The top secret X-37B spaceplane landed in Florida yesterday following a record-long orbital flight lasting more than two years, the US Air Force said, completing the latest test mission for an array of cutting-edge military tech.
It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company's Phantom Works.
Orbital Test Vehicle No. 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral on April 22, 2010, landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on December 3.More news: Syrian Kurds say spy stole Baghdadi’s underpants for DNA test
The previous X-37B record of 718 days in space was set by the fourth mission (OTV-4).
The X-37 is the Air Force's main reusable and unmanned spacecraft and has been designed as a test platform for "risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies".
'The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force'. That brings the total number of days spent on-orbit for the X-37B to 2,865, officials said.
The X-37B space plane was originally developed by NASA in 1999 to serve as a technology test bed for future spacecraft and looks much like a miniature version of a space shuttle. The spacecraft hosted Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) experiments, among others.More news: NASA's Hubble Finds Water Vapor on Habitable-Zone Exoplanet for 1st Time
Its classified mission was managed by the Washington-based Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
The distinctive ability to test new systems in space and return them to Earth is unique to the X-37B program and enables the U.S.to more efficiently and effectively develop space capabilities necessary to maintain superiority in the space domain.
The Air Force's X-37B program is less ambitious than SpaceX's interplanetary travel goals but it is, at the same time, also more daring. Walden did acknowledge that the space plane deployed "small satellites". In 2004, the military's Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) took over the project, ultimately turning it over to the U.S. Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office a few years later.
During four previous missions dating back to 2010, the X-37B had previously flown for as long as 717 days, 20 hours-during a period from May, 2015 through May, 2017.More news: American Airlines announces new routes to Auckland and Christchurch
The first OTV took off on its second mission from Cape Canaveral on December 11, 2012, spent 675 days in orbit and landed in California on October 17, 2014.