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米空軍X-37B機が780日の軌道滞在から帰還 (USAF X-37B Completes 780-Day Mission)

Credit: U.S. Air Force

米国空軍が所有する無人宇宙船「X-37B」が10月27日未明、フロリダのアメリカ航空宇宙局 (NASA) のケネディ宇宙センターで予告なしで着陸し、780日間におよぶ低地球軌道での極秘ミッションを終えた。

2つのボーイング製有翼軌道間輸送機(OTV)の1つで、SpaceX ファルコン9ロケットに搭載され2017年9月7日に打ち上げられたX-37Bは、東部夏時間(EDT)午前3時51分、スペースシャトルの発射で以前使用した着陸帯に着陸した。

空軍の緊急能力局(Rapid Capabilities Office)ディレクター、ランディ・ウォルデン氏は「世界で唯一の再利用可能な宇宙船としてこれからも本プログラムを続行し、限界に挑み続けます」とコメントした。「X-37Bはすべてのミッションを無事完了し、いままでの最長飛行記録を塗り替える長期間にわたる飛行を終えて帰還しました」

展開太陽電池パネルを搭載し、4 x 7フィートの貨物室とオプションのロボットアームを備えたX-37Bは、米国空軍が関心を示している新技術、機器、貨物室の軌道テストベッドとして機能することを目的に開発された。なお、プログラムの詳細は明らかにされていない。

「米国にとってそれは宇宙において重大なリスクとなり得ることに備え、大量購入への準備や誰がどのように宇宙の未来を担うかについてしっかりとした理解を得るための実験を行っています」とウォルデンは10月24日の米空軍協会 (Air Force Association)が開催した朝食イベントで語った。

The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B robotic spaceplane completed a classified, 780-day mission in low Earth orbit on Oct. 27 with an unannounced, predawn touchdown at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The X-37B, one of two Boeing-built winged Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) spaceplanes, launched on Sept. 7, 2017, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and touched down on the landing strip once used by the space shuttle at 3:51 a.m. EDT, the Air Force said.

"This program continues to push the envelope as the world's only reusable space vehicle," Randy Walden, director of the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office, said in a statement. "With a successful landing today, the X-37B completed its longest flight to date and successfully completed all mission objectives.”

Powered by deployable solar array panels and featuring a 4 by 7-foot payload and optional robotic arm, the X-37B is intended to serve as an orbital testbed for new technologies, instruments and payloads of interest to the U.S. Air Force. Details of the program are classified.

‘We’re doing experimentation … primarily to buy down risk for things that can be very expensive in space and to get a good solid understanding for how we would prepare ourselves for either a large buy … or how one wants to operate in the future of space,” Walden said at an Oct. 24 Air Force Association breakfast event.

 


 

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As a subscriber to one of Aviation Week Network’s market briefings, your searches only provide you with access to articles from within that product.

To find out about obtaining additional data – including the most comprehensive details on organizations, fleets, personnel and programs – click here or call +1.561.279.4661.