously work yard. Then, in Apr of that year, Inspiration was rolled out to a SLF, where workers continue to remodel a vehicle.

Eventually, Inspiration will transport by boat along America’s waterways, permitting people around a nation to see a full-size space convey (or a indication of one, during least), LVX System member have said.

 The mockup space convey Inspiration was rolled past a Vehicle Assembly Building on a approach to a Shuttle Landing Facility during NASAs Kennedy Space Center on Apr 27, 2016.
Credit: LVX System

The Air Force is famous to possess dual X-37B vehicles, any of that was built by Boeing. The 29-foot-long (8.8 meters) space planes launch plumb and land horizontally, only like a space convey used to do.

These dual X-37Bs have flown a sum of 4 Earth-orbiting missions, any of that has been longer than a predecessors. The initial flight, famous as OTV-1 (short for Orbital Test Vehicle-1), launched in Apr 2010 and lasted 224 days. OTV-2 began in Mar 2011 and stayed aloft for 468 days; OTV-3 carried off in Dec 2012 and overwhelmed down 674 days later. OTV-4, a just-ended mission, launched on May 20, 2015.

All 4 OTV flights launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, that is subsequent doorway to KSC. The initial 3 landed during Vandenberg Air Force Base in California; OTV-4 was a initial to come down during a SLF, which, before Sunday, hadn’t seen a touchdown since the Jul 2011 alighting of a space convey Atlantis.

It’s not transparent what a X-37B is doing while it circles Earth; many of a vehicle’s payloads and activities are classified. But Air Force officials have pronounced that a X-37B program’s categorical goals engage contrast technologies for destiny booster and reusable spaceflight systems, and holding experiments to space and returning them to Earth.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on Space.com.


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