The recent X-37B spaceplane mission has confirmed some earlier speculations by experts. Launched on December 28 atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, the spacecraft hinted at reaching higher altitudes than its previous missions, which had stayed in low-Earth orbit.
Tomi Simola, a satellite tracker from Finland, noticed an unidentified object using a sky-watching camera. This finding, shared on social media and a satellite tracking forum, suggests that the X-37B is indeed flying in a highly elliptical orbit, ranging between 201 and 24,133 miles in altitude.
Amateur observations align closely with predictions made before the launch, based on Falcon Heavy’s trajectory data. Despite the Space Force’s silence on the matter, hobbyists managed to locate the spaceplane within six weeks of its launch.
The X-37B, resembling a miniature version of NASA’s space shuttle orbiter, is reusable and designed for extended missions in space. Equipped with a cargo bay and service module, it carries various payloads for experimental purposes. However, the specifics of its current mission remain classified.
While speculation abounds regarding the X-37B’s purpose, analysts suggest it serves as a testbed for new space technologies rather than a weapons platform. The spaceplane’s unusual orbit raises questions about its role in testing infrared sensors for early warning satellites, although this remains speculative.
Despite the secrecy surrounding the X-37B, its current whereabouts are no longer a mystery, thanks to diligent amateur satellite trackers like Tomi Simola.