USAF Spaceplane Lands After 469-day Mission

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The U.S. Air Force’s second unmanned X-37B spaceplane landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., June 16 after more than a year on orbit, the service said in a press release.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)-2 landing took place at 5:48 p.m. local time, according to the press release. OTV-2 was launched in March 2011 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on a mission whose details are classified.

The reusable spacecraft can maneuver in space and land horizontally like an airplane.

The X-37B program performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technology, according to the press release.

OTV-2, built by Boeing Phantom Works of El Segundo, Calif., resembles a miniature space shuttle, with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed and a deployable solar array. The spaceplane’s mission is being conducted by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

The first X-37B vehicle, OTV-1, landed at Vandenberg in December 2010 after 224 days in orbit. The Air Force plans to send that vehicle back into space this fall, also aboard an Atlas 5.

 

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