US space plane lands in space after 908 days

An unmanned US space plane landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday morning.

Why is this important?

In recent years, China appears to be playing catch-up in space travel. But for now, the United States remains the frontrunner in the new race to space.

the essence: On Saturday morning, the Boeing X-37B, a space shuttle-like test platform, touched down after a flight of at least 908 days. The company announced it in a press release.

  • The craft spent that time in Earth orbit, conducting scientific research. On board was a module in which, among other things, experiments were conducted by the US Navy and Air Force.
  • The space plane also placed the FalconSat-8 satellite in Earth orbit. It happened in October 2021. The satellite, created jointly with the US Air Force, is still operational.

noticeable: The X-37B has been tested since 2010. This latest flight is the sixth to be made with this model.

  • The space plane has now broken its own record. During a previous mission, X-37B spent about 780 days in orbit.
  • The plane has now traveled more than two billion kilometers, according to Phys.org. I did this over the course of 3,774 days. Since 2010, the prototype has been in space more than 80 percent of the time.
  • According to Boeing, the plane was originally designed to spend “only” 270 days in space at a time.

very: China has been testing since 2020 Your space plane. According to experts, the design is based on the X-37B.

  • Not much information is known about the Chinese variant. It is suspected that it first flew into space in September 2020. Two days later, the rig landed again on Earth. During that flight, it launched a satellite into orbit around the Earth.
  • Since August 4, 2022, the Chinese space plane has returned to space. This time too, it launched an object, possibly again a satellite. This could be useful for monitoring the aircraft’s performance, or testing whether it can launch effective payloads into Earth orbit.
  • It is not known how long the Chinese plane will spend in space. The US Space Force thinks it knows where it will land. It should happen at Lop Nur base in Western Province Xinjiang. Satellite imagery will already indicate that people on the ground at that base are becoming more active.
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