The previous record of the longest orbital stay of 780 days before returning to the ground also belonged to X-37B. Now the same record was improved to 908 days of uninterrupted stay in space.
The robotic Orbital Test Vehicle Boeing X-37B first went into Earth’s orbit in 2010. Since then, it has broken multiple records. But even today this space plane still remains largely secret.
After completing its long-duration mission yesterday, this reusable space plane already has 3,774 of flight time on its clock, with a combined flight distance of over 1.3 billion miles. Boeing, however, does not tell much about the specifics of experiments that were carried out on the X-37B during the 908-day flight, or during any previous missions.
It is known that this time it carried a solar energy experiment designed by the US Naval Research Lab with the aim to research the possibility of converting solar energy to microwaves, for investigating opportunities to beam this energy back to Earth.
X-37B also carried a satellite developed by the US Air Force Academy jointly with the Air Force Research Laboratory. This satellite contained five experimental payloads, one of which was designed to test a new type of electromagnetic propulsion system. Other experiments contained a MetaMaterial Antenna project, RF cabling with carbon nanotube braiding, a reaction wheel modified to store energy, and a SkyPad project designed to test commercial cameras and GPUs integrated into the small-size high-efficiency package.
It’s probably safe to assume that these experiments were primarily for military purposes, but for now, it’s just a guess.
Additionally, several NASA-led experiments were conducted onboard the X-37B to evaluate the effects of space exposure on different materials and plant seeds, with the aim to further our understanding of possibilities of the deep space travel.