Secret X-37B Craft Lands After 15-Month Mission
The U.S. Air Force’s robotic X-37B space plane finally returned to Earth Saturday (June 16), wrapping up a mysterious mission that lasted more than year in orbit.
The unmanned X-37B spacecraft, also known as Orbital Test Vehicle-2 (OTV-2), glided back to Earth on autopilot, touching down at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 5:48 a.m. PDT (8:48 a.m. EDT, 1248 GMT). The landing brought to an end the X-37B program’s second-ever spaceflight, a mission that lasted more than 15 months with objectives that remain shrouded in secrecy.
U.S. Air Force / Michael Stonecypher
An X-37B robotic space plane sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway during post-landing operations on Dec. 3, 2010. Personnel in self-contained protective atmospheric suits conduct initial checks on the robot space vehicle after its landing. This same craft is due to launch again in fall 2012.
Air Force officials announced the X-37B space plane’s successful landing in a brief statement posted on the Vandenberg website and emailed to reporters.