X-37 returns to earth

Boeing’s second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle has successfully returned to earth after 469 days in space.

June 21: Boeing’s second X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) successfully returned to earth on June 16.

The X-37B landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 0548hrs Pacific time, concluding a 469-day experimental test mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on March 5, 2011.

“We congratulate the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office and the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base on this second successful mission,” said Paul Rusnock, Boeing vice president of Government Space Systems. “With OTV-1, we proved that unmanned space vehicles can be sent into orbit and safely recovered. With OTV-2, we tested the vehicle design even further by extending the 220-day mission duration of the first vehicle, and testing additional capabilities. We look forward to the second launch of OTV-1 later this year and the opportunity to demonstrate that the X-37B is an affordable space vehicle that can be repeatedly reused.”

OTV-1 was the United States’ first unmanned vehicle to return from space and land on its own. Previously, the space shuttle was the only space vehicle capable of returning to Earth and being reused. The innovative X-37B combines the best of an aircraft and a spacecraft into an affordable, responsive unmanned vehicle.

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