Astronomer photographed a secret US spaceplane in Earth orbit

Renowned amateur astronomer from the Netherlands Ralph Vandeberg spent several months to track down a secret American orbital plane (space plan) X-37B in orbit and take a picture with a telescope. Despite the limited resolution of the images, this is another piece of information that gradually helps to understand what the most mysterious modern spacecraft is.

Of course, the miracle did not happen and the X-37B takes a few dozen pixels in the image – it’s almost impossible to get a higher quality image and resolution using amateur technology. However, even from such a photo, one can judge that the spaceplane is in orbit with the solar panels laid out and the open payload compartment. At the time of the shooting on July 2, the orbital plane had been in space for 657 days, which is not a record for this model. Unmanned shuttle hit the frame at an altitude of 340 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.

To “catch” such a unique prey, Ralph took several months of calculations and observations. Visually discovering the spaceplane turned out in May, but when a couple of weeks later it was time to shoot, the ship was no longer in the same orbit – he maneuvered. Re-see the X-37B was only possible with the help of a network of the same enthusiasts and amateur astronomers, and the pictures were taken on June 30 and July 2. Sula around, Vandeberg became the first civilian who photographed the secret shuttle in working position.

Reusable unmanned spacecraft Boeing X37 was created by order and with the direct participation of the US Air Force. Its structure and characteristics remain secret – only dimensions and weight were published: 8.9 meters long, 4.55 meters wide at the tips of the wings, the maximum weight was 4.99 tons, and the cargo hold had dimensions of 2.1 x1.2 meters. Very few photos or videos of this spaceplane can be found on the network, and its tasks are not disclosed in detail. All questions about the appointment of X-37B, representatives of US government agencies say that this is a test apparatus for conducting orbital experiments in the interests of the Ministry of Defense. It is known for certain that the automatic shuttle can independently change the orbit over a wide range, spend almost two years in space and then return to the home airfield in California.