HomeAbout UsFact SheetsDisplay

X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle

The first X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle waits in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle April 5, 2010, at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla. Half of the Atlas V five-meter fairing is visible in the background. (Courtesy photo)

The first X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle waits in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle April 5, 2010, at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Fla. Half of the Atlas V five-meter fairing is visible in the background. (Courtesy photo)

In a testing procedure, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle taxis on the flightline in June 2009 at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. (Courtesy photo)

In a testing procedure, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle taxis on the flightline in June 2009 at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. (Courtesy photo)

Mission
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. The primary objectives of the X-37B are twofold; reusable spacecraft technologies for America’s future in space and operating experiments which can be returned to, and examined, on Earth.

Features
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. Based on NASA’s X-37 design, the unmanned OTV is designed for vertical launch to low Earth orbit altitudes where it can perform long duration space technology experimentation and testing. Upon command from the ground, the OTV autonomously re-enters the atmosphere, descends, and lands horizontally on a runway. The X-37B is the first vehicle since NASA’s Shuttle Orbiter with the ability to return experiments to Earth for further inspection and analysis, but with an on-orbit time of 270 days or greater, the X-37B can stay in space for much longer.

Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, avionics, high temperature structures and seals, conformal reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems, advanced propulsion systems, advanced materials and autonomous orbital flight, reentry and landing.

Background
The Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office is leading the Defense Department’s Orbital Test Vehicle initiative, by direction of the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and the secretary of the Air Force. The Air Force OTV effort uses extensive contractor and government investments in the X-37 program by the Air Force, NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to continue full-scale development and on-orbit testing of a long-duration, reusable space vehicle.

NASA’s original X-37 program began in 1999 and was transferred to DARPA in 2004. NASA envisioned building two vehicles, an Approach and Landing Test Vehicle, or ALTV, and an Orbital Vehicle. DARPA completed the ALTV portion of the X-37 program in 2006, executing a series of captive carry and free flight tests. DARPA successfully validated the flight dynamics and extended the flight envelope beyond the low speed/low altitude tests previously conducted by NASA on the X-40A, a sub-scale version of the X-37 developed by Air Force Research Labs. NASA’s X-37 Orbital Vehicle was never built, but it's design was the starting point for the Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle program.

The Air Force has successfully flown five X-37B missions, OTV-1 through OTV-5. All five missions launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., beginning with its first launch on April 22, 2010. OTV-1 through OTV-3 all landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., while OTV-4 and OTV-5 landed at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Through five completed missions, the X-37B has spent a total of 2,865 days on orbit, successfully checking out the X-37B’s reusable flight, reentry and landing technologies as well as operating experiments to benefit the national space community. The current mission, OTV-6, was launched on May 17, 2020 from Cape Canaveral on an Atlas V.

General Characteristics
Primary Mission: Experimental test vehicle
Prime Contractor: Boeing
Height: 9 feet, 6 inches (2.9 meters)
Length: 29 feet, 3 inches (8.9 meters)
Wingspan: 14 feet, 11 inches (4.5 meters)
Launch Weight: 11,000 pounds (4,990 kilograms)
Power: Gallium Arsenide Solar Cells with lithium-Ion batteries
Launch Vehicles: United Launch Alliance Atlas V (501) and SpaceX Falcon 9

(Current as of August 2020)

Engage

Twitter
Capt. Joseph Scerra, an F-15C Eagle pilot, is the first 159th FW pilot to complete a sortie w/ the F-35A. The miles… https://t.co/HCi9TnGn5S
Twitter
The 92nd Medical Group at @TeamFairchild, Washington, honed their skills during a week-long readiness exercise. Dir… https://t.co/RDEqLsy2hJ
Twitter
The Air Force Sustainment Center Contracting Directorate @RobinsAFB_GA hosted the First Look Program workshop. The… https://t.co/uhYMqYR5d5
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones launched her official Twitter account last week! Follow @UnderSecAF
Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: #OTD we celebrate the official end of #WWII and the anniversary of the formal signing of the Instrument of Surrender abo…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Actions meeting words: In his confirmation hearing, SecAF Kendall said: “Our military is people first and foremost.” Y…
Twitter
Lt. Gen. Robert Miller, U.S. Air Force Surgeon General, visited the Center for Sustainment of Trauma & Readiness Sk… https://t.co/Pv571RpgaW
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: SecAF's message to #Airmen on their extraordinary efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens & others from #Afghanistan: "You off…
Twitter
The @39thAirBaseWing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, reaches a milestone with its Agile Combat Employment program.… https://t.co/u4ucRL8duB
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: “We achieve deterrence by having a strong enough force that the potential enemy is afraid of us. That’s my job; to give…
Twitter
Airmen from Moody AFB, Georgia, conducted training near @SLDelta45 to prepare for operations supporting #SpaceX and… https://t.co/iBAAGOnsVn
Twitter
Reserve #Airmen from the @403rdWing at Kessler Air Force Base, Miss., joined over 250 Air Force Reservists and 4,0… https://t.co/yGq4xIPXbD
Twitter
A B-52 Stratofortress is rinsed off after a mission at Andersen AFB, Guam. Known as bird baths, this quick rinse… https://t.co/Q0N83eWt0V
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr was ceremoniously conferred a pin from the French Air and Space Force's Fighter Squadron 2/4 Lafayet… https://t.co/CLqypWZMPt
Twitter
#ICYMI - @USAF_ACC declared initial operational capability for the tactical air control party mobile communications… https://t.co/p09eQw9QXh
Twitter
RT @HQUSAFEAFAF: To date, @RamsteinAirBase has facilitated 42+ aircraft departures carrying more than 10,000 evacuees en-route to the USA a…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: With allies and partners, @INDOPACOM is committed to enhancing the stability in the Asia-Pacific region, by building secu…
Twitter
Aircraft and maintainers from across the #AirForce traveled to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to particip… https://t.co/w2xSJtXNr1
Twitter
RT @HollomanAFB: #Airmen continue to establish support facilities, while also creating additional infrastructure, for the arrival of Afghan…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,371,955
Follow Us