The Pentagon's secretive X-37B space plane is another example of the application of artificial intelligence and robotics in activities related to the world of space. This unmanned aerial vehicle, developed by Boeing for the USAF, went into orbit in 2017 riding a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It has returned to earth after spending 780 days in space. During this period, it was engaged in various predefined tasks of a secret nature. This mission was the fifth flight mission under the Orbital Test Vehicle program of the Air Force. Authorities are tight-lipped about the top-secret mission but a senior official has said, “The plane had successfully completed all mission objectives.”

ABC AU says the duration of the current mission was longer when compared to that of the earlier X-37B mission that lasted 718 days and returned to base in 2017.

Secrecy surrounding the project is understood because its success would boost the confidence level of the armed forces. The project is classified in nature and handled by a specialist agency. Director Randy Walden explained about the mission and said it conducted several experiments and provided transportation for small satellites.

Visions of the US Space Force

X-37B missions appear to be the precursor to the proposed US Space Force. The Pentagon wants to rely on space technologies and recently created the US Space Command. It now wants Congress to grant approval to fund the Space Force. Once it becomes operational, it could begin operating as another branch of the military. The objective is to develop capabilities in space that will ensure America’s superiority in the domain.

This space plane can undertake a range of activities based on set programs and is an extension of technologies used on robotic vehicles.

ABC AU goes on to add It was in orbit in space for more than two years, 780 days to be precise. That, in itself, is a major achievement and a possible future scenario of a high degree of automation.

Its possible source of power must have been some form of Renewable Energy.

Mystery surrounds the X-37B space plane

According to CNN, another X-37B space plane has successfully completed 780 days in orbit and landed back safely. It was the fifth one over the past decade, and the duration of flights has increased progressively.

A tentative date for the sixth mission is 2020. There is mystery about these top-secret missions and speculations are rife about their deployment. This aerial vehicle could augment the capabilities of spying or be a vehicle to test out space weapons. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is handling the project. It is associated with "warfighting technologies" for a number of strategic sectors related to air, space and cyberspace and the X-37B is designed to test new navigation systems. Hence, it could play a major role in defense sectors of the United States in days to come.