Boeing X-37

X -37 is the designation of an experimental space plane, which was originally developed for NASA by Boeing Phantom Works, a subsidiary of Boeing. It is an unmanned, reusable space plane, whose structure is derived from the experimental X -40A glider.

History of development

Using the X -37 are both techniques and maneuvers such as the start and the re-entry will be tested in the Earth's atmosphere. Since the X -37, however, also can spend a long time in an Earth orbit, are used to supply energy in space gallium arsenide solar cells.

Originally, the X -37 was designed to be transported in the cargo bay of a space shuttle into orbit. As a result of the crash of the Columbia in February 2003, the X - 37 has been modified so that they can be launched on a Delta II undisguised. The Atlas V ( 501) was chosen as the launcher Later, as this made ​​it possible to accommodate to avoid aerodynamic problems when starting the X -37 under a fairing.

In September 2004, the U.S. military authorities DARPA took over the project to the development of NASA. From the summer of 2005 found test flights of the X- 37A prototype instead of the privately developed carrier aircraft White Knight of the company Scaled Composites. Currently, the Rapid Capabilities Office of the USAF directs the X -37B program.

The X -37B, the Earth at an altitude of up to 900 km orbit for over a year and should be ready for use again 15 days after their return to Earth. In orbit, the orbital height can be changed by means of an engine. Originally, the 29.3 kN and high -powered fuel - hydrogen peroxide was Rocketdyne AR2 engine 3 is provided, but this has been replaced during the course of development from a conventional hydrazine - drive system with 14.7 kN. In the 2.13 meter × 1.22 meter payload bay up to 250 kg of cargo can be transported.

An initial test of aerospace-grade variant X -37B ( OTV -1: Orbital Test Vehicle 1) in Earth orbit was originally planned for the summer of 2006; it took off but only on 22 April 2010 at 23:52 UTC clock. Served as a launch vehicle Atlas V ( 501), which brought the space plane from Cape Canaveral into space. This first flight ended after exactly 224 days, 8 hours and 24 minutes in orbit with a fully autonomous landing at Vandenberg AFB on December 3, 2010. Via the objectives of the mission and the intended use of the aircraft have been given no further details.

The second copy ( OTV -2) was 5 March 2011 successfully with an Atlas V ( 501) from Cape Canaveral. The X -37B was more than a year in orbit to perform system tests and military experiments. On June 16, 2012 ended OTV -2 's mission and landed after 469 days in space on the U.S. Air Force Base Vandenberg.