The Boeing-built X-37B Autonomous Orbital Test Vehicle completes its sixth mission and sets a new endurance record

  • The vehicle spent 908 days in orbit before landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
  • This mission marks the first time the vehicle has housed a service module that has successfully conducted experiments for the Naval Research Laboratory, the US Air Force Academy and other partners.

The Boeing-built Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) X-37B set a new endurance record after spending 908 days in orbit before landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:22 a.m. ET on November 12, 2022 . This surpassed its previous record of 780 days in orbit.

With the successful completion of its sixth mission, the reusable spaceplane has now flown over 1.3 billion miles and spent a total of 3,774 days in space conducting experiments for government and industry partners, with the possibility of returning them to Earth for evaluation.

For the first time, the vehicle carried a service module to increase the number of payloads it can carry. The module separated from the OTV prior to de-orbiting to ensure a safe and successful landing.

This mission underscores the Space Force’s focus on collaborating on space exploration and expanding cost-effective access to space for our partners inside and outside the Department of the Air Force (DAF).‘ said General Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations.

The sixth mission was launched in May 2020 on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Air Force Academy in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory. The satellite, named FalconSat-8, was successfully deployed in October 2021 and is still in orbit today.

Several NASA experiments also took place on this mission, including the Material Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space (METIS-2), which evaluated the effects of space exposure on various materials to validate and improve the accuracy of space environment models. This was the second flight for this type of experiment. Mission 6 also hosted a NASA experiment to assess the effects of long-term space exposure on seeds. This experiment informs research aimed at future interplanetary missions and the establishment of permanent bases in space.

Since the X-37B’s initial launch in 2010, it has broken records and given our nation an unrivaled ability to rapidly test and integrate new space technologiessaid Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch. “With the service module added, this was the maximum we have ever put into orbit on the X-37B and we are proud to be able to demonstrate this new and flexible capability for the government and their industry partners.”

The X-37B program is a partnership between the US Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the US Space Force. Boeing designed and manufactured the spaceplane and continues to provide program management, engineering, testing and mission support from locations in Southern California, Florida and Virginia.

In 2020, the X-37B received the Robert J. Collier Trophy for improving aircraft and spacecraft performance, efficiency and safety.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., November 12, 2022

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