U.S. Air Force preparing to send its classified, high-tech space plane back into orbit

The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious, classified space plane returned to Earth last year after spending a record 22 months in orbit doing ... something. Now it’s headed back to space. 

It’s been revealed the unmanned ship will launch on its fourth mission next month, though we don’t actually know what it'll be doing. That fits the status quo, since the military has not revealed any of the mission goals or objectives for the X-37B project in recent years. Best guess? They’re testing out new tech and equipment for space travel, but that’s about all we know. Second-best guess? Aliens.

Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director Randy Walden noted that the first three missions were a huge success (accomplishing whatever it was doing), and now they plan to shift the focus from “initial checkouts of the vehicle to testing of experimental payloads.” According to Space, the upcoming mission will be trying out an “experimental propulsion system.” We’re hoping this is Warp 1, but hey, we like to dream big. They’ll also be taking other equipment up to test its viability in space.

The solar-powered X-37B was built by Boeing’s Phantom Works division and measures 29 feet long by 9.5 feet tall. It’s similar in design to the space shuttle. No word on how long this mission will last, but considering the last one pushed the limit at almost two years, there’s no telling when we’ll see the X-37B again.

What do you think the Air Force is doing up there?

(Via Space)

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