The United States Air Force’s mysterious X-37B space plane would make a nice medical-evacuation vehicle for the International Space Station (ISS), some researchers say.
The orbiting lab hasn’t had a suitable astronaut ambulance since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet back in 2011, said former astronaut Stephen Robinson, who flew on four shuttle missions and currently chairs the mechanical and aerospace engineering department at the University of California, Davis.
For the past five years, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been crewmembers’ only means of getting to and from the ISS. The Soyuz — which launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and makes parachute-aided landings on the remote steppes of that Central Asian nation — is a dependable astronaut taxi, but it’s far from ideal for transporting seriously sick or injured crewmembers back to Earth, Robinson said.
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Image courtesy of United Launch Alliance/Boeing