It turns out some of the informed speculation about the US military's latest X-37B spaceplane mission was pretty much spot-on.
When the semi-classified winged spacecraft launched on December 28, it flew into orbit on top of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which is much larger than the Atlas V and Falcon 9 rockets used to launch the X-37B on its previous missions.
This immediately sparked speculation that the X-37B would reach higher altitudes than its past flights, which remained in low-Earth orbit at altitudes of a few hundred miles. A discovery from Tomi Simola, a satellite tracking hobbyist living near Helsinki, Finland, appears to confirm this suspicion.
On Friday, Simola reported on social media and on SeeSat-L, a long-running online forum of satellite tracking enthusiasts, that he detected an unidentified object using a sky-watching camera. The camera is designed to continuously observe a portion of the sky to detect moving objects in space. A special software program helps identify known and unknown objects.
"Exciting news!" Simola posted on social media. "Orbital Test Vehicle 7 (OTV-7), which was launched to classified orbit last December, was seen by my SatCam! Here are images from the last two nights!"