The US Air Force has taken its unmanned aerial system program to the next level – space. On 22 April 2010, the X-37B was launched into space from Cape Canaveral in an Atlas V Rocket. The X-37 is the first orbital test vehicle since the space shuttle that can return things from orbit.
The fact that the X-37 is unmanned provides a few advantages over the more well known Nasa space shuttle. The X-37 is smaller weighing in around 5 000 kg at launch and standing a little less than 3 m high and 9 m long. The space shuttle Endeavour is 37 m long and weighs 78 000 kg. The X-37 can also stay in orbit up to two hundred seventy days – ten times longer than the Endeavour.
The X-37 is scheduled to return from its test orbit in nine months.
Video credit: United launch Alliance, LLC