The question wasn’t if the US Air Force’s X-37B would break its own record for duration spent in orbit but the question was by how much?
Recently, the Boeing-made space plane touched down at Kennedy Space Center after 780 days in space, shattering its previous record of 717 days, 20 hours and 42 minutes. Astonishingly, the numbers of days expected from the reusable aircraft were 240 days and it clocked three times more than this as it finished its fifth mission.
According to Randy Walden, Director, USAF Rapid Capabilities Office, the aircraft met “all mission objectives.” It is pertinent to point out that all payloads on the X-37B are classified, and authorities only provide hints about it. From what we can gather, there is a thermal spreader that helped test “experimental electronics” along with a heat pipe cooling in long-term spaceflight. Walden did admit that the X-37B deployed “small satellites.”
Details on how the craft achieved this milestone are scarce since it was developed by Boeing alongside the US Air Force, so the secrecy may be warranted.