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Ambarish Ganesh
Ambarish Ganesh • Jun 3, 2012

USAF's X-37B Space Plane Derives Power From Deployable Solar Panel

The US Air Force’s top-secret automated space plane, X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), shall return back to earth after a year-long stint in space. Though not much being known about this plane, it is indeed known that it has employed a deployable solar panel to power itself. Launched in March 5, 2011, the plane is scheduled to land at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California next month.


The X-37B works quite like an automated drone. With dimensions as 29 feet (8.8 meters) X 15 feet (4.5 m), it has a payload inlet as large as a pickup truck. The craft is attired with deployable Gallium arsenide solar cells that charge lithium-ion batteries for the craft’s internal structures. Established on NASA’s X-37 design, the unmanned OTV is developed for vertical launch and low Earth orbit altitudes. Its mission demands performing long-duration space technology experimentation and examination. When ordered from the ground, the OTV can re-enter the atmosphere, descend, and land on a runway, all by itself.

Hopes are pinned on the  X-37B to qualify as a dependable, reusable, unmanned space test platform that will assist in space experimentation with lesser risk, becoming a pioneer in development for reusable space vehicle technologies.

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