Air Force spaceplane aims for June landing

(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.


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May 30, 2012
Its exact mission is largely a mystery.


Starship Troopers?

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.

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.

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