Florida, May 8: The United States unmanned military space plane named as ‘X-37B space plane’ which was launched by an Atlas in May 2015 landed at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday. Notably, the X-37B space plane completed its 718-day secret mission successfully.
The Boeing-built space plane launched off in May 2015 from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and landed in Florida around 8 a.m. and a few minutes later, the Air Force tweeted that “The #AirForce #X37B #OTV4 has returned from orbit and has landed safely @NASAKennedy.”
Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander said, "Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing as we continue to break barriers." "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," he added.
However, it was the fourth clandestine flight of the X-37B, the longest in the program and the first to end in Florida, where Boeing has taken over two former shuttle processing hangars that have been modified to handle the secret spycraft. The first three missions ended with landings at Vandenberg Air Force Base northwest of Los Angeles. Interestingly, total time in space by both vehicles across four flights now stands at 2,085 days. The program's fifth launch is expected later this year.
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 X-37B is also known as Orbital Test Vehicle, or OTV, first flew in April 2010 and returned after eight months. Importantly, a second mission launched in March 2011 and lasted 15 months, while a third took flight in December 2012 and returned after 22 months.