Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after conducting on-orbit experiments for o nearly two years. The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft and it’s surrounded by secrecy.
The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4, the Air Force’s unmanned, reusable space plane, landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on Sunday. Video posted by the US Air Force shows the vehicle approaching the runway and landing. Crew in protective suites were seen approaching the spacecraft.
“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers,” said Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, the 45th SW commander. “Our team has been preparing for this event for several years, and I am extremely proud to see our hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”
This was the X-37B’s fourth mission as it conducted on-orbit experiments for 718 days, extending the total number of days spent on-orbit for the OTV program to 2,085 days.
“The landing of OTV-4 marks another success for the X-37B program and the nation,” said Lt. Col. Ron Fehlen, X-37B program manager. “This mission once again set an on-orbit endurance record and marks the vehicle’s first landing in the state of Florida. We are incredibly pleased with the performance of the space vehicle and are excited about the data gathered to support the scientific and space communities. We are extremely proud of the dedication and hard work of the entire team.”
The X-37B is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft. The program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies but the details and the costs have been classified.
“The ability to land, refurbish, and launch from the same location further enhances the OTV’s ability to rapidly integrate and qualify new space technologies,” said Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office which manages the X-37B program.
The secrecy surrounding the program has lead to speculation about the real goal of the mission with the Secure World Foundation, an NGO promoting the peaceful exploration of space stating that the spacecraft’s load could include various sensors used for intelligence collection of the Earth from space.
Florida residents could here the sonic boom as the spacecraft neared the runway . According to the US Air Force, the next mission is programed for late this year when the spacecraft will be launched from Cape Canaveral.