Secret X-37B Space Plane

Mar 29, 2011 1 Comment by


This video by Canadian sky watcher Kevin Fetter shows the X-37B space plane, known as the Orbital Test Vehicle 2. as it passed over his site on March 24, 2011.

After an intense search, a crew of amateur satellite sleuths has spotted the U.S. Air Force’s second X-37B space plane – a robotic spacecraft that launched into orbit March 5.

The mission of the unmanned X-37B space plane, which is known officially as the Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2), is shrouded in secrecy. The Boeing-built spacecraft is believed to be involved in reconnaissance — perhaps testing powerful sensors for a new generation of spy satellites. It looks much like a small version of NASA’s space shuttles and blasted off from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In this artist’s conception, an Atlas V rocket jettisons its payload fairing to release the second X-37B space plane during the Air Force’s Orbital Test Vehicle 2 mission in March 2011.

The second Boeing X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, built for the U.S. Air Force, is shown here during encapsulation within the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket’s 5-meter fairing at Astrotech in Titusville, Fla., on Feb. 8, 2011. The Air Force launched the new space plane from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 5.

X-37B Space plane Info graphic

The second Boeing X-37B Orbital test Vehicle, built for the U.S. Air Force, is shown here during encapsulation within the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket’s 5-meter fairing at Astrotech in Titusville, Fla., on Feb. 8, 2011. The Air Force launched the new space plane from the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 5.

The Air Force’s X-37B space plane, set to fly the OTV-2 mission, is shown inside its rocket nose cone before being mated to its Atlas 55 booster for launch from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in March 2011.

The Air Force’s mission emblem for the secretive OTV-2 space plane flight using a robotic X-37B spacecraft is visible as the vehicle is mated to its Atlas 5 booster in preparation for launch from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

An Atlas 5 carryng Air Force’s second X-37B space plane on its secretive OTV-2 mission rolls out to the seaside launch pad for launch.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket with the Air Force’s second X-37B robot space plane, the Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2), rolls out to its Space launch Complex-41 launch pad on March 3, 2011, one day before launch. The OTV-2 supports space experimentation, risk reduction and concept of  operations development for long duration and resuable space vehicle tech.

Now being readied for an orbital shakeout, the X-37B (shown here in an illustration) is an unpiloted military space plane. Launched from Florida, the vehicle will make an auto-touchdown in California.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket carrying the Air Force’s second X-37B robot space plane, the Orbital Test Vehicle 2 (OTV-2), launches from its Space Launch Complex-41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on March 5, 2011 at 5:46 p.m. EST.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center image shows on-orbit functions for the reusable X-37 space plane, now under the wing of the U.S. Air Force.

This exploded view details the components of the Atlas V 501 vehicle. The configuration consist of a single Atlas V booster stage and the Centaur upper stage, with the OTV mission encapsulated within the payload fairing.

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One Response to “Secret X-37B Space Plane”

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