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    Secretive X-37B: America’s Orbital Enigma and Space Strategy Unfolded

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    X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mockup” by rocbolt is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    In late 2023, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch vehicle achieved a successful launch, carrying the U.S. Space Force’s X-37B test platform into orbit, maintaining the spacecraft’s ongoing experimental and predominantly confidential mission.

    The December 28 mission marked the seventh launch for the X-37B, a spacecraft constructed by Boeing and utilized as a platform for testing novel technologies for the Defense Department and NASA. The spacecraft made its inaugural flight in 2010.

    Launched atop SpaceX’s formidable Falcon Heavy booster, the X-37B, often dubbed a “space bomber,” represents a pinnacle of automated technologies.

    Its previous 908-day mission, the longest for an orbital vehicle, not only showcased its endurance but also elicited concerns from global adversaries, about its secret operations in orbit.

    Formally designated as a test platform for pioneering space technologies, the X-37B is described by the Space Force as a “spaceplane.”

    The U.S. possesses two of these remarkable and groundbreaking aircraft in its arsenal. The X-37B’s activities are not solely restricted to clandestine military operations.

    From 2010 to 2022, six “OTV” missions were carried out, with several of them executed in collaboration with NASA, the country’s civilian space agency.

    Essentially, the Boeing-manufactured “spaceplane” bears a resemblance to a scaled-down version of the space shuttle.

    While formally designated as a platform for evaluating cutting-edge space technologies, the X-37B has sparked conjecture surrounding its plausible military uses.

    These include the capacity to transport nuclear weapons, interfere with adversary satellites, and function as an anti-ballistic missile defense system.

    The X-37B, shrouded in secrecy regarding its missions and capabilities, holds significant importance in the U.S.’s space and military strategy due to its advanced technology and orbital maneuvering capabilities.

    This has led to demands for heightened investments in the Space Force to capitalize on the X-37B’s strategic value.

    Commentators point to Russia’s Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) as a response to the X-37B’s speculated capabilities, implying a high-stakes orbital chess game between global superpowers.

    The X-37B’s adaptability also lends itself to non-nuclear strategic options, such as the deployment of kinetic “Rods from God,” which could deliver destruction with the force of a nuclear weapon without the radioactive aftermath.

    With its recent lift-off, the X-37B’s mission includes experimenting with space domain awareness technologies and examining the impact of radiation on materials.

    Relevant articles:
    The X-37B Could Be the U.S. Military’s Secret Space Bomber, The National Interest
    The secretive X-37B space plane is headed back into orbit with a boost from SpaceX, NBC News
    US Space Force sends X-37B craft on another secretive mission, C4ISRNet

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