This weekend marked the end of a 2 year journey for the Air Force’s top secret X-37B space plane. The plane started its journey in May 2018, and has been circling the earth ever since.
But how much does the X-37B cost?
The X-37B started its journey in 2018, when it was launched on mission USA-261 from Cape Canaveral. This was the second X-37B — there was another one that went on missions in the early 2010s.
According to reports by IBT, the X-37B on this most current mission was testing EmDrive — an electromagnetic thrust technology that would totally upend flight. EmDrive would allow spacecraft to fly much farther distances, because fuel would not be a limiting factor.
IBT notes that the Chinese are also testing this technology.
The X-37B will be followed by another generation of the X-37 aircraft, the X-37C. That version will be larger than its predecessor.
The X-37B is part of a multi-decade program. The cost of this current mission is only part of a larger budget that includes several versions of the X-37 aircraft, as well as the cost of the experimental technologies placed aboard.
According NASA’s records, the initial iteration of the X-37 program was $173 million, with the U.S. government footing half the R&D bill, and Boeing putting in the rest. The government added another $40 million before this first iteration was concluded.
Once the first iteration proved successful, the government spent another $300 million to get the project through its first stages.
However, after that initial round of development, the project was transferred to DARPA, which allowed it to become a classified budget item. So there is no publicly available cost for the project.
We can estimate the X-37B space plane cost based on similar programs. Over the approximately 20 years that the project has been in development, we estimate the X-37B space plane cost at around $20 billion.