WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B autonomous spaceplane won the 2019 Collier Trophy, awarded annually by the National Aeronautic Association for American achievement in aviation and space, the NAA announced Aug. 13.
The X-37B was one of nine nominees that included NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft. The NAA said the X-37B won for “developing and employing the world’s only reusable, autonomous spaceplane, which logged more than 2,865 days in orbit across five missions, changing access to space and serving as the nation’s workhorse in space experimentation and technology.”
The reusable spaceplane is sent to low Earth orbit for long missions that can last up to two years. The Air Force operates two X-37B spacecraft made by Boeing.
The spaceplane is a derivative of the X-37A designed by NASA in the late 1990s to deploy from the space shuttle. The program later was transferred to the Defense Department and is now managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
Originally designed for missions of 270 days, the X-37B has set endurance records during each of its five completed flights. Its first mission launched in 2010. In 2019, the spaceplane broke its own on-orbit endurance record of 718 days.
The sixth mission of the X-37B spaceplane lifted off May 17, 2020, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Randall Walden, director and program executive officer of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the service plans to continue to support the X-37B program. “Right now we plan on keeping it,” he said Aug. 13 during a Mitchell Institute webinar. “There’s a lot of interest in reusable space vehicles.”
“The Collier Trophy celebrates the record-setting mission of the X-37B,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said in a statement. “The X-37B advances reusable spaceplane technologies and operates experiments in space that are returned for further examination on Earth.”
X-37B spaceplane wins Collier Trophy for advancing ‘the boundaries of flight and space exploration’
The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Mission 5 successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility Oct. 27, 2019. The X-37B OTV is an experimental test program to demonstrate technologies for a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the U.S. Air Force. (Courtesy photo)
ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) -- The Department of the Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane, a reusable, multi-purpose, system that operates without an onboard crew, won the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy Aug. 13 for advancing technology that pushes “the boundaries of flight and space exploration.”
In announcing the award, Jim Albaugh, chairman of The National Aeronautic Association which sponsors the competition, praised the X-37B, “As the world’s only autonomous, reusable spaceplane, it continues to contribute to our understanding of both space and air flight.”
The Collier Trophy has been awarded annually since 1911 and is one of the most prominent accolades in aviation. Previous winners include Orville Wright, Howard Hughes, as well as the Apollo 11 lunar landing team, Apollo 8, Mercury 7 and more recently, the International Space Station. Also earning the distinction are the B-52, the Boeing 747, and the F-22, among others.
“Underscoring the importance of space to the nation, the Collier Trophy celebrates the record-setting mission of the X-37B,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said. “Most Americans use space daily for navigation, information, and communication. Sophisticated and uncrewed, the X-37B advances reusable spaceplane technologies and operates experiments in space that are returned for further examination on earth.”
The X-37B prevailed over a diverse group of nine finalists that included the latest iteration of the Airborne Collision Avoidance System Team or ACAS credited with “reducing the risk of midair aircraft collisions and close calls.”
Other nominees included the updated Hubble Space Telescope that allows scientists “to explore the universe in ways that no single mission could ever accomplish alone,” and Project Heaviside, “a high-performance electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle” that could eventually “free people from traffic.”
Technologies and products also considered for the 2019 Collier included the Bombardier Global 7500 and the Gulfstream G500 and G600 business jets offering range, seating capacity and performance that “transformed business aviation.” Still another finalist was the magni500 electric propulsion system, a series of high-power-density electric motors designed to move aircraft cleanly and efficiently.
While the trophy reflects the work and innovation of teams across the Department of the Air Force, it is especially significant for the nascent U.S. Space Force, the first new branch of the military since 1947 that was created in December 2019.
The X-37B provides the Department of the Air Force the ability to conduct experiments and perform other functions in earth orbit.
“The X-37B team win of the 2019 National Aeronautic Association, Robert J. Collier Trophy exemplifies the kind of lean, agile and innovative technological development our nation needs to secure its interests," said Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations.
"The ability to test new systems in space and return them to Earth is unique to the X-37B and enables the U.S. to more efficiently and effectively develop space power to maintain superiority in the space domain," Raymond said.
Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., also praised the selection.
"The X-37 is a successful example of integrated operations between the Air Force, Space Force, and government-industry partnerships," Brown said. "Reusable space vehicle technologies are a significant contributor to accelerating capabilities for the Department of Defense and the nation."
In all, the spaceplane has flown six missions since being launched for the first time on April 22, 2010.
In 2019 the X-37B set a new 780-day on-orbit endurance record and completed an overflight of the United States, using Federal Aviation Administration airspace, before landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. That mission broke the previous on-orbit record of 718 days that also was held by the X-37B.
In all, the program has logged more than 2,865 days and travelled more than 1 billion miles on orbit.
US Department of the Air Force-Boeing X-37B Team Wins Collier Trophy for Aerospace Excellence
ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 13, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Department of the Air Force and Boeing [NYSE: BA] X-37B autonomous spaceplane is receiving the prestigious Robert J. Collier Trophy for the greatest American achievements in aeronautics and astronautics of 2019. The X-37B set a new 780-day on-orbit endurance record and completed an overflight of the United States, using Federal Aviation Administration airspace, before making a pinpoint landing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.
The National Aeronautic Association is awarding the 2019 Collier to the X-37B for advancing the performance, efficiency and safety of air and space vehicles.
Designed and built by Boeing, operated in partnership with the U.S. Space Force, and managed by the U.S. Department of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, the X-37B is a reliable, reusable, uncrewed space test platform designed to carry experiments to orbit and return them to Earth for evaluation.
"Underscoring the importance of space to the nation, the Collier Trophy celebrates the record-setting mission of the X-37B," said Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett. "Most Americans use space daily for navigation, information, and communication. Sophisticated and uncrewed, the X-37B advances reusable spaceplane technologies and operates experiments in space that are returned for further examination on Earth."
In addition, Boeing facilitates the integration of experiments into the X-37B system and helps identify future reusable-platform experiment opportunities for each mission. X-37B is the 33rd Boeing effort to receive a Collier.
"We are truly honored that the women and men of the X-37B team are being recognized with the Collier Trophy," said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret. "Not only have they earned a place among our industry's legends through their commitment to innovation and performance, but their accomplishments will influence the next generation of space and aerospace development for the benefit of all humanity."
In 2019, the spaceplane broke its own on-orbit endurance record of 718 days. The program has logged more than 2,865 days and travelled more than 1 billion miles on-orbit in total. Originally designed for missions of 270 days, the X-37B has set endurance records during each of its five previous flights. Its first mission launched in 2010.
This is the ninth Collier Trophy shared by the U.S Department of the Air Force and its forerunners, and Boeing and its legacy companies. Prior shared wins include iconic air and space achievements like the B-52, X-15, Global Positioning System and the C-17 Globemaster III.
First awarded in 1911, the trophy's past recipients include Orville Wright; the Apollo 11 lunar landing team; the International Space Station, built by Boeing for NASA; the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, built by Boeing for the U.S. Navy; and the Boeing 787, 777 and 747 commercial airplanes.