Currently, in orbit around the Earth, the X-37B has just broken its previous record with 718 days in orbit! Its main characteristic is precisely to be able to stay very long in orbit thanks to solar panels. Nevertheless, we know very little about the reason for the presence of such a device in low orbit.
In September 2017, the United States Air Force X-37B spacecraft took off, powered by SpaceX. At the time, the mission was initially planned to last only 270 days, but as Space.com explains in an article of August 26, 2019, the craft is still in orbit at the moment! The X-37B even broke its own record of 717 days, 20 hours, and 42 minutes spent orbiting our planet.
You should know that the machine is not very imposing, with its 9 meters long and its 4.6 meters wingspan for a weight of around 5 tons. On the other hand, the latter is rather robust and very enduring. This extreme longevity is made possible by the presence of solar panels on the hull, but also the absence of crew. Remember that the first flight took place in 2010 and lasted 224 days. At each new mission, the previous record was each time beaten by about 200 days. Who knows, this time the X-37B plane may exceed the 900-day mark.
What is the role of this plane?
To fly a plane as long to probe the harsh environment of the lower atmosphere is a source of questioning. The Pentagon has officially stated that this is scientific research, specifically for the study of the behavior of materials in space. These are experiments designed to secure the future of the United States in the space field, and which could be used for space exploration. In short, the plane itself is not exceptional, but the interest lies in what it contains.
Logically, speculation has been going well for years. The X-37B could carry experimental devices such as state-of-the-art cameras, unknown electronic sensors, or new tools to map the Earth. The fact is that the missions performed by the plane are classified top secret, so it is impossible to really know what is happening!