An Air Force photographer snapped this profile view of the X-37B shortly after its landing on Dec. 3, 2010
Source: Press TV
According to observations published in Spaceflight Magazine, the United States Air Force may be spying on Tiangong-1 - China's first space station - from orbit.
According to the magazine, the mini-space shuttle X-37B may be near the Chinese station, following it in close orbit. The Air Force launched this X-37B on March 2011 on an Atlas V rocket, after her sister ship landed at Vandenberg AFB in California following a highly successful 225-day mission.
Like that mission, this one is also classified and nobody knows what the spaceship is doing up there. Experts believe the USAF uses the X-37B as a testbed for surveillance technology. gizmodo.com
Now, a dedicated group of space object trackers have noticed that the X-37B is following an orbit that is nearly identical to Tiangong-1. According to Spaceflight editor Dr David Baker, there's no doubt the X-37B is following China's space station. gizmodo.com
“The parallels with X-37B are clear. With a period differential of about 19 seconds, the two vehicles will migrate toward or against each other, converging or diverging, roughly every 170 orbits,” Baker said. gizmodo.com
Built by Boeing, the Air Force's robotic craft is about 9m long and has a payload bay volume similar to that of a small van. But what goes in the payload bay, the USAF will not discuss. BBC
China's space agency launched its unmanned Tiangong 1 space lab in September and is using the vessel to carry out orbital docking tests, which are considered key to the nation's goal of building a manned space station by 2020. NBC News