The mysterious Boeing X-37B

Global Aviator|July 2020

The mysterious Boeing X-37B
Built by Boeing’s Phantom Works division, the X-37 program was originally started by NASA in 1999 but was transferred to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 2004 when it officially became a classified project.
Johan de Villiers

A Brief History of the X-37B

At a launch weight of just under 5 000 kilograms, the X-37B resembles the infamous space shuttle but is a lot smaller with a length of only 8.8 meters and a wingspan of 4.6 meters. For comparison, each space shuttle was 37 m long with a wingspan of 24 m. Stunningly, the top speed of the X-37B is in excess of 28 000 km/h which beats the SR 71 Blackbird by at least a factor of 8!

The solar-powered X-37B space plane launches vertically, just like the space shuttle, with the aid of a rocket and glides back to Earth for a normal runway landing. So far, United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket have been used to launch the X37B. All missions to date have launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida, whilst the latest mission will conclude with a return to the Shuttle Landing Facility runway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre, a few miles from the X-37B’s hangar.

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July 2020