After nearly 22 months in orbit, and its second mission into space, NASA is giving the X-37 space drone the command to fire retro rockets and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere for its return voyage. This coming Tuesday will be the big event, however weather details and technical factors could skew the return in one direction or another.

x37b-space-plane-in-orbitThe X-37 space plane, also known as the “Orbital Test Vehicle” (OTV) blasted off on its super-secret mission into Earth orbit atop the mighty Atlas-5 rocket via sunny Cape Canaveral, Florida way back in 2012 on December 11th. The X-37 (for those of you who don’t know) is an unmanned vehicle that resembles a small space shuttle. At 29 feet long this guy isn’t really designed for the heavy load hauling of the old US Space Shuttles, nor does it seem even large enough for much human crew work. There’s space inside for humans but there is no need for anyone to steer, command, fly, or land this little monster.

So what the hell is this thing doing up there? Well NASA and the US Air Force ain’t tellin us….

So let your mind wander to the amazing possibilities of why NASA would be leaving a probe in geosynchronous orbit for 22 months at a time.