Top Secret Space Plane Lands After Almost 2 Years In Orbit
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October 17, 2014:

A top secret U.S. Air Force space plane landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California after a 674-day orbital mission. The vehicle, called the X-37B Space Plane, resembles a scaled down version of the Space Shuttle and carries no crew; it was operated remotely and landed by itself.

It was originally launched on December 12, 2012 on an Atlas V booster. The launch itself was not secret, and its orbit at 180 miles above the earth was observed by amateur astronomers, but the mission still is. What is known is that the X-37B Space Plane has cargo space large enough to carry a payload about the size of a truck bed.

Some have speculated that the mystery payload contained survelience equipment to spy on the space programs of other countries, such as China's Tiangong-1 prototype space station. Other guesses range from biological experiments to an automated mini-factory to produce perfect zero-g ball bearings. Or it could be that the payload is irrelevant and the mission was just a test to see how well the Space Plane works.


Game and Story Use

  • What is the X-37B's secret cargo?
    • Survelience equipment spying on Chinese satellites?
    • Alien life-forms recovered from low earth orbit?
    • Are we sure that there was no crew on board? Maybe it was a test to see if the Space Plane could be used as a space lifeboat over an extended period.
    • This assumes that it brought something back … perhaps it was on a delivery run instead and had to wait in orbit to rendezvous with the recipient, possibly a recipient coming from a very long way away using a system with a significant margin of uncertainty as to the arrival time (hence the two year mission).
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