Dec 8, 2010
Science Scene - Space Plane, Who Knew?
The X-37B, an unmanned robotic space plane that has been in orbit since April 22, is described by the military as a means to test new materials and sensors in space and otherwise conduct longer unmanned missions in orbital space (the plane is designed to spend up to nine months in orbit). Like the Space Shuttles, the X-37B is reusable, landing on a terrestrial runway automatically at the end of its missions.
Unlike the shuttles, the mysterious Air Force project is not designed to carry human crews. At 29 feet 3 inches, it's not very big (and kind of hard to spot in orbit) but boasts a payload bay that can ferry experiments (or anything else) into space cheaply and quickly.
Have to say this was a pretty well kept secret, I did not know anything about it. Some secrets are safe from Wikileaks :o)