On December 3, US Air Force’s X-37B has successfully landed on Vandenberg Air Force Base, California at around 1:16am PT-a successful end to the project’s first orbital mission.The US Air Force’s first unmanned space plane successfully glided to a landing after nearly 225 days in space.
X-37B program manager Lt Col Troy Giese stated moments after landing, “We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission.”
“Remember the Air Force’s unmanned ‘baby space shuttle,’ the X-37B, launched in late April? Seven months later the military is now putting out the word that it’s going to land this weekend at Vandenberg AFB in California.
“The Air Force has been secretive about what kind of payload the small shuttle’s been carrying all this time, but it soon became clear that it was some kind of reconnaissance device. They say the goal is to have a reusable spacecraft that can carry payloads in orbit for as long as nine months. That way they can send up different devices when needed.”
The Air Force put out this two-sentence release:
“Preparations for the first landing of the X-37B are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s first X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur between Friday, December 3, and Monday, December 6, 2010.”
It’s not giving away a whole lot to post this; the Air Force posted a fact sheet HERE, and amateur skywatchers (plus other countries, we can assume) were able to see the 29-foot-long ship as it passed overhead in the night sky. Space.com posted video back in May, which it said was shot by Kevin Fetter of Brockville, Ontario.
Whatever the ship’s mission is, it does have the distiction of being one of the few reusable orbiters in development. NASA decided long ago that the space shuttles were so complicated that it might as well focus on ships — like the Orion space capsule, whose mission is now in limbo — that are good for, at most, three or four flights. The Air Force is picking up on the X-37 space plane NASA dropped from its budget in 2004.
Thus through this successful mission, the United States Air Force has been very pleased to have achieved the shuttle’s main objective. The successful landing denotes a positive probability of launching more recoverable spacecrafts in the near future.
The Air Force is preparing to launch another X-37B in Spring 2011 aboard an Atlas V booster.
Checkout the video below.