Air Force’s secretive X-37B ‘spaceplane’ lands after record 780 days in orbit

Published: Nov 2, 2019 12:06 p.m. ET

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Reusable and unmanned spacecraft ‘successfully completed all mission objectives’

By

MikeMurphy

Editor

A previous headline had the incorrect number of days in orbit. It has been corrected.

U.S. Air Force
The U.S. Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle landed Sunday morning in Florida.

Another flight, another endurance record.

The U.S. Air Force’s secretive X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle landed Sunday morning after more than two years in orbit. The 780-day mission bested the spacecraft’s previous record of 718 days in orbit.

“The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spaceplane,” Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett said in a statement. “Each successive mission advances our nation’s space capabilities.”

It was the fifth mission for the reusable and unmanned “spaceplane,” which resembles a mini space shuttle. Little is known about its latest mission, but when it was launched on a Space X Falcon 9 rocket in September 2017, the Air Force said it was carrying small satellites and would test experimental technologies in zero gravity.

“This program continues to push the envelope as the world’s only reusable space vehicle. With a successful landing today, the X-37B completed its longest flight to date and successfully completed all mission objectives,” Randy Walden, director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office said in a statement Sunday. “This mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

The spaceplane landed at 3:51 a.m. Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, waking some residents with a sonic boom. Over its lifetime, the vehicle has spent a total of 2,865 days in orbit.

A sixth mission is planned to launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in 2020.


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