Top-secret space plane lands on California coast

October 17, 2014
This June 16, 2012 file image from video made available by the Vandenberg Air Force Base shows an infrared view of the X-37B unmanned spacecraft landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The purpose of the U.S. military's space plane is classified, only fueling speculation about why it has been orbiting Earth for nearly two years on this, its third mission. The plane is expected to land this week at a Southern California Air Force base.(AP Photo/Vandenberg Air Force Base, File)

(AP)—A top-secret space plane landed Friday at an Air Force base on the Southern California coast.

The plane spent nearly two years circling Earth on a classified mission. Known as the X-37B, it resembles a mini space shuttle.

It safely touched down at 9:24 a.m. Friday, officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base said.

Just what the plane was doing during its 674 days in orbit has been the subject of sometimes spectacular speculation.

Several experts have theorized it carried a payload of spy gear in its cargo bay. Other theories sound straight out of a James Bond film, including that the spacecraft would be able to capture the satellites of other nations or shadow China's lab.

In a written release announcing the return of the craft, the Air Force only said it had been conducting "on-orbit experiments."

The X-37B program has been an orphan of sorts, bouncing since its inception in 1999 between several federal agencies, NASA among them. It now resides under the Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office.

The plane that landed Friday is one of two built by Boeing. This is the program's third mission, and began in December 2012.

The plane stands 9 1/2 feet tall and is just over 29 feet long, with a wingspan under 15 feet. It weighs 11,000 pounds and has solar panels that unfurl to charge its batteries once in orbit.

The Air Force said it plans to launch the fourth X-37B mission from Cape Canaveral, Florida, next year.

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3 / 5 (4) Oct 17, 2014
guess it's not top secret then eh?
3 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2014
space drone

let's keep the memes consistent.
2 / 5 (4) Oct 17, 2014
Look how it is glowing! Obviously it has been compromised by aliens!
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 17, 2014
My theory is that it carries a COIL laser.
1 / 5 (2) Oct 17, 2014
space drone

let's keep the memes consistent.

I'm not saying it was aliens. But it was aliens!
5 / 5 (1) Oct 18, 2014
I'll go for replacement for the Space Shuttle, and the Air Force picked up this project simply because NASA could no longer afford to have it. But, since it can be made to wander about automated, there may indeed be other ideas--possibly even other designs in store for this series...

We will see.
not rated yet Oct 18, 2014
I'll go for replacement for the Space Shuttle, and the Air Force picked up this project simply because NASA could no longer afford to have it.

I began to seriously wonder how substantial our military's actual space budget was several years back. In 2012, the National Reconnaissance Office donated 2 unused space telescopes with better-than-Hubble precision to NASA, which was a major surprise to scientists. We might possibly assume the telescopes were out-of-date for the military.


I wish our military would share their technology with the non-militarized academic sector of space exploration on a more timely basis.
1 / 5 (3) Oct 18, 2014
I think that the military is either investigating the Black Knight https://www.googl...;bih=673 and that the six inch human https://www.googl...imgdii=_ is from that thing. He probably set off exploring on his own and got lost. You will read that this creature was thought to be around 6-8 yrs old when it died, and that it's definitely human. Who knows how long these people live?
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2014
Finally, a definitive SETI project.

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