Air Force X-37B Space Plane Lands

Category: Science Written by Jim Kim 87 6

The U.S. military’s experimental X-37B space plane landed on Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a classified mission that lasted nearly two years, the Air Force said.

The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, touched down at 7:47 a.m. EDT (1147 GMT) on a runway formerly used for landings of the now-mothballed space shuttles, the Air Force said in an email.

The Boeing-built space plane blasted off in May 2015 from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N).

The X-37B, one of two in the Air Force fleet, conducted unspecified experiments for more than 700 days while in orbit. It was the fourth and lengthiest mission so far for the secretive program, managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

The orbiters “perform risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies,” the Air Force has said without providing details. The cost of the program is also classified.

The Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit group promoting the peaceful exploration of space, says the secrecy surrounding the X-37B suggests the presence of intelligence-related hardware being tested or evaluated aboard the craft.

The vehicles are 29 feet (9 meters) long and have a wingspan of 15 feet, making them about one quarter of the size of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s now-retired space shuttles.

The X-37B, also known as Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, first flew in April 2010 and returned after eight months. A second mission launched in March 2011 and lasted 15 months, while a third took flight in December 2012 and returned after 22 months.

Air Force Space Plane Lands
The U.S. Airforce’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 after landing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 7, 2017. U.S. Air Force/Handout via REUTERS

Sunday’s landing was the X-37B’s first in Florida. The three previous landings took place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The Air Force relocated the program in 2014, taking over two of NASA’s former shuttle-processing hangars.

The Air Force intends to launch the fifth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the Kennedy Space Center, later this year.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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6 thoughts on “Air Force X-37B Space Plane Lands

  1. f

    This is for the silly conspiracy theorists claiming of a secret space program or a space war with aliens. This is the secret space program! Not so secret is it? The payload is.
    Any advanced nation would be aware of the claims that America has secret, giant 700 passenger military spacecraft in a war with aliens and other such nonsense in orbit.

  2. Nina

    It’s mission was to do whatever they required it to do within a given set of parameters. We really don’t have a need to know and we probably never will. They need to go for a three year trip but a year out and back, orbits are so common anymore.

  3. Nee

    Highly Sophisticated Project like #X37B should be used to ‘regain’ thorough knowledge of remote geography, sea route facilities, air route navigation, blast origin region & performance, hidden performance of missiles, submarine rent etc #NASA

  4. pam

    The U.S. has weapons systems that are so technically far advanced that even most of our own weapons experts can not recognize them for what they are! TRUMPNATION!!!

  5. Ty 2

    N A S A/ H A S A. REsearch shown that Martians left their planet cause of DEVSTATION, then traveled to Earth in the Hollow Moon. Their now live inside the Hllow Moon, using water from Earth etc, and harvesting PLASMA from the Sun. x37B has been providing MARTIAns w/supplies. Shocking

  6. Tonn3

    Amazing how long it stayed up and also how small it is when you don’t have to accommodate humans…human space travel is a waste of money and time!

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