Unmanned spacecraft returns to Earth

2010-12-04 18:18
California - The US Air Force's secrecy-shrouded X-37B unmanned spaceplane returned to Earth early on Friday after more than seven months in orbit on a classified mission, officials said.

The winged craft autonomously landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base on the California coast 209km northwest of Los Angeles, base spokesperson Jeremy Eggers said.

"It's very exciting," Eggers said of the landing at 01:16 local time.

The X-37B was launched by an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 22, 2010, with a maximum mission duration of 270 days.

Also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, the Boeing-built spacecraft was originally a NASA project before being taken over by the military.

The Air Force has not said whether it carried anything in its cargo bay, but insists the primary purpose of the mission was to test the craft itself.

"We are very pleased that the program completed all the on-orbit objectives for the first mission," program manager Lieutenant Colonel Troy Giese said in a statement.

"Today's landing culminates a successful mission based on close teamwork between the 30th Space Wing, Boeing and the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office," Giese said.

The Air Force said it planned to launch a second X-37B, dubbed OTV-2, in spring 2011.

Officials have made public only a general description of the mission objectives: testing of guidance, navigation, control, thermal protection and autonomous operation in orbit, re-entry and landing.

However, the ultimate purpose of the X-37B and details about the craft have longed remained a mystery, though experts said the spacecraft was intended to speed up development of combat-support systems and weapons systems.

The voyage culminated the project's long and expensive journey from NASA to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then on to the secretive Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the X-37 program, but the current total hasn't been released.

While the massive space shuttles have been likened to cargo-hauling trucks, the X-37B is more like a sports car, with the equivalent trunk capacity.

Built by Boeing Co's Phantom Works, the 5 000kg craft is 2.9 metres tall and just over 8.8 metres long, with a wingspan of less than 4.6 metres. It has two angled tail fins rather than a single vertical stabiliser.

Unlike the shuttle, it was designed for launch like a satellite, housed in a fairing atop the expendable Atlas V rocket, and capable of deploying solar panels to provide electrical power in orbit.
- SAPA
Read more on:    us  |  space travel
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

3 must-do trail runs

If you love trail running, you have to put these on your bucket list.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Climbing the world’s largest stone arch
Awesome extreme sports people
Watch: 2015 Absa Cape Epic route
Watch: Insane road bike skills!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

One day only! – 40% off Appliances!

Get 40% off 100’s of appliances at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a strong desire to be self sufficient, right and in control today. There is a tendency to hold on too tightly to your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.