The National Aeronautic Association continued its recent tradition of awarding its Collier Trophy, which once upon a time was the most prestigious award in aviation, by announcing that this year’s recipient is the Boeing X-37B, a space drone that made its first voyage 10 years ago.
Not that the X-37B isn’t cool, it kind of is. Okay, it really is. But is it aviation? Not really. The idea behind it was to create an unpiloted, up-peopled scale version of the Space Shuttle. And the government/industry teaming did just that. It gets launched into orbit on a rocket and then once in orbit, it conducts experiments, most of which are top secret, and we don’t think the Collier selection committee got let in on those secrets. The Air Force has said that the X-37B’s missions include “…testing avionics, flight systems, guidance and navigation, thermal protection, insulation, propulsion, and re-entry systems,” though that’s all the detail it will go into. So, yeah, spy stuff.