USAF Space Plane Lands after Secret, Two-Year Mission

A secretive US Air Force space plane landed in Florida after spending nearly two years in orbit on a classified mission

The X-37B (Photo: US Air Force)

The X-37B space plane landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The X-37B had been in orbit on a mission designated Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) 4 since a launch on an Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on May 20, 2015. The US Air Force disclosed prior to the launch that the OTV-4 mission would carry a Hall effect electric thruster developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne and a materials science experiment provided by NASA, but did not disclose other plans for the mission.

"We are incredibly pleased with the performance of the space vehicle and are excited about the data gathered to support the scientific and space communities," said Air Force Lt. Col. Ron Fehlen, X-37B program manager, in a May 7 Air Force statement after the landing.

"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 of the X-37B,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing, in the statement.

The 718 days the X-37B spent in space set an endurance record. Each X-37B mission has flown longer than the previous one, from a 224-day flight of the first X-37B, launched in April 2010, to the 674 days spent in space on the third X-37B mission, launched in December 2012.

A fifth X-37B mission is scheduled for launch later this year, again from Cape Canaveral, the Air Force said in its statement about the landing.


[Source: Space News]


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