The U.S. Has A Space Plane That Has Been In Orbit Since 2012

fb share tweet share

X37BI don’t know about every craft the U.S. sends into orbit, nor am I familiar with all of the missions, but I do keep a pretty close watch on space news. Thus, I’m pretty surprised to learn that the U.S. Air Force has a space plane that’s been in Earth orbit for nearly 500 days.

The X-37B plane, which looks like a much smaller version—roughly 25% of the size—of a typical space shuttle, is carrying out a classified Orbital Test Vehicle 3 mission. It’s unclear what that means, given that it’s classified, but this is the third trip to the cosmos for the unmanned vehicle, which launched in December of 2012. In March, the shuttle took the title for the longest spaceflight. It’s also the world’s smallest robotic space plane.