A skywatcher in the Netherlands has an extraordinary experience of witnessing the U.S Air Force’s Super-Secret X-37B space place last April 11. However, the launch of the said plane was not a secret. According to SpaceX statement, “The robotic craft, made by Boeing, took off on its fifth mission on September 7, 2017, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.”
The lucky guy who spotted the plane in the Netherlands was Cees Bassa. According to him, at first, he didn’t realize that he had seen the spycraft which appears like a mini space shuttle when seen up close. However, he was curious about the object’s circular orbit that was inclined around 54.5 degrees and has an altitude of 220 miles (355 kilometers) above Earth.
Based on those estimates, he realized that the flying object could be the fifth mission of the X-37B that is also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-5 for the fifth mission). According to Leonard David, a Space Insider columnist, “A similar sighting was reported by Russell Eberst in Edinburgh, Scotland in October 2017.”
Meanwhile, to prove that it was the X-37B, the following are some of the aspects that space community revealed. Ted Molczan, a satellite analyst in Toronto, told Inside Outer Space, “I found with very slight tweaks, the preliminary orbit that Cees had posted could be made to fit both his and Russel’s observations.”
More importantly, the orbit passes about 2 degrees longitude of Cape Canaveral during the time of the launch which makes a plausible identification of the space plane X-37B. In addition to that, the Air Force also noted that this present OTV mission has the highest inclination to date. Up to the present, the best inclination has reached for the X-37B was 43.5 degrees on its third mission.
Molczan stated that “Cees recovered the object which can now be identified beyond reasonable doubt as OTV-5.” Since its first flight way back on April 22, 2010, the X-37B had already received a lot of press for its secret status. Some said that the space plane is like a space weapon.
Moreover, the four completed missions of the said space plane have reached 2,085 days in orbit. Each of successive mission breaking the previous endurance record. But, no one knows how long the current mission is.