Tracking data during the 276-day flight of China’s copy of Boeing’S X-37B reusable mini-shuttle suggests that it tested docking and rendezvous operations with an object it released while in orbit.
U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron tracking data revealed an object in a closely-matching orbit to the spaceplane Oct. 31, 2022 (NORAD ID 54218 (2022-093J COSPAR ID)).
This companion subsatellite was then used in a series of rendezvous and proximity operations (RPO) with the spacecraft, according to Leolabs. “Analyzing data from our global radar network, we’ve determined that the Test Spacecraft2 has propulsive capability and engaged in proximity operations with Object J, including what appeared to be at least two and possibly three capture/docking operations,” a Leolabs statement said.
None of this is a surprise. Such reusable shuttles allow for a great deal of testing and experimentation in orbit, that can then be returned to Earth for analysis.
Hat tip Jay, BtB’s stringer.
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