Plan for Manned Version of X-37B Revealed

Space plane would carry people, cargo to international space station.

X-37B

X-37B

USAF

A manned version of the X-37B space plane could be in the works, according to a paper recently delivered by Arthur Grantz, chief engineer of Space and Intelligence Systems’ Experimental Systems Group at Boeing.

The paper describes the proposed space plane, called X-37C, as a vehicle that would be approximately twice the size of the X-37B, the unmanned space plane operated by the United States Air Force for missions that have been shrouded in secrecy.

The new, crewed space plane would serve as a ferry for both cargo and people traveling to and from the International Space Station. By building upon the same qualities as the X-37B, which experiences only 1.5 Gs during re-entry, the X-37C would allow for the transport of delicate experimental material, something currently not supported by Russian spacecraft or commercial spacecraft.

At approximately 48 feet in length, the X-37C would be around 165 to 180 percent larger than the X-37B and would have room for five or six astronauts. The space plane bears some resemblance to the X-38 Crew Return Vehicle designed by Scaled Composites, which was canceled in 2002 because of budget constraints.