07:13 GMT14 June 2021
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    Amateur satellite trackers have spotted the US Air Force’s secret mini space shuttle’s orbit around the Earth, a member of the US hobbyist group said Wednesday.

    “Observers this week spotted the craft flying overhead in a 194 by 202 mile orbit (312 x 325 km), tilted 38 degrees relative to the equator,” Ted Molczan, a respected satellite observing hobbyist, told Spaceflight Now online journal.

    “OTV 4 [Orbital Test Vehicle mission No.4] entered the lowest initial altitude of the program. The ground track nearly repeats every two days. This could be an indication of a surveillance mission, or it may offer some operational advantage I have yet to figure out,” Molczan added.

    The X-37B craft, already the fourth such probe orbited since the program was launched in 1999, was sent aloft May 20 from Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

    The Air Force revealed two experiments to be conducted on the current mission — an electric propulsion thruster test and materials exposure in the space environment, but much about the flight remains classified, including the orbit and mission duration.

    The Boeing X-37, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), is a reusable unmanned spacecraft. It is boosted into space by a launch vehicle, then re-enters Earth's atmosphere and lands as a spaceplane.

    Some experts believe the X-37B can be used to inspect and disable space satellites.

    The Pentagon denies the claim, insisting that the program is all about testing new technology.


    Pentagon's Mysterious X-37B Space Drone Heads Back Into Orbit
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    satellite trackers, orbit, X-37B, US Air Force, Ted Molczan, US
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