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Science and Technology: X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle General Characteristics

  • Primary Mission: Experimental test vehicle
  • Prime Contractor: Boeing
  • Height: 9 feet, 6 inches (2.9 meters)
  • Length: 29 feet, 3 inches (8.9 meters)
  • Wingspan: 14 feet, 11 inches (4.5 meters)
  • Launch Weight: 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms)
  • Power: Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells with lithium-Ion batteries
  • Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V (501)

Source: U.S. Air Force

What is the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle?

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold: reusable spacecraft technologies for America's future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Based on NASA's X-37 design, the unmanned OTV is designed for vertical launch to low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long duration space technology experimentation and testing. Upon command from the ground, the OTV autonomously re-enters the atmosphere, descends and lands horizontally on a runway. The X-37B is the first vehicle since NASA's Shuttle Orbiter with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis, but with an on-orbit time of 270 days, the X-37B can stay in space for much longer. Source: U.S. Air Force

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