Since its return to Earth earlier this month, engineers have been pouring over the Air Force’s X-37B orbital test vehicle (OTV-1) to glean lessons for the maiden launch of the second X-37 (OTV-2) next spring. “We’ve got to examine this vehicle that just landed and see if there’s anything in there that would [tell us] we’re not ready to go launch yet,” stated Richard McKinney, USAF’s deputy under secretary for space programs, reports Spaceflight Now. Inspection of OTV-1 has revealed several areas of damage by space debris. One of the vehicle’s tires also ruptured during its Dec. 3 landing at Vandenberg AFB, Calif. Boeing is preparing to ship OTV-2 to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for its mission. Like OTV-1’s time on orbit, OTV-2’s flight will focus on evaluating the vehicle itself as opposed to focusing on payloads. (See SAF/PA report by TSgt. Amaani Lyle) (See also FlightGlobal report)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.