Boeing announced its investment in Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Boeing will convert and update Orbiter Processing Facility-1, OPF-1, a former space shuttle facility, for its X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, a “secret” spacecraft that is currently orbiting Earth.
According to the announcement, OPF-1 will be converted for use for Boeing’s reusable unmanned spacecraft, the X-37B OBV. As part of the project, new technology and jobs will be created at the Kennedy Space Center.
Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, said in a statement, “We have seen the impact and visionary thinking Boeing and the Air Force bring to the Space Coast and we are pleased to work with NASA, Space Florida, Enterprise Florida and other key state and community partners to further diversify our space industry.” Financial and employment details were not disclosed in the announcement.
The Associated Press dubs the X-37B OTV as Boeing’s “secret” spacecraft, but that's mostly due to the lack of test flights and public updates on the project. As reported by Space.com, the third test flight of the unmanned X-37B, OTV-3, was launched on Dec. 11, 2012, by the United States Air Force from Cape Canaveral. Its mission and payload remain confidential. The first X-37B, OTV-1, was launched on Apr. 22, 2010, and landed on Dec. 2, 2010, while OTV-2 was launched on March 5, 2011.
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This lack of information has led to much speculation, and a quick YouTube search also uncovers some conspiracy theories. The X37-B OBV measures 29 feet, 3 inches and can reach Low-Earth Orbit, between 110 to 500 miles above the surface of the Earth. The X-37B is a quarter of the size of a NASA space shuttle and weighs less because of its “lighter composite structures.”
According to Boeing, “All avionics on the X-37B are designed to automate all de-orbit and landing functions. Additionally, there are no hydraulics onboard the X-37B; flight controls and brakes use electromechanical actuation.”
Boeing could be joined by SpaceX at Kennedy Space Center. NASA recently announced it was going to negotiate with SpaceX on lease terms for the historic Launch Pad 39-A, which was used for shuttle launches and for the Apollo missions. Launch Pad 39-A and the OPF-1 are part of Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center.