X-37B photographed in orbit


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X-37B as seen by telescope
Click for full image.

An amateur astronomer this week was able to get a photograph of the X-37B presently in orbit about 200 miles high.

The [X-37B] is a small version of the classic Space Shuttle, it is really a small object, even at only 300 km altitude, so dont expect the detail level of ground based images of the real Space Shuttle. Considering this, the attached images succeeded beyond expectations. We can recognize a bit of the nose, Payload Bay and tail of this mini-shuttle with even a sign of some smaller detail.

The image on the right, reduced and cropped to post here, shows the image with a graphic of the spacecraft in comparison.

The graphic assumes the X-37B’s cargo door is open, but the actual image does not match this, to my eye. Instead, it appears partly open, with some kind of large object protruding from the cargo bay.

This X-37B spacecraft, one of two the Air Force flies, was launched by SpaceX in September 2017 and has now been in space more than 664 days, with no indication yet when it will return to Earth. The present record is 718 days for the longest X-37B flight, set by the Air Force’s other X-37B. It appears likely that this spacecraft will exceed that record.

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4 comments

  • BSJ

    The really amazing thing is he captured the image while manually tracking it! I’ve tried tracking the ISS a few times with my 10″ Dob. It ain’t easy!!!

    Also, is there anyone that still thinks that anything in orbit can be kept “secret”?

    If a guy in his backyard can track and image your super secret satellite, what could possibly be hidden from a well funded national program?

  • Wodun

    Safe bet it will stay up long enough to beat the record. That is what the have done with every flight. What I don’t recall is if the two have ever both been operational at the same time. They are supposed to do anither launch sometime this year.

    If it wasn’t for the giant reflector, getting a picture would have required a mire creative process.

  • Wodun: The two X-37Bs have never been in orbit at the same time.

  • wodun

    That’s what I thought but wasn’t sure. That gives a window for when the current one will land.

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