The X-37B is one of the world’s newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft, designed to operate in low-earth orbit, 150 to 500 miles above the Earth. The vehicle is the first since the Space Shuttle with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis. This United States Air Force unmanned space vehicle explores reusable vehicle technologies that support long-term space objectives.
- The vehicle features many elements that mark a first use in space, including:
- Avionics designed to automate all de-orbit and landing functions.
- Flight controls and brakes using all electro-mechanical actuation; no hydraulics on board.
- Built using a lighter composite structure, rather than traditional aluminum.
- New generation of high-temperature wing leading-edge tiles and toughened uni-piece fibrous refractory oxidation-resistant ceramic (TUFROC) tiles.
- Advanced conformal reusable insulation (CRI) blankets.
- Toughened uni-piece fibrous insulation (TUFI) impregnated silica tiles.
The X-37B has a lifting body-style and landing profile that is similar to the Space Shuttle, but the vehicle is one-fourth the size. The X-37B design combines the best of aircraft and spacecraft into an affordable system that is easy to operate and maintain.
The on-orbit duration of the X-37B will vary based on flight requirements but has the ability to perform flights lasting up to 270 days.
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