Next Generation Space Shuttle Sets Space Flight Record
The space shuttle lives on again. The US Air Force set a spaceflight-duration record yesterday with their new top-secret robotic X-37B space plane. At 6:43 a.m. EDT (1043 GMT), the X-37B surpassed the record with 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes of flight time.
The X-37B, built by Boeing, will be the military’s next generation reusable space vehicle. The vehicle is a fraction of the size of a classic space shuttle. In fact, it could fit into the cargo bay of a traditional shuttle. The X-37B’s cargo hold will also be equivalent in size to that of a pick up truck.
Despite the fact that the X-37B broke the spaceflight-duration record, the new record is nowhere near the longest space mission. NASA’s exploration rovers, as well as many satellites, often spend up to seven years on a mission. For example, NASA’s Curiosity Rover landed in 2012 on Mars and didn’t conclude its mission until 2019. Unfortunately, these rovers cannot support human life or be reused. The military needs a reliable spacecraft that can efficiently serve as a shuttle for space missions without fail.
The Air Force currently has two X-37B’s that measure 29 feet (8.8 meters) long by 9.6 feet (2.9 m) tall, with a wingspan of about 15 feet (4.6 m). So far, SpaceX’s Falcon rocket has given them a ride to space. The X-37B’s have been landing like a traditional plane at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The innovative technology of both NASA and the US Air Force will take us to the future of space flight through record-breaking time and speed, sustainability, and the support of human life.
Written by Alexander Fleiss, Edited by Ariel Silverstein & Lorenzo Lizzeri