Air Force spaceplane aims for June landing

May 30, 2012

(AP) — An unmanned U.S. Air Force spaceplane that has been in orbit for over a year is coming back to Earth.

The Pentagon's experimental craft, which resembles a mini space shuttle, is slated to land at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The exact date depends on weather and other conditions, but the said Wednesday it expects the landing to occur in early to mid-June.

Officially called the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, it blasted off in March 2011 and was the second of its type to be launched.

The first made an autonomous in 2010 at Vandenberg after a 270-day mission.

Measuring 29 feet (8.8 meters) long with a wing span of 15 feet (4.5 meters), the latest X-37B has stayed in orbit longer. Its exact mission is largely a mystery.

Explore further: Video gives astronaut's-eye view inside NASA's Orion spacecraft

4.8 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

CapitalismPrevails
2.3 / 5 (3) May 30, 2012
Its exact mission is largely a mystery.


Starship Troopers?
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2012
Odd stuff comes out of Vandenberg, but it's kind of fun for people who live nearby. You almost get used to the occasional sound of an explosion, or strange plane hauling ass while doing insane maneuvers. I've known a few individuals to respond to the question 'What was that?' with 'Just Vandenberg again.'.

If this thing only uses an Atlas V to get into orbit it should be more efficient than the retired shuttles. I wonder if the cost per pound can compare with SpaceX's ~$1,000 per pound, but it has to be better than the $10,000 per pound of the previous shuttles.
rwinners
5 / 5 (1) May 30, 2012
Trinity, I suspect that the Air Force (and intelligence agencies) leaned toward development of this vehicle precisely because they could not adequately be secured on the Shuttle.
I wonder if the Air Force is getting it's money's worth and whether it is considering scaling this space ship to accomodate larger payloads.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.