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The X37B is a secret military unmanned mini-space shuttle, which as been orbiting the Earth for nearly two years on its fourth flight.
originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: BASSPLYR
A little of both. They were doing some of the same, and doing the equivalent of a long soak of the ion thrusters, and something new.
The Hall thruster experiment is a partnership between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), and Rapid Capabilities Office (CRO) and is based on the thrusters used on the first three AEHF satellites.
Once in operation, the experiment will use telemetry to record thruster performance and the thrust it puts on the spacecraft. The Air Force says that the results will be used to improve thruster and environmental models, and to better extrapolate ground test results to actual on-orbit performance.
"Space is so vitally important to everything we do," says Major General Tom Masiello, AFRL commander. "Secure comms, ISR, missile warning, weather prediction, precision navigation and timing all rely on it, and the domain is increasingly contested. A more efficient on-orbit thruster capability is huge. Less fuel burn lowers the cost to get up there, plus it enhances spacecraft operational flexibility, survivability and longevity."