NASA/US Air Force X-37 flight demonstrator at Palmdale in preparation for drop tests from a Boeing-built NASA B-52 aircraft next year.

The X-37 is a full scale prototype of the planned Space Manoeuvring Vehicle (SMV) for the USAF and is also part of the NASA Space Launch Initiative's Future X technology development programme.

A spaceflight-version of the X-37 may fly aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003 on a re-entry and landing test. A small scale version of the X-37 has completed glide tests.

The USAF sees the SMV as a potential operational, versatile orbiter which could conduct independent flights with an on-board suite of payloads, such as sensors powered by a solar array on quick-reaction missions or to deploy operational satellites.

Source: Flight International